In May 2020, Google introduced new ranking signals for Google Search called page experience. Coming into effect in 2021, these signals combine Core Web Vitals and existing signals, which include mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. Together, page experience signals aim to improve a user’s overall experience when they interact with a web page by measuring how they perceive the experience, and will contribute to a website’s search ranking.
Google recently presented a gradual rollout plan for the page experience signals, which will begin mid-June 2021, and will take full effect by the end of August 2021. In order for brands to prepare their website’s for these changes, let’s break down what page experience signals include.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are under the umbrella of Google’s Web Vitals and are an integral part of the user experience on web and mobile devices. Core Web Vitals apply to all web pages and include interchangeable and evolving components of user experience, which for 2021 include loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures loading performance and reports on the render time of the largest visible image or text block relative to when the page began to load. This should take 2.5 seconds or less on your website for a good user experience.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity and reports on the length of time that it takes for a user request, such as when a user clicks on a link within a site’s menu, to load in their browser. For a good user experience, this should take 100 milliseconds or less.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability and accounts for how often users experience unexpected movement or shifts on a webpage. Load time plays a role in CLS because if a site is too slow, a user may accidentally click something they did not intend to, which can lead to an undesirable user experience. A low CLS of 0.1 or less provides a good user experience.
Google is updating their ranking signals as part of their continued efforts to improve user experience. Pre-existing search signals will work in tandem with the updated Core Web Vitals to rank websites based on usability.
According to Google Search Central, to ensure a good page experience for a user, several factors must be considered. First, a page must be mobile-friendly, as much of the internet is now consumed on our phones. Google offers a Mobile-Friendly Test that you can use to determine your site’s load time. As well, the page cannot contain any malicious or deceptive content, which can be detected with a Security Issues report. The page must also be served over HTTPS, which helps ensure security. Lastly, accessibility is key when users interact with the content on a page, and intrusive interstitials can hinder this.
Changes to Top Stories Carousel & AMP
As the update rolls out in the next several months, you will begin to notice a change in the Top Stories carousel feature that you can find on Google Search. Any news content that meets Google’s News policies will be included in the carousel, regardless of AMP format. Similar changes will be applied to the Google News app, as the page experience update will implement non-AMP content as well.
How to Prepare for this Change
To get your website ready for this change, run an audit to determine how effectively it functions for users. You can begin by running a Core Web Vitals report to ensure the three core metrics – LCP, FID, and CLS – are performing well on your site. If you notice a “Poor” or “Needs improvement” status, you need to start optimizing. Receiving multiple scores of “good” on your Core Web Vitals report will help you achieve a greater user experience and can help improve your search ranking.
Data is a valuable tool that when optimized, can bring great insight to a business – large or small. With the page experience signals update comes the new Page Experience Report that provides insight on the user experience of your website’s visitors. However, this evaluation is currently only being used for mobile devices, which means desktop searches will not be included in this report.
Other tools Google recommends that can help measure and optimize your site’s Core Web Vitals are:
- PageSpeed Insights
- Chrome DevTools
- Search Console
- dev’s measure tool
- Web Vitals Chrome extension
- Chrome UX Report
Slow page speed, delays in how long images and blocks of text load, and layout shifting are among the issues that can impact the success of your search ranking, which is vital for your brand’s visiblity. Ensuring your site has relevant, quality content will also help. According to Google, “While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar.”
If you have questions about this update, check out Google’s FAQ page for more details.