Before diving into the New Google Page Experience Algorithm Update, let us understand what exactly Google Algorithm is and why is it important to continuously optimize your Digital Marketing strategy according to these algorithm updates. Google’s mission is to organize the world's information, making it universally accessible and useful. Google strives to present information in the most relevant manner by gathering data from its search index using its ranking systems and algorithms. Over the years Google has rolled out several updates from small ones that often go unnoticed to big ones that have a major impact on the SERPs but the aim of these updates has been uniform to match the search queries with the results and provide users with relevant information.
In November 2020, Google announced a new update, The Page Experience, to its ranking algorithm. This new update will evaluate web pages based on the user’s perceptions of the web page's interactivity. This means, if your webpage delivers a poor user experience, it may suffer a lower ranking from Google. The user experience will be measured based on a set of metrics called the Core Web Vitals, announced by the Chrome team and is related to webpages’ speed, responsiveness, and visual stability.
Don’t worry, we will cover all of these here. At Lambourn Digital, we constantly update all our clients’ websites to align with the recent Google updates. Let’s start by breaking down what Page Experience is:
The Page experience evaluates all aspects of the user’s interactivity with a web page. The purpose of page experience optimization is to make the user’s experience a delightful one when they interact with the webpage across different browsers and devices. This will help businesses increase their user engagement and enable users to transact with less friction. The Page experience includes some of the existing Google search signals: mobile responsiveness, browser safety, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. The three pillars of Page Experience are:
As mentioned above, many of these factors were already considered for Google’s ranking. With the new Page Experience update, Google is bringing them under one umbrella that is going to impact your organic rankings heavily.
Communicating quality information clearly to your customers along with a good UI and UX can help you stand out from your competitors and make your first impression as a legitimate business.
Now, the question is how Google is going to measure the Page Experience. This is done by the Core Web Vitals covered in the next section in detail along with guidelines to improve each metric and additional resources.
Core Web Vitals comprises a set of real-world, user-centric metrics to measure the key aspects of user experience including load time, interactivity, and stability of content. It is essentially a subset of the Web Vitals. The three key components of the Core Web Vitals include the following:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) —loading: LCP measures how long it takes to load the largest piece of content of your webpage. It evaluates the page loading performance and for a good page experience, your LCP should be within 2.5 seconds from when the page starts loading. The largest webpage element is generally the header image. It could also be something in your <h1> tag, <img> element, <image> element inside an <svg> element, image inside a <video> element, background image loaded with the URL() function, blocks of text.
Go to the PageSpeed Insights, type in your webpage URL, and browse to the Diagnostics section, the LCP element will be specified there. Alternatively, you can use the Chrome DevTools. Click on Performance > check screenshots > Start profiling and reload the page. Your LCP will be on the timing graph. Just click the node and that’s your LCP element.
Factors affecting LCP:
How to optimize LCP:
Generally if your webpage LCP is the header image, you can try to preload the image or inline the whole image inline to make it downloadable with HTML code. Additionally, try out these to improve LCP:
First Input Delay (FID) — interactivity: FID measures interactivity based on the time taken by the webpage to react to a user’s first interaction with the site. It can be thought of as responsiveness but does not include scroll or zoom activities. Examples of user interactions could be clicking on a button or link, selecting a drop-down menu, clicking on a checkbox, or inputting text into a blank form field. Google doe not want the users to be frustrated after clicking on something and nothing happening. Hence, the metric FID. To attain a good page experience, FID should be less than 100 milliseconds.
It is important to remember that Google cannot predict and measure your FID unless a user interacts with your webpage. This data is therefore data from real users accessing the webpage from different kinds of devices, browsers for various purposes that are less controllable. Therefore, be ready to face some data change sometimes!
Factors affecting FID:
How to optimize FID:
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) — visual stability: CLS is a brand new core Web Vital determining the stability of your webpage’s elements. Often it is noticed with many web pages, that the content jumps during loading or a button suddenly appears without the content is fully loaded. The instability of the webpage elements again mounts up the user’s frustration which is something Google does not want. For a good page experience, it is recommended to maintain a CLS of less than 0.1. However, being a new metric, Google is taking feedback for it and some changes to this metric can be expected soon as this metric continues to measure even after the initial page load.
How to see what’s your CLS:
Go to the PageSpeed Insights, type in your webpage URL, and browse to the Diagnostics section where you can find a list of elements shifting. That’s your CLS. Alternatively, you can try the WebPageTest, and in the Filmstrip View, use the following options:
Factors affecting CLS:
Ads are the most common cause of CLS. Few other factors for low CLS could be:
How to optimize CLS:
You could try to preload your custom fonts or drop the custom font completely or use a default font when the page initially loads and then use the custom font once the subsequent page loads. You will have to compromise on the visual design and style but remember it is listed by Google as one of the key metrics for Page performance.
A lot of tools are available to measure the Core Web Vitals. Here are some important ones you should definitely consider.
At Lambourn Digital, we share monthly reports with all our clients and follow them up with a one-to-one chat to gauge the effectiveness of the work done and set objectives for the next month. Chat with Our Team today and start with a FREE Website Audit to explore the issues with your current webpage.
So far, we have talked about what the new Google algorithm update is, metrics, and tools to measure. But why should Webmasters be concerned with this update? Let’s discuss it in the next section.
It is no mystery that for Google it is the website user experience that determines if the website will shoot up the rankings or disappear in a low SERP.
Great page experience directly results in higher engagement and Google has clearly stated the increased weightage that will be given to Page Experience for rankings. Page delivering a bad experience in terms of loading, interactivity, and visual stability will face a drop in rankings and traffic.
By adding page experience as one of the ranking factors, Google aims to help both the users and website owners:
Additionally, Google is going to update the eligibility criteria for the Top Stories experience along with the Page Experience update. At present, Top Stories feature fresh content in Search emphasizing AMP results, optimized for a good page experience. Post the new update rollout, AMP will not be necessary for stories to be featured in Top Stories on mobile; it will be open to any page. All pages must meet the Google News content policies to be eligible. Webmasters publishing pages as AMP or with an AMP version will have the same behavior as before without any changes - the AMP version will be what's linked from Top Stories.
However, saying all that Content remains King for Google and made it clear great content will continue to be ranked highly on Google despite their page experience. Quoting Google “While all of the components of page experience are important, we will rank pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where multiple pages have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.”
You can check out our article about the Benefits of Content Marketing For Small and Medium Businesses.
With all this information, Get Ready for the New Page Experience Update coming in May 2021, and do not fall behind in the ranking ladder.
Feel Free to give a shout to Our Team for any queries on the New Google Page Experience Update.