Google has been putting more and more emphasis on user experience as a ranking signal so it may come as no surprise that they have now launched a new report in Google Search Console – the Page Experience Report.
As part of the official update on the Google Search Central blog, it stated that:
“We’ll begin using page experience as part of our ranking systems beginning in mid-June 2021. However, page experience won’t play its full role as part of those systems until the end of August.”
So what exactly is this new report, and what do you need to do now to prepare for the upcoming changes to Google’s ranking algorithm?
How to use the Google Search Console Page Experience Report
The report is broken down into five factors that are used to measure a good page experience. Note that this is based on a user’s mobile experience.
Core web vitals:
As explained in this blog post, core web vitals are made up of three aspects of the user experience: loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
With Google now focused on mobile-first indexing, it’s crucial that websites are optimised for mobile users.
This section highlights security problems, such as hacked content, malware, and social engineering attacks (i.e. phishing).
HTTPS is the secure protocol for a website. It’s important to Google that you demonstrate that your website is taking steps to protect users.
While most non-publisher sites are unlikely to host ads, if it’s something you’re considering, ensure that the ads do not obstruct the user from navigating your site or make it difficult for them to read your content.
The first four of these sections will provide you with information on what action to take. However, note that the ‘Ad experience’ section status is not available to the Page Experience report, but is considered when generating search results.
You can still access this information in the Ad Experience Report, which can be found here.
Fixing issues using the Page Experience Report
At the top of the report, you’ll see a chart that shows the number of URLs Google deems to be ‘good’, therefore passing the criteria for a positive user experience.
Well, this doesn’t look too good now, does it?
If you scroll down, you’ll now see which sections are affecting the percentage of good URLs.
If you click into the box, it will show you the ‘failed URLs’ and will redirect you to the Core Web Vitals report.
Here we can see that a number of pages have an issue with the Largest Contentful paint (LCP). Clicking into the details at the bottom of the page, we can see that pages are not hitting the target speed of 2.5 seconds on mobile.
What’s tricky here is that although the report highlights this as an issue, it doesn’t actually provide any guidance on what to do to fix it!
The easiest thing to do is copy one of the URLs flagged as being an issue, and drop it into the PageSpeed Insights tool for a more detailed explanation of what improvements need to be made.
In this report, there are also several issues flagged under Mobile Usability.
As we have already stated, the mobile experience is very important in Google’s eyes.
If you have clients who still don’t want to offer a mobile experience, now is a good time to (finally) try and convince them!
Once you click into this report, you’ll see all of the factors that Google considers to be a poor mobile experience.
Now, this one is not an easy fix. Chances are, some fairly major changes will need to be made to the design of a website to resolve these problems.
Going back to the main Page Experience Report, we can also see an issue with HTTPS.
Some sites show this issue because they are still using the HTTP protocol across the entire domain. However, others may have migrated to HTTPS but have not done so correctly, resulting in some pages being HTTPS, while others are HTTP.
To identify the HTTP pages, you can use a spider website crawler like Screaming Frog and check whether there are mixed protocols. Once you find the HTTP pages, they need to be 301 redirected to HTTPS version. You can also locate HTTP pages using Google Search Console’s Performance report for Search, adding a filter to look for URLs starting with “http://”. This will show you the first 1,000 HTTP URLs on your site that people are finding in Google.
Now thankfully, there are no security issues being flagged with any of the websites I have access to in Google Search Console. Again, Google will flag that it has detected security issues but it’s up to you to investigate and fix it. Hacking is more common than you may think, so make sure that your CMS is up to date, and that plugins are all updated to the latest version, with old or redundant plugins being uninstalled.
I also don’t look after any publishers (i.e. news websites), so there is nothing for me to show as an example for the Ad experience section either. However as already mentioned, you’ll need to navigate to the Ad Experience Report to find out more as information is not displayed in the Page Experience Report.
If you have lots of notifications in the Page Experience Report, you’ve still got time to make changes to improve your user experience before the ranking algorithm update rolls out. Not sure what to do? Get in touch with us and we’ll be more than happy to help!