Most people reading this have probably heard about Google’s announcement and plan for this summer. It’s yet another update, but one that’s going to affect many websites in a big way. Google stated that the latest update in 2021 would factor in what’s called Page Experience into their ranking algorithm. It will be a crucial element, not only because it’s going to impact everyone’s rankings, but also because it will mean that websites need to up their game in the experience department.
As part of the initiative, Google launched a tool called Web Vitals, which essentially benchmarks factors that are vital to user experience. Using the tool, webmasters should be able to improve the experience users have on their websites.
What is Page Experience?
Page experience is defined as all the ways in which users will interact with your web page, as well as how difficult it is for them to interact with it.
The page experience also factors in features like mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, safe browsing, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. However, if Web Vitals (the tool we mentioned above) is anything to go by, there are three primary factors that Google considers, i.e., visual stability, loading time, and interactivity.
- Loading time – It is a measurement of how long it takes for your website to load or the perceived load time. The shorter the load time, i.e., usually under 2 seconds, the better the experience will be for users because they don’t have to wait as long to interact with the site.
- Interactivity – It is defined as the time from when a user first decides to interact with the page, which can be a tap or a click of the mouse button. In other words, it is the time form when a browser starts processing the interaction.
- Visual stability – Usually, this has to do with having to prevent unexpected movement of the content. It can often mean intrusive pop-ups, flashing letters that come out of nowhere demanding users buy, etc.
Since Google has been building up to the May update over the past several months, many websites may already be optimised for some of these factors. However, it’s always good to test, especially load times, because Google’s research shows that bounce rates go up by 123% on a mobile device when load times go from 1 second to 10 seconds.
Similarly, the number of elements on the page also affects bounce rates. As elements go from 400 to 6000, the possibility of converting a visitor drastically decreases by 95%. The latest update will see Google bringing all these factors under one umbrella.
Google has stated that by sometime next year (2022), it will introduce visual experience indicators. The indicators will mark those search results which meet the Google’s page experience specifications.
However, this isn’t something new as Google did something similar in the past; ever notice the AMP icons or those “slow” and “mobile-friendly” labels? If the previous indicators are anything to go by, these too will be displayed prominently in search results, which means that users will prefer sites that offer a good experience over ones that don’t.
It’s important to mention here that this is just speculation at best since, Google hasn’t yet announced the size, shape, or positioning of such indicators. However, it shows how serious Google is about a page experience and websites following their guidelines.
Page Experience Isn’t Everything!
You are probably assuming from everything we’ve talked about above that page experience is the most important factor, and if you can fix all of the above parameters, then you’re good to go! In our experience, that isn’t going to be the case. Content is still going to be king, and that’s where things can start to get a little tricky.
Google’s blog post says, amongst other things, “Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content.”
That said, if you are competing against several pages that are similarly relevant, the improved page experience is going to make a significant difference to your search rankings.
Why Is This Latest Algorithm Update So Important?
It’s essential that the new page experience metrics be taken very seriously by developers and everyone else that’s involved in optimising websites for the best rankings. For starters, when those visual cues we mentioned earlier kick in later next year, it’s going to offer your well-optimised website an advantage over others by visually telling searchers that your website should be visited.
Google has said that they will give weightage to page experience. After all, nobody wants to visit a terrible page, and those that do end up on a slow, buggy page find themselves hitting the ‘back button,’ having wasted time. A terrific page experience means that people can do what they need to, in the shortest time possible.
Low-quality pages that fall below the new benchmarks will be left behind by the algorithm, which translates to a drop in traffic. As the time of writing, Google considers a few hundred ranking factors and the new page experience will be a significant part of that.
As a site or business owner, you need to understand these signals and ensure that the necessary changes are prioritised. If the changes aren’t made, your website will be ignored. We think that even the best content may not be able to outrun a bad page experience score, but that’s something that time will tell.
The sooner you optimise every landing page on your website for the highest experience score, the less of a negative impact the algorithm update will have on your website. If you don’t have the technical expertise to update your website’s page experience, then you should hire a developer to work through everything that’s wrong with the page to fix it, ideally before the May 2021 update kicks in.