Google announced on Thursday, May 28, 2020, that they will be releasing the Google Page Experience Update sometime in 2021. This means that user experience will become a Google ranking factor. Here is a quote from the new release. “Today, we’re building on this work and providing an early look at an upcoming Search ranking change that incorporates these page experience metrics. We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.” In this week’s video, we will cover this coming update and what you need to do to get prepared.
Table of Contents
Google Webmaster Blog: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2020/05/evaluating-page-experience.html
Core Web Vitals: https://web.dev/vitals/#core-web-vitals
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New Ranking Factor in 2021
We have a brand new ranking factor coming to you in 2021. Google gave us some lead time on this, which is awesome because it’s a little bit crazy right now in the world, but what they want us to know is that they’re going to be moving toward incorporating page experience into the core ranking algorithm. They’re going to be looking at things that are known as core web vitals, which we will cover a little bit later in this video, as signals for ranking for page experience. They’re all going to be leveraging current signals, current page experience signals into that as well, to really understand how good a web page is. Does it give a really quality user experience? This is really going to push SEOs a little bit further. It’s going to make sure that we need to really work with dev teams if we don’t have any background in development and making sure that we understand the core needs of our user and how they’re looking to interact with our website.
Progress With Past Experiences
If we look back at the past page experiences and how those are incorporated, we can see how this all stacks together. We’ve got things like mobile-friendly. We’ve got page speed. We’ve got HTTPS. We’ve got safe browsing. We’ve got these experiences that are all about making a web page quality in Google sense, but really for the user, a good experience, so we don’t have anything that’s intrusive popping up and really just messing with the experience of the website. But now they’re looking at core web vitals, which is going to wrap in a whole new level of page experience.
This was just a cool tweet from Cyrus Shepard. You might know him from Moz and Whiteboard Fridays, but these are the things that we do know. Page rank, confirmed ranking signal, HTTPS, confirmed ranking signal, mobile experience, confirmed ranking signal, all from Google, and now we know for sure page experience is coming as a core ranking signal, something that they’re going to be adding into their search algorithm to rank a page.
There is a couple of changes with this. If you read the blog that they put out, AMP is going to change a little bit. Page experience metrics, they’re going to be a factor in ranking for top stories in search on mobile. Now, typically, in order to rank in those top stories, you needed to have AMP requirement on mobile. Now they’re removing the AMP requirement to actually earn those ranking positions. Google will still support AMP and will continue to link to AMP pages when available, but it’s no longer a requirement for top stories once this new rollout changes. If you’re leveraging AMP now, you don’t have to stop leveraging AMP. AMP is still a cool technology. It does help your pages move faster, but it’s no longer a requirement for top story eligibility.
How Should You React to Change?
The first thing that we need to do is not panic. A lot of people when they see Google put something out, they think they need to go change everything on their website. We have some time. Google, this is a direct quote from them. They recognize that a lot of people right now are responding to COVID-19 or they’re looking at a number of other things, trying to get their businesses started up. The ranking changes in that post that they provided … again, I will link to it in this video … will not happen before next year. They’re going to provide a six month notice before they’re rolled out. Google is trying to be very transparent here and saying, “Hey, we’re making these changes. We’re going to give you a six-month lead time.” They’re also providing tools to help site owners understand what they need to do in order to make sure that their site is as optimized as possible, so don’t panic.
New Page Experience Ranking Factors
What are these new page experience ranking factors? A quote from Google, “The page experience signal measures the aspect of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page.” So instance, how is a user’s experience when they go to that site? Is it going to be a good experience from their perspective? Like I said before, they’re going to be looking at the core web vitals, which these will determine the quality of that experience. And there are going to be three of them that are going to make up these core web vitals. It’s largest content full paint, LCP, first input delay, FID, and cumulative layout shift. Let’s look a little bit more in-depth at what these actually mean.
The first one of these core web vital metrics is largest content full paint or LCP. This is going to be measuring how fast your site is loading. Now, a good user experience, we talked about it before on this channel, and I know a lot of other SEOs and marketers have talked about it. You want your page to load within two seconds. What they’re saying here is that a good user experience, that your main content, the largest amount of content, the content that you really want, that’s the core of that page should be loading within 2.5 seconds. This is something that they’re going to be measuring. This is something that you’ll be able to see in the tools that they provide you, but really it’s looking at the majority of your content, the main point of your content, that it is loading quickly so people can quickly get to the point when they’re coming to your web page. This is really important, especially if you have a lot of other things going on with your website. Make sure that the main content is loading as quickly as possible.
The next is first input delay. This is also abbreviated as FID, and this is looking at interactivity. How can people engage with you? And what they want is the ability to engage with a page in less than 100 milliseconds. A good user experience, it should allow a user to start interacting with the page. Have you ever interacted with a page or maybe started trying to click a button, but the page hasn’t loaded yet, so the button wasn’t actually active, it was just kind of there on the page, but you couldn’t do anything? That’s what first input delay is looking at. When can somebody actually start to engage with the elements that are on your page? If maybe your content’s loading, but the page isn’t able to engage for quite a while, that’s going to have a negative impact on your search presence, because it’s going to be a bad user experience.
The last one is cumulative layout shift. Now, this is measuring the visual stability of a page, and you want to make sure that you have a CLS, which is the acronym for that, of less than 0.1. One of the examples they give, and I think this is a really good one, is being on a page. Have you ever been on a page and you go to click something and the page shifts and moves? That’s a page that’s not very stable. That’s a page that has some issues with their cumulative layout, and it’s shifting when you go to try to engage with that page. That’s a bad user experience.
I actually have a site that I use all the time to check waves here locally where I live on the beach. If I’m on mobile, I’ll go to click a button and it’ll always click a beach that’s like 20 miles ahead of me because the whole thing shifts when I go to click on it. It’s really frustrating. This is something that Google is going to begin to negatively impact search results if your page is doing that, so you want to make sure that when people are able to click on things, that the page is stable, that it’s not going to shift around and that it’s going to stay where it needs to stay.
Optimize Sites for New Ranking Features
The other tool will be PageSpeed Insights, which a lot of websites use. A lot of webmasters use it to check their speeds, and then Search Console will also have a core vital web report in it as well. You can also check and learn a little bit more about all of these at the link at the bottom of this slide.
Here’s a recap. 2021, Google’s rolling out a new ranking factor and it’s all about page experience. It’s going to become more and more important. It’s something that all webmasters, all SEOs need to focus on because SEO is becoming incorporated in every single aspect of the marketing funnel. It’s not just about keywords. It’s not just about core topics. It’s not just about writing content. It’s about everything from user experience, user inactivity, how people move from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel. Everything you do is now impacted by SEO. And it’s really cool in one way, because it’s made SEO really important, but it also made SEO a little bit harder because now you need to understand where it fits in which stage of the funnel.
Make sure that you’re focusing on these new areas of loading, interactivity and stability. There are free tools to help you test and optimize. We will start to do some videos as we begin to run tests on our own on this area. But what you need to know is this ranking factor is not coming out this year. We will have six months of lead time before it does come out, but these are things that you can start focusing on now, getting your hands dirty and understanding how you can get your site prepared for when page experience does become a factor.
If you’ve got any questions, please comment below. We would love to continue the conversation with you. And until next time, Happy Marketing.