Should you care about page experience?

What is page experience? Google confirms that desktop page experience is arriving in early 2022. What does it mean and why should you care?

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There are lots of things to consider in the SEO world.

It can be difficult, when resources are limited, to work out what to prioritise. What on earth should you move to the top of that to-do list?

I would like to humbly suggest that paying more attention to Google’s Search Console reports should be high on your list, especially with the news this week that has given more clarity about the timings of the page experience for desktop rollout. It was no secret that Google was bringing page experience ranking to desktop, but it has now been confirmed that this will rollout out from February 2022 and will be completed by March 2022.

In all fairness, you should have been paying attention to the core web vitals report in Search Console for a while now as page experience has been used for mobile rankings since August of this year. In a mobile first world, that matters. The fact that it will soon be used for desktop as well as mobile shows that Google takes it very seriously. So should you.

What is page experience?

Page experience is the term used by Google to refer to a set of ‘signals’ that help to measure how a user may perceive the experience of interacting with any webpage. It is not about the content of that page (gasp – content is not king!), but it is about the joy you should feel when visiting that page. Or, quite possibly, some red flags that are raised about factors that detract from that joy.

A significant portion of these tests relate to the speed of the page, but page experience signals include security and the visual stability of a page. With a bit of luck, this will herald the demise of those incredibly annoying pages that are riddled with pop ups and fit inducing movement…

There is a helpful introduction to the concept of page experience, straight from the horse’s mouth, here. It is definitely worth a read.

Core web vitals

‘Core web vitals’ are at the heart of page experience. This is not a new concept and there has been a helpful report in Search Console for some time now. The report shows how your site is performing against the following measures:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP):  This is a user-centric metric for measuring perceived load speed. It measures the time it takes to load a page’s main content. You should ideally aim for a time of under 2.5 seconds.
  • First Input Delay (FID): This is a measure of interactivity as it measures the lag before a user action and the browser being able to respond to that action. An unresponsive site can be very frustrating to use and you should ideally aim for a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This is a measure of visual stability. Pages jumping around, or interrupted with endless interstitials, can be horrendous to use. You should ideally aim for a CLS score of less than 0.1.

I would encourage you to have a look at this report in Search Console as you can easily see which pages may be proving problematic. The report breaks down URLs by ‘poor’, ‘need improvement’ and ‘good’, so it is very easy to prioritise pages for attention. Another good resource is Google’s speed insight report, which can give you some additional detail about where you are falling short.

The page experience report

With the increased importance of page experience as a ranking factor, it is great that Google is helping webmasters identify pages that may be problematic. The new page experience report gives you a very convenient snapshot of the health of your site:

page experience report search console

This report is currently showing mobile usability performance. It will be interesting to see if this splits into two separate charts or whether there will be a combined graph to show aggregated performance across both mobile and desktop once the desktop rollout is complete.

As well as the summary, the page experience report gives you some handy snapshots, which you can click on to explore in more detail:

page experience signals search console

By drilling into the detail, you can quickly see which URLs may be causing problems and thereby fix them. In the ideal world, you should make this part of a monthly housekeeping regime.

Does it really matter?

As mentioned, page experience is not new. It has been a thing for mobile for several months. I do, however, think that its importance is growing and the roll out to desktop shows that Google treats it seriously, so you should too if you want to improve your performance in organic search. It is an important influence on search engine rankings.

Not only is it an important ranking factor, your own site is usually one of the easiest things to get right in SEO. If you are struggling to find time to dedicate to SEO, it makes sense to focus on lower hanging fruit. Actually, it makes far more sense to contact us to explore how we can help :-)

Joking aside, it really is easier to fix issues on your own website than to build domain authority through attracting links to your site. I am always wary of ‘quick wins’ in SEO, but site improvements / fixes do fall into that camp and a burst of attention to address issues, including the reported page experience, can deliver real improvements to your organic search visibility.

I also think that the increase in importance of page experience reflects the principle that good SEO is a user-centric approach. I am a massive advocate of this philosophy and I am pleased to see that consideration of the user experience is officially becoming more important. Think about your users – what content will appeal to them and how is the interaction with your site – rather than obsessing about trying to ‘beat’ the search engines at their own game.

I am also really pleased to see the transparency from Google. This is a positive step as it will help improve user experience across the internet and I applaud the details provided in the page experience reports.

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