What is Google Page Experience, and Why Does it Matter?

Have you heard of Google Page Experience?

If you haven’t, and you prioritize search engine optimization (SEO) as a strategy to support your business, you’re behind the times.

Google’s Page Experience is described as, “a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.”

But what exactly does that mean for you and your site? And how should you prepare?

Google Page Experience: An introduction

Google Page Experience is Google’s latest attempt to improve search results for users. Basically, Google wants to reward websites that offer high-quality user experience while downplaying/de-ranking websites that offer poor UX design.

Of course, Google has always been interested in prioritizing the best web pages, listing them at the top of its search engine results pages (SERPs). But this new update is going to take UX design and overall user experience into account more than ever before.

Google announced this update more than a year ago, but only now is it going to take effect, to afford business owners more time to prepare. Google stated, “We recognize many site owners are rightfully placing their focus on responding to the effects of Covid-19. […] We’re providing the tools now to get you started (and because site owners have consistently requested to know about ranking changes as early as possible), but there is no immediate need to take action.”

We’re expecting to see the first ranking shakeups from Page Experience to begin around August of 2021. However, because it could take up to 28 days for the index to update with your latest changes, it’s important to start making changes as soon as possible if you want to benefit from the new standards.

Core web vitals

There are many important components of user experience according to Google’s latest criteria, but three of the most important are these core web vitals:

Largest contentful paint (LCP). LCP refers to how much time passes before a webpage is able to load meaningful content. You’re in bad shape if your webpage takes more than four seconds to load. A good LCP will be less than two and a half seconds.

First input display (FID). The FID refers to the time it takes for a website to respond to the input of a user. For example, if a user clicks on an interactive element, how long does it take to register that click and respond? Achieving response time of 100 ms or less is ideal, while more than 300 ms is a significant problem.

Cumulative layout shift (CLS). How much does your web content shift when a user interacts with your page? The fewer disruptions, the better. Metrics here measure both how much the content is shifted and how far it has shifted; you’ll strive for a CLS of 0.1 or less to comply with Google’s latest standards.

You can measure these core web vitals with the Core Web Vitals Report in Google Search Console.

Other signals to consider

There are other signals to consider as well. Many of these were in place before the rollout of Page Experience, but it’s more important than ever to address them:

Mobile friendliness. Mobile optimization has been important for about as long as mobile devices have been popular.

HTTPS. Secure browsing is one of Google’s highest priorities — which is why an SSL certificate matters.

Safe browsing. It’s your responsibility to reduce fraud and protect user privacy.

Intrusive interstitials. Annoying or distracting popups or redirects violate UX design tenets.

How to improve your site

If you want your site to be rewarded, rather than penalized, with the rollout of Page Experience, these are some of the steps you can take:

Use a responsive design. If you’re not already using a responsive design, now’s the time to upgrade.

Upgrade to HTTPS. Getting an SSL certificate through your domain registrar is easy (and relatively inexpensive).

Increase the security of your site. Work to achieve better standards for privacy, fraud reduction and overall security.

Remove popups. Get rid of anything that could be construed as an intrusive interstitial, such as annoying popups or redirects.

Clean up your backend code. There are several improvements to your backend code that can improve loading speed and overall user experience. For example, you can get rid of unused JavaScript, rely on modern file formats, and minimize your large JF libraries with local CSS and JS libraries.

Use a good caching plugin. The right caching plugin can store your site’s information so it loads much faster for repeat visitors.

Google Page Experience is going to be here for a long time — and it’s probably going to evolve significantly along the way. For now, your highest priority should be optimizing your site for this initial rollout.

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