Google announced in 2020 that it would be introducing a new ranking algorithm in the coming year. The search engine regularly changes how it ranks websites, so this likely didn’t come as a shock. What is surprising is that Google is planning to give considerable ranking power to websites based on the user experience (UX). So, if Google believes that your website’s users are having a bad experience, it could impact your rankings.
The new update is going to be called the Google Page Experience update. It was supposed to begin rolling out in May 2021, but the search engine has delayed the ranking signal until sometime in mid-June. There will be a gradual rollout that may or may not affect your current rankings. Here is what you need to know.
What is Page Experience?
Google has produced a detailed document for developers that explains its page experience criteria. In short, the search engine has created a list of metrics that help it figure out how the user perceives their experience on a particular webpage. These items include things like:
- Does the page load quickly?
- Is it mobile-friendly?
- Is it secure (HTTPS)?
- Are there too many intrusive ads?
- Does the content move around while the page is loading?
As you can see, the overall page experience is comprised of several existing page ranking factors. Google has already had a mobile-friendly update, a page speed update, and gives favor to pages that are secure.
Understanding Core Web Vitals
When Google refines its metrics around usability and speed for the purposes of measuring page experience, it is using something called Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals are user-centered, real-world metrics. These return scores on various aspects of a web page, such as interactivity, load time, and content stability while loading.
Three primary metrics make up Core Web Vitals:
1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This measures your page’s loading performance. Your target LCP should be 2.5 seconds or less to deliver the best user experience.
2. First Input Delay (FID)
This is a metric for your page’s interactivity. Your FID should be under 100 milliseconds to provide an optimum user experience.
3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
This measures your page’s visual stability. Your page should score a CLS of under 0.1 to provide a positive user experience.
How to Prepare for This Update
According to Search Engine Journal, fewer than 15% of websites are optimized to pass a Core Web Vitals assessment. But Google has determined that website visitors are 24% less likely to abandon their efforts if the site they reach meets the Core Web Vitals standards.
So how can you prepare for this update? Here are a few ways:
Use the Core Web Vitals Report
You are likely familiar with the Google Search Console, which is a free service provided by Google that helps website owners monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot a site’s Google Search results presence. Google Search Console is meant to help website owners understand and improve the ways the search engine views their site.
This service from Google is important for the update because there is a new Core Web Vitals report included in the console. In this report, you can quickly get your scores for:
- Largest Contentful Paint
- First Input Delay
- Cumulative Layout Shift
Focus on Key UX Metrics
Most of the key UX metrics are things that your business should have already made a priority. If it hasn’t done so yet, now is the perfect time to start. Focus on these items:
If you do nothing else, make your website as fast as possible. From a user’s perspective, if your website won’t even load quickly after clicking on the link in the search results, the experience is already poor.
- Use quality web hosting
- Optimize your website images
- Enable compression
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Turn on browser caching
- Use a CDN
- Host videos externally
Every website now needs to be mobile-friendly. More consumers are accessing the web via mobile devices than ever, so this is a winning SEO strategy. Your website’s design should be built for mobile-first and then be responsive or scalable to larger screens to deliver the best user experience.
Data security remains a top concern for consumers, and Google is sensitive to this. If you haven’t gotten an SSL certificate for your website yet to reduce the risk of cyber threats, now is the time to do so.
This is a tough one, and you’ll likely need some assistance from your web developer to get it right. In short, you want to make sure that visitors to your page see a “stable” version of images, text, ads, and video as quickly as possible when they arrive - ideally within one-tenth of a second.
To achieve this, you can set the height and width attributes on things like ads, images, and video elements. Another thing you can do is to preload your fonts so that visitors don’t have to look at shifting paragraphs as content loads on the page.
Work With an Experienced Digital Marketing Agency
Getting ready for Google’s next update is something that is vital for your business. But it’s likely just one more thing on your already full plate. Digital marketing in today’s environment can be challenging because the competition is fierce, and Google tends to change the rules often.
At Connection Model, we take pride in staying at the forefront of these developments so that we can make the proactive adjustments necessary to help our clients achieve their goals. If you would like to discuss how our results-driven digital marketing solutions can help your business, contact us!
Written By: David Carpenter