With Google’s upcoming Page Experience update now announced to launch in May 2021, there’s no better time to get yourself (and your website) up-to-speed on what it is and what you should be doing before it arrives.
What is the update?
The purpose of Google’s Page Experience update is to reward websites in the SERPs that are easy-to-use and without the common frustrations a user often encounters while searching a query. This means shorter loading times, fewer annoying pop-ups you can’t get rid of and the removal of poor visibility are all encouraged. All of these factors allow Google to separate the good, user-friendly websites from the bad.
The good news for you is that not only will improving your User Experience (UX) affect your users’ brand perception, but it’ll also be a key ranking factor to incorporate into your SEO strategy. Get this right and in May, you could be on your way up to page 1 of the SERPs.
What are the main factors?
Google has revealed five key factors that each contribute to the page experience of your website and individual pages.
- Core Web Vitals
- Safe browsing
- Having HTTPS
- Intrusive interstitial content
In addition to these factors, it’s important to focus on user experience as a whole if you want real results, aiming to create intuitive, enjoyable user-friendly pages, rather than simply checking SEO boxes.
What are Core Web Vitals?
As mentioned above, one of the main factors for Page Experience is Core Web Vitals. These are three newly introduced signals that allow Google and developers to measure a site’s speed and performance metrics. Thankfully, all of Google’s popular web development tools including Lighthouse, Search Console and Chrome DevTools all now allow you to measure Core Web Vitals.
1. Largest Contentful Paint – how long it takes for the main content of a page to load and be visible.
2. First Input Delay – how long it takes from clicking an interactive feature to when the browser responds and executes the action.
3. Cumulative Layout Shift – is there visual instability or unexpected layout shifts that could be frustrating to the user.
Do I prioritise Page Experience in SEO strategies?
In short, yes and no. Great user experience is the ideal strategy, and almost certainly necessary to work on. Content, however, is still king and should always come first. Not just any old content, but useful, engaging content that meets the needs of a user for a particular keyword query. Both content and page experience in conjunction with each other is the key to being successful.
What else will change?
Google plans to consistently add new page experience signals in the future, adapting to how users’ needs change over time. Specifically, the Core Web Vitals are expected to change based on what is considered a good web experience by real users.
As of recently, Google has started testing visual indicators that’ll inform a user if a page has great page experience. This would likely be similar to the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) label, designed to help users find the right search result for them quickly. If testing is successful, it’ll launch May 2021. In addition, AMP won’t be required to achieve a spot on Google’s featured Top Stories.
Where to start?
When creating a successfully engaging user experience, it’s important to zoom in on each individual page or section of your website, rather than taking action on the website as a whole. From there, it’s up to you and your team to decide how you tackle each of these tasks:
- Increase your page load speed – use a simple design, optimise images and keep your front-end code minimal.
- Remove unnecessary ads and images – the fewer the pop-ups and intrusive features the better.
- Optimise for mobile – check Google’s mobile-friendliness test.
- Secure your site – get an SSL certificate and check your site for any security issues.
- See what competitors are doing – do your research and aim to offer better page experience than your competitors.