Are you sick of getting low-quality websites in your search results? Perhaps you have a rubbish website of your own that’s ticking along?
If so, we have some good news and some bad news: sometime in 2021, Google is going to roll out a search engine ranking algorithm change that incorporates ‘page experience’ into how it decides to rank websites.
This means if Google thinks your website users will have a poor experience on your pages, then they won’t rank them as high as they are now.
Here’s how Google describes the new metric themselves:
“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
You can read more from Google’s mouth here.
In other words, page experience is all about measuring how usable your web page is — and Google will reward web pages that are highly usable.
Breaking down what you need to do
Right, so Google’s making page experience a ranking factor. What do you need to do?
The page experience algorithm update will merge something called Core Web Vitals with existing ranking algorithms related to page speed, mobile-friendliness and security.
There are 3 core web vitals you need to know about:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – this measures perceived load speed. It marks the point when a user sees the main content.
- First Input Delay (FID) – this measures responsiveness. It quantifies when the user can interact with the page properly.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – this measures visual stability. It quantifies the amount of layout shift in elements viewed on a page.
If you can get these elements to return high scores in tools (see below) you will be 90% there with complying with Google’s update.
Google tools you can use to get page experience optimised
Check out these tools to get ahead of the game:
An open-source, automated tool in Chrome that you can run against any web page to audit that page for performance, accessibility and SEO.
The easiest way to use it is by downloading the Chrome Extension. Once you have it, visit a web page and click the Lighthouse button.
Here’s another way to use it in Chrome: On your PC, visit any web page on your website and hit CTRL + SHIFT + C to open the dialogue box. Navigate to ‘Lighthouse’ (it’s at the top in the menu) and select ‘Generate Report’.
Google PageSpeed Insights is a useful tool for measuring page speed and usability. It will load your page and score it against a list of criteria.
It will score the 3 core web vitals above:
- First Contentful Paint (this is the same as Largest Contentful Paint)
- Time To Interactive (this is the same as First Input Delay)
- Cumulative Layout Shift
Some webmasters spend a lot of time hunting for the ultimate score in PageSpeed Insights, which can be impossible with some sites. However, most websites should be able to achieve a score between 50-89 (adequate performance).
If you haven’t already integrated Google Webmaster Tools with your website you should do it now. Webmaster Tools will track your performance in Google search and the performance of your website, including the Core Web Vitals we have been talking about.
It takes around a month to pull Core Web Vitals data with a fresh install, or you can prompt the data by running a PageSpeed Insights test within the dashboard.
A lot of webmasters forget to install Webmaster Tools and only install Google Analytics. The tools collect different data and complement each other. We recommend both and especially with this page experience update just around the corner.