How Will Google’s Page Experience Factor Affect Your Ranking?

Google recently announced that beginning in May 2021, page experience signals will now be included in Google Search ranking. How will this affect search and your company’s digital marketing campaigns? First, let’s hear how Google defines page experience.

“Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value. It includes Core Web Vitals, which is a set of metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of the page. It also includes existing Search signals: mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.”

Google also went on to explain that page experience will be joining hundreds of other signals that Google considers when determining ranking. They went on to remind people that great page content is still a very important determining factor.

“Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.”

 What does this mean for you, in layman’s terms? Websites must still pay attention to the experience of their users. Quality content still matters, but if it is difficult to access or interact with on your site, you have to change your web design to maintain your ranking.

User Experience Matters Now

According to Google, “Great page experiences enable people to get more done and engage more deeply; in contrast, a bad page experience could stand in the way of a person being able to find the valuable information on a page.”

So, how exactly are you supposed to offer a more engaging experience? Google actually spells it out for us based on a few different metrics: core web vitals, mobile friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPs, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. The good news here is that your website probably already checks off on a few of these ranking factors.

  • Core Web Vitals focus on aspects of loading, interactivity and visual stability.
    • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures loading performance for the largest content element on a site. Sites should strive to have LCP occur within 2.5 seconds of loading.
    • First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity, or how long it takes a browser to respond to an interaction. Google suggests that sites strive to have FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
    • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how the screen is affected by movement, and Google recommends a CLS score of less than 0.1.
  • Mobile friendliness began playing a role in 2015, so your website is most likely in good shape right now. However, you can run a Mobile-Friendly Test here.
  • Safe browsing means that your page doesn’t contain malicious or deceptive content. Google will be on the lookout for malware, deceptive pages, harmful downloads, and uncommon downloads. You can run a security issues report here.
  • HTTPS deals with security-related concerns dating back to 2016 when sites were transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS to incorporate more secure browsing. You can check your site’s connection here.
  • Intrusive interstitials make content less accessible. Intrusive interstitials are aspects on a web page such as intrusive pop ups or ads that block access to content. Google did note that sites will not be penalized for interstitial elements dealing with legality such as cookies, age verification, and login dialogs.
  • Add CTA- Call to Action Buttons that provide access to the information your users are looking for and provides you with webform data capture.

The Good News

Unlike in the past, Google has provided ample time for website owners to fix their issues before this new change affects search rankings. They have even provided an FAQ about the upcoming changes to ensure that nobody is caught by surprise. They have also offered Page Speed Insights and tools like Lighthouse to fix page load issues.

Many of these changes have probably already been made to your website, so the greatest concern likely has to do with Core Web Vitals, ensuring that your website is designed to provide optimal user experience. While engineering your website for optimal user experience might seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. User experience comes from a variety of small factors, so little changes over time add up to a big shift in ranking. You don’t have to implement everything all at once.

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Site’s Core Vitals

User experience comes from a variety of small factors, so little changes over time add up to a big shift in ranking. You don’t have to implement everything all at once. Here are a few concrete steps you (or your developer) can take to improve your site’s core vitals.

  1. Optimize your images. Large images are often the largest contentful paint (LCP) of any site. Making these images load more quickly will improve user experience, and this can be accomplished by serving it in the size needed and compressing it well.
  2. Speed up your server to reduce load time. There are many ways to do this but upgrading your hosting plan may help. Pick a plan that offers good performance at a fair price. Reducing the complexity of your site may also help, as servers for complex sites stay busy handling requests and serving files, so optimizing those processes will also help.
  3. Define dimensions for images to improve CLS score. When images don’t have defined dimensions, they tend to jump around when loading, which is frustrating to users. One of the ways you can improve Core Web Vitals and prevent CLS is by adding the width and height for images in the CSS. Simply making sure that images have proper width and height attributes set can fix this issue.
  4. Check your third-party scripts. If you have ads that run off of third-party scripts, the slowness of your site may be coming from the outside. If you have slow-loading ads, you may want to consider the value they’re providing relative to your page ranking.
  5. Optimize CSS delivery for above-the-fold content. Without getting too technical, when a website loads a page it gets HTML, renders it, gets the CSS, renders it, gets the JavaScript, renders it, etc. Because CSS loads late in the process it can take some time for something to appear on screen, meaning a slow load time and also a jerky experience. By taking critical CSS (anything that appears above the fold) and inlining it into your code, it will appear much faster. Plugins like WP Rocket for WordPress make this process much easier.

The good thing about this upcoming change in Google rankings is that you have time to prepare and plenty of resources to use in order to be ready when the change takes effect. Core Web Vitals cannot be fixed in a single day, but small adjustments over time do make a big impact.

Contact us today to get your site ready for these new SEO changes!