In their everlasting quest to provide users with the best results for search queries, Google recently announced that page experience metrics will soon be included in ranking algorithms.
Aptly referred to as the Google Page Experience Update, the revised algorithm will consider factors such as mobile-friendliness, web safety, and interstitials, in addition to a site’s overall UI/UX. Rolling out in early 2021, this is the first update to heavily focus on a user’s experience with each part of a web page.
Those websites that don’t prioritize creating a high-quality, engaging page experience for users will likely see a drop in their keyword rankings. However, site owners who focus their efforts on following proper user experiences best practices will be better situated to sail through the update without any negative impacts to their overall search visibility.
While Google’s impending update might seem Earth-shattering, Google has a long and varied history of updating its algorithm. In 2018 alone, Google launched over 3,000 updates to how the browser produces search results. These types of updates range from large to small, and they usually include changes to indexation, data, search UI’s, webmaster tools, and ranking factors.
All of these updates play into the many algorithms that power every search. Google uses algorithms to help fulfill a specific function, grouped into one larger, core algorithm. Sound complex? We promise it’s not. Here is a breakdown of the different types of ranking factors used by Google:
Simply put, user experience is the study of how users interact with your website. User experience targets potential users at all steps of their journey and helps you get into your customer’s mind before they come to your website, during their time on the site, and after they leave.
To many business owners, a good user experience equates to a pretty website. While it is always a good idea to have an aesthetically pleasing website, a few pretty graphics won’t cause your customers to convert.
Instead, your website’s interface needs to be optimized with the consumers in mind. Here are some user experience statistics that drive home the sheer importance of creating a good page experience:
When it comes to your website, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of competitors offering products and services similar to yours. With this in mind, you can’t risk that your potential customer’s first impression of you is impacted by low-quality UX. Staying on top of user experience trends and best practices has always been important to earning new customers, but it will now be essential to showing up in search results.
The thing about Google’s algorithm updates is that they don’t release all the information needed for webmasters to optimize their websites perfectly. Due to trade secrets and proprietary information, Google only releases minimal information about their upcoming algorithms. Then, it is up to every web developer and SEO expert to infer how to make optimizations to best match the new ranking factors.
It’s important to understand that if your website is not properly optimized for these algorithm changes, your rankings could drop significantly, thus losing visibility and potential customer conversions. Luckily, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you by outlining the key information you need to know to ensure your website provides the kind of page experience that will be most valued by Google.
In May, Google released a tool named Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics that measure a website’s speed/loading time, responsiveness and interactivity, and visual stability. These metrics will be the foundation of the 2021 algorithm update, as Google will use these three benchmarks, plus a new signal, to help site owners measure a website’s holistic user experience.
While we know that these new measures are subject to change and evolve over time, here’s the breakdown of the three basic metrics:
LCP reports the render time of the largest image or block of text visible within a web page’s viewport. Simply put, it relates the time it takes for your webpage to load the biggest piece of content on a page. An ideal LCP would be within 2.5 seconds of loading the page.
FID measures a consumer’s first impression of your website’s interactivity and responsiveness. It does so by monitoring how long it takes from when a user first interacts with a web page (i.e., clicking on a button) to how long it takes for the browser to respond to that action. Think of it as how long it takes for a user to press a button and for that information to appear. An ideal FID is under 100 milliseconds.
Have you ever been scrolling on a website and are just about to click on a button, when the layout moves and you are all of a sudden in a different portion of the page? That is a layout shift, and if your website has a lot of them, it can hamper your user experience.
Visual stability is exactly that—how stable the webpage is when it loads—and if the page stays steady throughout a consumer’s scroll. CLS measures how many times a user experiences unexpected layout shifts, with the ideal metric for this being less than 0.1.
As a best practice, to ensure that you are meeting the right target for each of these metrics, it is recommended you test and monitor about 75% of all pages on your website. It is important to understand that these Core Web Vital metrics are user-centered metrics that give real-world data to see and understand how users interact with your website.
A better page experience leads to deeper engagement and allows consumers to get more done. There are already existing page experience metrics that Google uses to help webmasters monitor their performance, including:
When 2021 rolls around, Google will combine these existing page experience signals with the new and improved Core Web Vitals metrics to rank a website’s overall user experience.
All this information on search engine functionality and algorithms may sound complicated, but don’t worry. There are many easy steps anyone can take to prepare their website for the newly important aspects of page experience. Here are a few of the steps you can take to maintain and improve your SEO.
There are plenty of free tools available to you that will allow you to monitor these new ranking factors on your website. Using them to consistently monitor your own website will not only help your user experience metrics soar but bring more potential customers to convert. A few examples include:
If you have both a smartphone and computer, then you likely know the way in which different devices load pages differently, both in terms of visuals and page speed. There are some tools that can help you audit your website without having to purchase a truckload of devices.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool lets you know how well your website performs for both desktop and mobile browsers. It also provides detailed information that can be used to deliver a faster user experience. If you find that your PSI is scoring less than ideal (anywhere below a 90), then you’ll want to take some measures to boost your page speed. Here are some ideas to consider:
It is of the utmost importance to understand where your website stands before you make changes. We all know that having the top spot in the search engine result pages is our top goal, but, if anything, the announcement of this new algorithm means that it is time to shift focus to include a user’s experience.
So you need to test, test, and test! Use the free tools above on each page of your site and move slowly. Take note of what is working and what isn’t in order to be best prepared. This way, whenever you make changes, you’ll be able to track your results easily and won’t be sidelined with the introduction of Google’s search algorithm next year.
Your website is nothing if not a place for your potential customers to gain information, so be sure to optimize your content, one of the most important Google ranking factors. Our landing page optimizer is the best way to improve your on-page content (you can access it by setting up a free account). Using this tool, you can target up to five keywords and take immediate steps to give your content more topical-depth and authority.
But you can’t just put the content on your page without any organization, as this is where header tags come in. The proper use of headers such as the title tags and header tags will not only segment out your information into easily digestible chunks, it will also make it easier for Google to crawl and index. And don’t forget—these subheadings are a great way to optimize your target keywords, as the more prominent they are on your page and your URL, the more Google will believe the information you are creating is valuable content.
Yes, it is important to have original content on your website. However, it is much more important to diversify the types of content you use, as images are a significant Google ranking factor, in addition to how they engage the searcher. The easiest way to use images is to put them at the top of the page, grabbing the user’s attention as soon as they get on a specific landing page. Make sure to optimize these images by incorporating relevant keywords in the alt text, so in case of a problem with loading the page, users can see what the photos are meant to be used for.
Google’s power is that we don’t always know what to expect when they roll out a new change. The websites at the top of a Google search can always change, so you need to stay informed to stay ahead of the game.
New information regularly comes out on how to optimize your website with multiple ranking factors in mind; it’s essential to closely monitor your website, keeping tabs on ranking changes. Especially since it can take weeks (and sometimes months) for Google to register changes to a page, you’ll want to check up on the SERPs post-update to see which types of UX features are boosting your rankings.
As you can see, there isn’t just one answer on how to get to the top of the Google search results. That is why Linkgraph.io is here to help you and your website stay on top of the trends, as and when they happen, and make sure that you understand what these shifts mean for you. So when it comes to the new Google 2021 Page Experience Update, we have one thing to say to Google: Bring it on.