30 second summary:
- Google has always focused on the user experience
- Core Web Vitals (CWV) and the Page Experience Update are part of this development
- Websites that already recognize the importance of fast load times and exceptional UX are best positioned to take advantage of it
- The prospect of warning searchers not to click on your organic listings is real
By optimizing the user experience, the web experience becomes more enjoyable for everyone. As early as May 2020, Google announced that a comprehensive page experience update was in preparation, based on information from internal studies and industry research and showing how users prefer websites with an excellent page experience.
These new search ranking signals include user experience metrics, including ease of use, secure browsing, SSL certification and intrusive interstitials, and core web vitals. Side experience is not a requirement and there are no penalties for not focusing here. However, the extra ranking boost could just be the factor that moves your website ahead of the competition.
This column explains what Core Web Vitals and Page Experience are, why they are important, and what you can do to prepare for the change that is coming.
What are side experience signals?
If you take a step back and look at some areas where Google has put the emphasis on the user and their experience, you can see why the new signals are so important and the bigger picture.
Source: BrightEdge, preparation for the Page Experience Update
Google recommended websites to implement SSL and has considered it a ranking factor since 2014. Three years later, the search giant added a visible marker to search results to indicate whether or not the website was HTTPS compliant. This suddenly became a priority for marketers as at the time only 65% of the websites that were rated for high volume keywords had SSL.
Mobile optimization was a priority even before Mobilegeddon in 2016 and is now just a tried and tested method. It’s so important to Google that webmasters receive a free cell phone friendliness test to ensure compliance.
Google has been penalizing websites for annoying interstitials since at least 2016 and actively warning searchers when they visit a website that is classified as unsafe for browsing.
What are Core Web Vitals?
The introduction of Core Web Vitals (CWV) as a ranking factor, which is expected to happen sometime in May 2021, represents a major change in the way websites are currently rated and sheds light on more technical aspects that contribute to overall UX .
CWVs are real-world, user-centered measurements that help us better understand how users perceive the experience of interacting with web pages. They do this by quantifying three key aspects:
- Largest content color (LCP) refers to the time it takes for the main content of the page to load and indicates that it should be less than 2.5 seconds.
- The first input delay (FID) is concerned with interactivity, which is the time between when the user tries to interact with the page and when the browser can actually respond. This should be done within 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) takes into account visual stability and how the content still loaded on a page affects the existing content. For example, images and ads that push content down or to the side and widgets that do the same result in a negative CLS rating.
Websites with great UX are also highlighted in search results. Google hopes this visual indicator, coupled with existing snippets of text and image previews, will direct users to websites that will give them exactly what they need.
All of this sounds like best practice that we should have implemented by now. So what’s new?
The Page Experience Update isn’t a series of new signals, but a reminder of Google’s unwavering commitment to put the viewfinder first.
What user experience means for Google and why it matters
The latest planned update from Google is just meant to underline what many website developers and digital marketers have known for a while – UX matters.
Slow loading times and frustrating interactions with websites can undermine a customer’s entire perspective on a company or brand. In contrast, positive experiences are more likely to cause them to keep coming back.
“Optimizing for these factors makes the web more attractive to users in all web browsers and interfaces, and web sites can adapt to the expectations of users on mobile devices. We believe this will add to business success on the web as users become more engaged and conduct transactions more smoothly. “
By providing an accurate roadmap for change, as well as useful website evaluation and modification tools, Google can empower business owners and SEOs to address the technical shortcomings of their websites that affect user UX in order to make the internet a better place for all to do.
What the intense prioritization of the page experience by Google means for marketers
Google announces the upcoming release of this new update, which it rarely does. This suggests that it will have a significant impact on many. However, we shouldn’t let this shift in focus compromise what really matters – quality content. As Google puts it,
“While all of the components of the page experience are important, we’ll prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of the page experience are below average. A good site experience doesn’t require having great, relevant content. “
Individual sites that are already realizing the importance of fast load times and exceptional UX are best positioned to take advantage of the additional rise in rankings that this update promises.
While Google is giving us all of these great pointers on how to get a better user experience, too many marketers and webmasters are still dropping the ball.
Here’s how to prepare for Google’s Page Experience Update
Assessing your website’s Core Web Vitals is the necessary first step in identifying areas that need optimization. Even if you think they are up to date, it is definitely worth checking out.
Here is a list of the items to prepare for and correct.
For marketers, the big question has become:
If none of this is really new and there is no penalty for not meeting the standards for page experience, how can we convince the C-suite or our customers to invest in optimizing for them?
In a recent video on “SEO Office Hours” posted on Google Search Central, John Mueller revealed that marketers expecting additional benefits for partial compliance may be disappointed:
“The general guideline is that we’d also like to use these criteria to display a badge in search results. I think some experiments were done. And for that we really have to know that all factors are compliant. So if it’s not running on HTTPS, that would essentially not be enough, even if the rest is fine. “
If you let searchers know if a website conforms to CWVs before they click, this update is right up there where safe surfing is important.
It is important that decision makers in your business understand that the prospect of warning searchers not to click on your organic listings is real, although there is no manual or algorithmic penalty associated with the Page Experience Update.
Furthermore, there is no gain in not being punished. Although the index can always be expanded, for every position that a site rises in the ranking, a different one remains.
Google is ready to reward websites that share and demonstrate their priorities. If not yours, whose?
Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the leading platform for enterprise SEO and content performance.