What You Should Know about Google’s 2021 Page Experience Update and How It Will Affect Your Site’s Rankings

Google Page ExperienceGoogle Page Experience

Google recently announced Web Vitals, a set of metrics it will use to measure both the speed and the user experience of websites. The update will roll out sometimes in 2021 and be a part of an upcoming core algorithm update. It now means page experience is measurable and acknowledges that Google deems it helpful enough to judge sites by.

What does this mean for site owners and anyone who might be affected?

It’s been 10 years since Google announced site speed would play a role in search engine rankings. Eight years later the search engine leader updated its algorithm to include page speed in mobile search results. Now, the latest update will take into account several new or updated metrics, including user experience factors. This information makes up the page experience update.

Ideally, pages would load instantly, but this doesn’t happen. Even with the fastest internet connections available it can take several seconds for a page to load. Add in problems with on-site experience and users feel frustrated by the experience. Even when sites were optimized for speed, there was still something lacking in the user experience. Not only must a site be fast it needs to feel fast.

Says 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.”

2020: The Year of Web Vitals

In May, Google announced Web Vitals. Web Vitals is a set of metrics that make it easier to determine opportunities to improve site experience.

It includes a subset of metrics – the Core Web Vitals – that site owners should make a priority in the coming months. Each of the Core Web Vitals assesses a portion of the page experience. This helps Google and site owners make sense of the perceived experience of site users and involve:

  • Loading
  • Interactivity
  • Visual stability

Each of these points corresponds with three new metrics, including:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): How long it takes for the largest element of content to load
  • First Input Delay (FID): How long it takes for a browser t respond to interaction by the user
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): The percentage of the screen affected by movement and whether things “jump around” on the screen

The goal is to help site owners improve page experience. As a matter of fact, CLS has nothing to do with site speed. All three metrics are about more than how fast the site loads and take into account how long it takes for a site to be usable. These updates aim to improve overall experience and prevent frustration, like the kind you feel when you click the wrong button because something loaded at the last minute or shifted on the screen.

Combine These Factors for a Powerful Rankings Boost

Web Vital updates will be combined with existing experience ranking factors, as opposed to replacing them. As most people know, some of these factors are a mystery, but others are known. Some of the factors Google uses to determine ranking include:

  • Mobile optimization
  • Connection security
  • Avoidance or elimination of pop-ups
  • Browsing safety

Google’s goal is to take into account everything users experience and creates a comprehensive picture of a site’s performance.

Keep in mind, no matter how important user experience is when it comes to Google’s ranking decisions, it will still be impossible for a site to rank well if it has poor content. But user experience is now more important than ever. You need both quality content and a great user experience in order to rise to the top.

Improving Your Site Now Ensures You’ll Be Ready for Google’s Next Update

It’s also important to note Google’s transparency with this – something that’s not usually the case. Site owners are getting plenty of warning of what’s to come in 2021, so there will be plenty of time to prepare. Google has also provided a number of tools to help you adapt to the upcoming changes. You can check out a few of them here, here, and here.

There will be another warning about six months prior to the update, but it’s best that you not wait that long to begin improvements. Now is the time to start testing your site and making improvements where they are needed. The sooner you get a jump on this the better prepared you’ll be for what lies ahead.

For more information or to speak to someone about making improvements to your site, give us a call at 888-480-3585 or sign up for a free consultation here.

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