Back to all articles

Everything you need to know about Google’s Page Experience update

In summary

Google’s Page Experience algorithm update was finally rolled out at the end of Summer 2021, in an effort to rank user-friendly websites higher in search results and improve the overall web-browsing experience for both mobile and desktop users.

Judged on how users perceive their experience when interacting with a web page it:

  • Includes a mixture of existing ranking signals (mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines) and new metrics under the Core Web Vitals category (site’s loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability).

  • For site owners, understanding these signals should be a priority to ensure that you make the necessary changes otherwise a poor digital experience is likely to cause your page rank to drop in search.

Read on for the tips you can follow to enhance your web pages and provide a quality user-experience (UX) that ranks.

What is the Google Page Experience update?

The update was rolled out gradually last summer. It includes a new search ranking factor designed to increase the score of pages deemed to offer an optimal UX. As part of the update, three new benchmarks (allocated under a ‘Core Web Vitals’ category) have been combined with other existing ranking factors to determine the overarching score.

Whilst Google hasn’t advised which factor will have more influence on your search ranking, we recommend you consider covering all seven bases. Google states, “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.

Diagram Description automatically generated

A Page Experience report, on Core Web Vitals, is now available in the Google Search Console, which will help users prepare for the arrival of this change. This report provides valuable metrics about your Page Experience, including the percentage of URLs that offer a good UX and search impressions over time, enabling you to evaluate performance quickly.

All news content is now eligible for featuring on Google’s Top Stories

Now that publishers are no longer required to use AMP for stories to appear in Google’s Top Stories carousel that appears at the top of search results for news related searches, content simply has to follow the Google News guidelines and content policies in order to have a chance of being featured. The algorithm applies to both the web and mobile versions of the Top Stories. These pages must score high enough in the page experience signals to appear and Google will be prioritising the ones with better UX first.

You can check out examples of Top Stories below:

Graphical user interface, text, application Description automatically generated
Graphical user interface, website Description automatically generated

What are Core Web Vitals?

Page experience includes all aspects of how users interact with a web page and how good or difficult it is.

The algorithm takes into consideration the Core Web Vitals alongside existing Google Search signals; more details on this in *Section 2 of the article. Currently, the focus is on three facets: loading, interactivity, and visual stability.

The three new ranking signals are:

1. Loading- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP):

This evaluates how quickly your pages load. Google has defined the LCP should occur no more than 2.5 seconds for any given page.

This may be a real challenge for larger pages with high-resolution images or excessive use of plugins, JavaScript and other extra page elements that increase page load time. In 2021, WebsiteBuilderExpert reported thatpages that load in five seconds see their bounce rates skyrocket to 38%” meanwhile 46% of total users don’t revisit poorly performing websites [1].

2. Interactivity- First Input Delay (FID):

FID measures when a user clicks, taps or key presses on something like a link or button then it calculates the delay time before the browser responds to the action. Another example is if a user clicks on a video. In this instance, the FID would measure the time it takes to play the video.

A good FID is less than 100 milliseconds. User interactions such as scrolling or zooming on the page do not count in this assessment because they run separately from the browser’s main thread.

3. Visual Stability- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS):

In short, this detects the stability of your page layout using components such as object or text movements. The sizing and positioning of these elements can have an impact on the CLS. The minimum measure you need to have is 0.1 or less.

If there are any occurrences of unexpected shifts in the layout, while a user attempts to interact with them, this becomes problematic for the UX. For example, if you were looking at our website footer and decide you want to check out our Twitter page but then as you move your cursor to select it, the page suddenly shifts left. As a result, you accidentally click on ‘LinkedIn’ instead – that’s an example of layout shift.

Text Description automatically generated with medium confidence

To learn more about these measurements, Google outlined the complete list of status metrics for each Core Web Vitals signal below:

Table Description automatically generated

What does this mean for you and your website?

Understanding how the Page Experience update will have influenced your search engine results and ranking is critical to your website’s success. 75% of internet users searching on Google will never get beyond the first page of results [2]- which puts even more weight behind why you need to adapt your digital presence in line with the page experience update.

