Google recently announced that it is adding more ranking factors to those it uses to determine page rankings on its SERPs. This update, dubbed Page Experience, is set to go live in mid-June 2021, with the full rollout expected in August of the same year. This update emphasizes user experience and what people see when they interact with pages. Let us take a closer look at Page Experience and what this update could bring to pages.
Page Experience are metrics for UX. It includes factors involving visuals, interactivity, and loading time. Page Experience will be an additional set of ranking signals on top of the existing UX-based ones like safe browsing, mobile-friendliness, and the like. If Google thinks that people have a poor browsing experience on your pages, it might push you down the rankings. Although the company has not specified how much weight UX will have in rankings after Page Experience goes live, it’s still important to prepare for it.
Google has always asked businesses to build websites for users—everything from the content to the aesthetics should be for the target market. It is reasonable to think that the more time a person spends on a website, the more interaction the user has with the pages, and the more they find it relevant to their needs. Google wants website owners to create spaces where people would spend more time, and user experience (UX) helps.
UX consists of the technical factors that contribute to a web page’s ranking. In the past, Google has considered several UX factors as ranking signals. These are mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, preventing intrusive interstitials, and HTTPS.
You only have approximately eight seconds to engage a viewer who lands on your page. With the wealth of options available online, few people will wait for a page to load for more than a few seconds, and this is especially true for people browsing on mobile devices. Mobile optimization involves adjusting your content to people who access your website through a mobile device. It involves using larger buttons, mobile-ready images and reformatted content. A “mobile-friendly test” will show you what you should modify so you can make your web pages more suitable for people browsing on phones and tablets.
Google doesn’t rank pages that seem like they have malicious content. Your page should have no malware, harmful downloads, and malicious content. The company's guidelines on Security Issues have more information on ensuring that your page doesn’t facilitate malicious activity.
The secure version of HTTP is HTTPS. In HTTPS, you have encrypted communication protocols that ensure a more secure data transfer. HTTPS makes forging, eavesdropping, and tampering with data much harder.
An interstitial is an advertisement that appears as a page downloads. These ads cover the main content on the page and create a layer that the user needs to interact with before getting to the information they want. According to Google, intrusive interstitials provide poor UX compared to pages with more accessible content.
Besides the ranking factors that Google already uses, the Page Experience update will add three more measurements that ensure better UX on websites. Collectively, these metrics are called core web vitals. Here is a closer look at each metric.
LCP or Largest Contentful Paint
LCP is similar to loading speed. However, it focuses on the time it takes for the main content to load. Your page’s LCP rating is good if it takes your content 2.5 seconds to load. If it takes four seconds or more, though, it is considered slow or poor.
FID or First Input Delay
The FID or first input delay measures page responsiveness and interactivity. It looks at the difference between when the user first interacts with a page and the browser’s response to the interaction. Clicking a button or following an internal link will contribute to the page’s FID. Your UX is good if you have an FID of 100 milliseconds or less. Meanwhile, an FID of more than 300 milliseconds is too long, and you must find ways to speed it up.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS is a new feature. It focuses on visual stability—CLS measures unexpected shifts in layout. It looks at the visible shift in your content and the distance among the elements that the shift affected. If the content suddenly moves while your page is loading or if you click a button, it counts against the page’s CLS ranking. This metric uses impact fraction and distance fraction to measure movement. The CLS score should be between 0.1 and 0.25.
Google’s Page Experience update will combine the existing UX factors and the new Core Web Vitals. These will be a significant factor, but it won’t be the only one—content is still the most critical ranking factor for Google. If you have unique content that provides great informational value to readers, your page could still rank high even if your page has poor UX. However, page experience will count more towards determining rankings for pages on different sites in the same niche. So if you’re in a highly competitive niche, you need to ensure that users will find it easy to locate and retrieve information on your website.
There are many people on the internet today—as of January 2021, there were 4.66 billion active internet users, and 92.6 percent of this population use mobile devices to go online. Optimizing for mobile user experience—or UX in general—is vital for people who want to create a solid SEO strategy. Preparing for Google’s Page Experience update is a step in the right direction.
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