This year, the Google Search algorithm is being updated and has incorporated new Page Experience metrics as search ranking signals. Page experience will include Core Web Vitals, which measure how well a site can deliver a smooth browsing experience across desktop and mobile devices, including loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability.
What impact will this have on your website’s SEO? It means that your website must be technically optimized in order for your site to achieve higher rankings on Google for the keywords and topics you are targeting. Furthermore, this impacts your site’s ability to gain prominent positioning in Google’s search results pages.
Throughout this post, we will examine what these updates are, why it is so crucial you stay up-to-date, and how you can optimize your site. Let’s get started!
What is Google Page Experience and why is it so important?
As defined by Google, page experience is the summation of signals from users that measure how they perceive a web page’s interaction beyond its basic informational value. Google assesses each of the signals and gives a website an overall ‘page experience’ score. Site owners can view their scores in the new page experience report in Search Console.
What are these signals and how will this update affect the metrics
- Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals include a ranking component that takes into account three areas. This metric evaluates the ability of the page to provide a good user experience, focusing on the aspects of loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
> Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) (Loading Experience)
It measures how long it takes to render the largest element in the current viewport. Accordingly, it indicates the moment where a user can read and view most of the information on the page. It is ideal to have an LCP score of 2.5 seconds or less.
There are a variety of factors contributing to the lack of loading speed, like lots of images in large sizes, too many third-party scripts, insufficient hosting services, and how the pages load. Optimising for these aspects can prevent your website from having an LCP longer than it should be.
> First Input Delay (FID) (Interactivity)
FID, or First Input Delay, is a metric that emphasizes interaction. It refers to the time it takes between the user’s first action and the server’s response, e.g., clicking on the URL, scrolling the page, entering text, etc. Ideally, a FID score should be less than 100 milliseconds.
In other words, how long does your landing page take to respond after a user clicks on its element? Generally, FID is measured in milliseconds, and the ideal time for delay is 100 milliseconds or less. Some pages are more important than others when it comes to FIDs. FID scores may not even exist for sites whose primary content is read-only. However, if you require users to sign up or login or collect information on those pages, FID is very important.
> Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) (Visual Stability)
A metric for describing visual stability is CLS or Cumulative Layout Shift. Each time your website loads, CLS measures how stable it is. The CLS rate of your page increases if elements and images move around while it loads. A CLS score below 0.1 would not be acceptable to Google, so it would adversely affect your website.
You probably encountered situations when you wanted to click the button after loading the site, but it moved to another location after a few seconds, and the action was not taken. It is now a bad indicator. Again, the CLS calculation protocol has been changed by Google to allow for a maximum session window of 5 seconds with a 1-second gap. Google Search Console has now been updated with it.
What causes high CLS, in this case, may not be so easy to answer, since success depends on individual users rather than solely on the design of the website. It’s completely out of the hands of the designers of websites to control what happens as a user’s internet connection or computer slows down. Of course, designers can also control certain factors, if images, ads, and embedded elements on a page can end up having high CLS if they don’t have specific dimensions. It is also possible for CLS problems to stem from rendering issues with web fonts.
Several methods are available for enhancing CLS, including reserving enough space for campaigns and images, ensuring that web fonts are correctly displayed, and ensuring that dynamically injected content loads below current content so that the user’s experience is not disrupted.
A user’s experience is determined by the combination of a number of small details. While these details are important, it can also be helpful to step back and look at the bigger picture when evaluating how any new Google update will influence your traffic.
Mobile Usability or Mobile Friendliness
Basically, this means a page must not contain any mobile usability errors. The principle of mobile-first indexing has been around for quite some time, and Google is increasing the importance of including a mobile version of your store website with every update.
A site that is not mobile-friendly won’t qualify for the SERPs despite your best efforts. You should therefore check if your website is responsive when accessed from a mobile device. You can accomplish this by using the following services.
- Google Mobile-Friendly Test which is a free tool with recommendations
- Responsinator will show how your site looks on different screens
- Symby helps check all basic page elements including fonts, images, and more on different screen dimensions, including custom ones
Here are some tips for viewing your web pages on mobile devices:
- Using CSS to scale videos
- Fitting images to the screen using CSS parameters
- Adding a button to hide long descriptions
- Optimising product selection by hiding filters and parameters
- Having a variety of display options are available depending on the device
- Partially hiding menu items or the entire menu under the hamburger icon
- Reducing or removing advertising banners and pop-ups
- Optimising the font to display correctly on all devices
- HTTPS Usage: Providing a Secure Browsing Experience
Although Google expects websites to provide visitors with an enjoyable browsing experience, not every site has its visitors’ best interests at heart. For that reason, Google Search considers whether websites follow two important best practices for secure browsing:
- A page must be served over HTTPS in order to be classified as a good page experience.
- A webpage does not have malicious or deceptive content that is intended to compromise the visitor’s privacy or security through tactics such as malware or phishing attacks.
The safety of its users is of utmost importance to Google. A site that contains suspicious content or doesn’t offer a secure connection, for example, will not rank highly. Moreover, Google introduced its Safe Browsing feature so that users would be warned if they attempted to access a potentially dangerous site.
