The Google Page Experience Update is on its way

15 March 2021

The long-expected Google Page Experience Update probably won’t come as a surprise to those who work on the organic findability of their website. It’s all in the name, i.e. this update is all about website user experience. By improving the algorithm, Google will be guaranteeing that organic rankings change. But those of us who have previously endured this search engine’s updates will know that, when released à la Google, they often raise even more questions. That’s why we’ll be as concise and clear as possible in explaining to you exactly what will be changing. The criteria ‘mobile friendly’, ‘safe browsing’, ‘HTTPS’ and ‘No intrusive interstitials’ have long been important benchmarks for assessing the user-friendliness of a web page. So, in this article, we mainly zoom in on the newer and less-known part of the update expected in May: the Core Web Vitals.

What’s the Google Page Experience Update all about?

The most significant change that this update will bring involves the essential role that the expected user experience will play. Soon, the ranking of a page in organic search results will depend on that, i.e. the better the experience, the higher the ranking. And, if a page achieves an excellent score in terms of user experience, it might even be highlighted by Google as a so-called Top Story. The latter will first be trialled. Google will also be trialling different methods for informing search engine users about how good the page experience on a certain page will be, e.g. by displaying icons after search results.

Search Page Experience Graphic

What are Core Web Vitals?

Having read the first part of this article, you’ll broadly understand what will be changing in terms of Google rankings. The Core Web Vitals should ensure that websites become user friendly/friendlier, something that – as of May 2021 – will be a significant factor when it comes to determining webpage rankings in Google search results. Loading, interactivity and visual stability are what Core Web Vitals are all about. But what exactly do these involve? Allow us to explain.

LCP - Largest Contentful Paint

The Largest Contentful Paint marks the point at which the largest content element of a page is loaded, thereby making the website usable to the visitor. In other words, it’s a scale that measures the load speed. This point should ideally be reached within 2.5 seconds of the start of loading.

FID - First Input Delay

First Input Delay measures the time between the loading of a webpage and first user interaction. It is also known as responsiveness. Google will be looking at aspects like the completion of forms and the clickability of buttons. Here, not just the user-friendliness of a webpage will be considered, so will the involvement of users because that demonstrates how users can receive responses from websites. For an ideal page experience, the FID should preferably be shorter than 100ms (milliseconds) and certainly no longer than 300ms.

CLS - Cumulative Layout Shift

Cumulative Layout Shift is a metric that’s especially important when it comes to mobile. It measures the degree by which the layout of a webpage shifts during the loading process. Examples of elements that can shift include typeface or advertisements that take too long to load. According to Google, a good CLS score is lower than 0.1 per page.

How user friendly is your website?

Of course, it isn’t always necessary to take immediate action. But it would certainly be a good idea to look into this and find out how well your website scores on user-friendliness. Your website might return a satisfactory score, or perhaps just a quick fix is required for an improvement in user-friendliness. This is easy to check using the site vitality report in Google Search Console or the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. But what you should remember is that there’s little chance of your website getting full marks, so please don’t lose sleep over it. You can safely assume that Google won’t approve if one of your Core Web Vitals is in the red zone. However, if and how the update will affect the ranking of your website is something you can only ever guess. After all, the Google algorithm remains one of the world’s best-kept secrets. In all cases, our best advice is to monitor all the time! Scores and reports from tools like Search Console and PageSpeed Insights are just random indicators. And in case of changes to content or technology, scores can suddenly change all over again. So, we recommend that, if you plan on implementing major changes, you first gauge what impact such changes will have on page speed and Core Web Vitals.

We’re happy to help

If you have any questions about the Page Experience Update, please let us know. We like to think along with you.

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