You also need to remember that having a great experience does not guarantee you high rankings if your content is weak. Google intends on prioritising UX-friendly sites higher on the search engine results page (SERP) than those that deliver unsatisfactory experiences. Google has also made it clear that valued content will continue to rank highly in its search results; “While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn't override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.

How can you review if you need to make any changes due to the inclusion of Core Web Vitals?

Google’s Search Console has a Core Web Vitals report which you can use to audit your site’s performance and identify which pages are ‘poor’, ‘needs improvement’ or are ranked as ‘good’.

Your website's ranking is likely to suffer if you run into problems relating to any of these search signals (mobile-friendliness, unsafe browsing, HTTPS, etc.), so you need to prioritise fixing them to ensure that the Page Experience update hasn’t had an adverse effect on your site.

We understand that this may seem daunting to take on but here at MTM, we can support you through it.
We have experts in every aspect of web development and digital strategy and can help you complete a Page Experience audit, as well as implement the required changes. We will ensure you’re in the best-ranking position to deliver the quality service your audience’s needs.

Are you ready to take the next step in optimising for a better future online? Let’s have a chat.

Section 2: What other ranking factors are included in the Google Page Experience update?

Knowing which factors influence your search engine ranking can help you determine how to optimise your site for the best-ranking position on the search engine results page (SERP). Ultimately these benchmarks are in place to create a better, more relevant UX. Google believes, "this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction."

In combination with the Core Web Vitals, these are the four other signals which Google benchmarks your website for SEO success using the Page Experience algorithm:

1. Mobile-friendless

This can be defined as a website that is responsive in size so that it is small enough to be displayed on a mobile (iPhone or Android) or tablet device. This signal affects mobile search requests in all languages worldwide. So if you were to carry out a Google search on your smartphone then the function will help you find higher quality search results that are relevant and optimised for the device you are searching on.

Did you know that 70% of web traffic comes from mobile phones with a predicted growth of 46% by 2022 on mobile phone data usage? [3]

You can see examples of a desktop (left) and mobile (right) view below.

2. Safe-browsing

This factor determines if there is any malicious content (malware/computer virus) or deception (for instance, when a web user is tricked into revealing confidential information or downloading threatening files) that safe-browsing perceives to be dangerous.

3. Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)

Google identified websites that use secure, HTTPS encrypted communications have better performance than those that just use HTTP. As a result, Google now favours the HTTPS format.

The difference between the two is that HTTPS (https://) uses a secure certificate (SSL) to verify that a website is legitimate. Meanwhile, HTTP (http://) does not use the SSL certificate and will display the site as a “Not Secure” warning, since it is liable to have its data intercepted.

4. Intrusive Interstitial Guides

Intrusive interstitials are popups that cover the main content of a web page, often they prevent the page to be accessed as it was intended; resulting in a frustrating user experience for desktop and mobile users.

In effect, web pages that display unauthorised intrusive interstitials will see a negative impact on their search engine results page (SERP) ranking because Google devalues content that contain these as they want to provide users with convenient and interruption-free access to the websites they visit.

According to Google, these are their examples of interstitials that make content less accessible:

  • Intrusive pop up (left), which could occur when landing on a page or suddenly while navigating the page

  • Standalone interstitial (middle) which requires the user to engage or dismiss it before they can continue with the content

  • Another example of a standalone interstitial (right), requiring the user to scroll below the pop-up so that they can access the main content

However, there are some exemptions to interstitials such as when there is a legal requirement to do so, cookie usage, data protection, or age verification. Sites will not receive penalties for such interstitial ads, no matter how intrusive they are.

Want to know how MTM can help you take the next step to transform your future online? Drop us a message to find out

[1] Website Load Time Statistics: Why Speed Matters in 2021, WebsiteBuilderExpert, 2021
[2] 27 Mind-Bottling SEO Stats for 2021 (+ Beyond), Inter
[3] The Most Relevant Mobile Marketing Statistics in 2021