What is Google’s Page Experience Update all about?
The Page Experience Update, at its core, serves to determine all the signals that tell Google’s search algorithm how useful and helpful a website’s user browsing experience is. Through an assessment of every signal, Google then scores a website’s page experience accordingly, which website owners can see in Google Search Console.
Google compares its rollout and implementation to the step-by-step process involved in cooking through the incremental additions of flavouring to a recipe, similar to how it is seasoned and prepared.
For digital marketers and webmasters, this gradual rollout is crucial, as it mitigates any drastic changes that can potentially impact search rankings, causing massive drops or spikes.
Apart from excellent website design, here are the signals that Google factors in, along with how these signals can help a website merit a “good” page experience score:
- Core Web Vitals (CWV) determine the most impactful elements of a page that can influence user experience. And while these metrics aren’t new, they effectively provide context to the data behind page experience, such as: the speed at which a web page loads; how long before an interaction between user and site takes place; and the stationary layout of a website’s visuals. These specific metrics are:
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) refers to the visual stability of a webpage, which means that unintentional and unexpected layout shifts are a no-no for useful page experience. And to truly provide a good user experience a website should aim to hit a CLS score of 0.1 or less, which is essentially measured through the largest burst of all layout shifts that have occurred within the page’s existence. Avoid CLS issues by: defining size attributes for elements such as images and videos; never inserting content above existing content; and using transform animations.
- Mobile-friendliness should be a priority for most websites, as most searches these days are coming from mobile devices. In addition, do bear in mind that the content for a website’s mobile version takes precedence when it comes to indexing and ranking. Check if your webpage is performing with Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool.
- Safe browsing simply refers to websites being free of malware or any sort of threat to the user’s security and privacy, such as phishing or malicious scripts. Excellent page experience would be one that doesn’t make the user worry about their security while they’re browsing a website.
- Using HTTPS protects websites and users from cyber-attacks. Naturally, Google favours websites that have been validated by this security certificate, and as earlier mentioned, safe browsing is another page experience signal, as well, so what does this tell you? By providing users with safe access to a website, you are enabling your visitors to browse without any risks. And this helps you score some more brownie points from Google’s crawlers.
- Intrusive interstitials such as pop-ups and ads that get in the way of a smooth and seamless user experience of a webpage can negatively affect a website’s page experience score. To avoid getting your webpage devalued due to interstitials, John Mueller of Google advises webmasters to serve the Googlebot with an improved view of a page for crawling and indexing.
Should I be worried about my website’s Page Experience Score?
Yes and no. As Google’s Page Experience Update takes CWV as a ranking signal, it does affect a website’s search ranking, so if your website is encountering some issues with usability, it’s time to take action. However, it is important to note that ranking signals carry different weights, and Google – through its FAQs on CWV and Page Experience – explains how other signals such as search intent and content relevance remain to be just as significant, if not any greater.
In fact, Neil Patel, for instance, concludes how user experience is growing in significance as time passes, but like any other Google algorithm update, recalibrations and revisions are to be expected over time.
So, if you’re worried about your website’s SEO efforts potentially getting hit by the Page Experience Update, all the chaos and panic should have dissipated by now. With effective user-centric website design and highly relevant content, optimizing your website’s usability for a good Page Experience Score can only further your digital marketing efforts.