Using the Site Status diagnostic tool, you can discover whether your site contains suspicious content. In web browsers and on Google Search, warnings will appear if websites are found to be unsafe. It will not be possible for your users to access your site if it is considered dangerous.
As you already know you must provide HTTPS rather than HTTP in order to be ranked higher. You can do that by obtaining an SSL certificate. Depending on the size of your business, there are different levels of it, DV SSL for individuals and small businesses; OV SSL for midsize businesses; and EV SSL for large companies.
No intrusive interstitials or Ad Experience
The site should not use advertising methods that are distracting, interrupting, or otherwise detrimental to the user experience.
When browsing a website, have you ever been interrupted by annoying pop-ups or interstitials? They usually advertise a deal or invite you to subscribe to a newsletter, and almost always put an end to an otherwise enjoyable browsing experience.
In agreement with most web users, Google believes these kinds of interruptive ads and pop-up programs lower our experience when browsing the web, especially when browsing on mobile devices that have a limited screen size for navigating through ads and pop-ups.
In this context, Google’s algorithm is trained to detect websites that deliver intentionally poor user experiences and penalize those in search results for users who engage in this type of user-hostile behaviour.
Why is this update so important?
The recent changes tell us that what Google wants to rank at the top are the sites that users like the most. For an instance, when you think of coffee, which brand comes to your mind first? You may start searching for the nearest Starbucks or any of your favourite coffee shops nearby. Brands, therefore, are very important, and brand queries are among the most important SEO factors. It has been part of the algorithm for years now, though most sites don’t have big brands yet, Google is aware of that. And it’s still possible to rank without one.
At present, Google is optimising its algorithms to better align with its mission of showing the sites first that users love the most. Though brand queries are one of the ways they can do this, user experience is also another metric. In the next few years, we may see numerous algorithm updates that focus on user experience.
How do you optimise your user experience?
The process begins with each page. Google’s original article about the future algorithm change emphasizes site experience or “page experience.” This does not mean that your entire website shouldn’t have a good user experience, but instead, they might work on improving it on a page-by-page basis. Because if some of your websites have bad experiences, but the rest are great, then it wouldn’t make sense for Google to lower the rankings of your entire website, especially if your competitors offer a much better experience.
More tips on optimising user experience:
Reducing errors and optimising speed is important. Faster loading websites provide you with a better experience. Check for broken links as well. Broken pages ruin the user experience. You should also check the load time of your site. The quicker your site loads, the better. Ensure that your website loads quickly both on desktops and on mobile devices.
Compare your experience with that of your competitors.
You might say that your user experience is exceptional, but how is it compared to the competition? Visit the websites of your biggest competitor and analyze how each page is designed for the user. Learn from their content and compare it to your own. In evaluating your competition’s user experience, pay attention to what they are doing to cater to people searching for those keywords. Having this information will also help you figure out what steps you need to take. However, your goal shouldn’t be to match your competitors, it should be to beat them.
Review your site’s design. Look for ways to improve your site pages by auditing them. You’d want to be looking for any usability issues that could affect user experience. One way to do this is through heatmaps. Try running a Crazy Egg test on your site. Using the platform, you’ll be able to see a heatmap of how people are interacting with your website. In that way, you can easily identify what you need to modify in your pages that would contribute to a better user experience.
Get the Ubersuggest Chrome extension. Try the Ubersuggest Chrome extension if you haven’t yet done so. By installing it, you’ll be able to view data on each ranking URL whenever you perform a Google search. When you are searching for keywords related to your industry, try to look for the following two main metrics in Ubersuggest:
- Domain score – a higher score means better authority for a website
- Links – a website with more links is usually more likely to rank well
When you are doing searches, you should find sites that have fewer backlinks and a lower domain score than the competition but are still ranked well. There is a strong chance that their ranking is influenced by things like user experience. Maybe the text on their pages is more engaging than the competition, maybe their bounce rate is lower, but whatever the reason, these are the sites you should be looking at and analyzing.
Google says that they still prioritise pages with the best information, regardless of their page experience. The quality of the page experience does not supersede the quality of the content. Nevertheless, the page experience can be much more important in situations where multiple pages are similar in relevance.
According to their latest update, several improvements were made to the Page Experience report earlier this year, including the removal of redundant Safe Browsing and Ad Experience widgets. As part of Google’s clarification, Safe Browsing isn’t used in ranking but will continue to play an important role to keep users of Google Search safe.
In light of these factors, we can conclude that User Experience will gain increasing importance over time and should be taken into consideration when planning your SEO strategies. Google might eventually want to make sure that a site that is loved by everyone ranks high. Alternatively, if everyone feels that a website has a bad user experience, then Google will not rank that website as highly.
The Google algorithm update will go through several revisions in the near future, just like every algorithm update it does. Throughout the process of learning, they adapt to make the algorithms more effective. Having advance notice of this update is a good thing. Use this opportunity to fix any usability issues you may have. You can also access a Core Web Vitals report through your Google Search Console, analyze the recommendations, and start implementing them right away to guarantee that your site will maintain its position.