Google’s Page Experience Update is going to be an SEO ranking factor that is set to launch in 2021. If you haven’t heard already, it’s great news for us creatives and web designers to finally be rewarded by Google in their search results for designing engaging and enjoyable web experiences.
Google’s ultimate goal here is to separate the good pages from the bad through measuring the users’ page experience. This is based on Google’s Core Web Vitals which are a set of metrics to guide you – including avoiding long loading times, invasive pop-ups and poor page visibility. Basically, the better your page experience, the higher you’ll rank on Google. Content still comes first, but now it’s all about creating a memorable page experience that shows off that content in the best possible way.
So just how do you optimize your website for this update?
Understand the Core Web Vitals
Before you can take action, you’ll need to get to grips with the technical fundamentals behind the new update. The newly announced Web Vitals initiative is designed to give developers useful guidance on the speed and performance of their pages. Core Web Vitals are the three main ways to measure your speed metrics.
- Largest Contentful Paint is the loading time of a page’s main content i.e. when the content becomes visible to the user.
- First Input Delay is how quickly interactive elements like respond i.e: how long it takes for links to open when clicked on.
- Cumulative Layout Shift is a metric that penalizes unexpected layout shifts when the page is first loading, i.e. when a link suddenly shifts position causing you to click on something else.
Test. Get to grips with each of these metrics and visually test your website for each of these. It doesn’t have to be deeply technical, just put yourself in the shoes of the user and ask yourself a simple question: would I stay on this page? For most of us, this will already be part of our process and in general, will come to us far more naturally than other more technical digital roles.
Minimize loading times
Long loading times can be a pain. Especially if you’re only looking for a quick answer to your search intent. Usually, the more complex features and coding your website has, the longer it will take, which means regardless of how aesthetically pleasing it may be, your potential customers may leave almost immediately, bumping up your bounce rate. If a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load, you could lose around half your potential customers. This gives us more animation when dealing with developers to deliver our experiences, faster.
Images and ads aren’t always useful. Sometimes images are simply clutter to your users, especially if they distract from the quality content on your page. As we know, a good website is clear, intuitive and easy for a user to achieve what they want. This new Google update may be worth keeping up your sleeve when trying to persuade your client that less is more.
Do a thorough visual audit of your website. Do the images add value? If not, consider removing any unnecessary ones. Images are a good way to communicate with the user and breaking up text but this new update may mean any unnecessary files slow the page performance and will result in less visitors in the first place. Are you working on a website where the ads are intrusive or do they overwhelm the page? If so, use this next update to rethink the layout or think about reducing the number on a single page.
Make it mobile-friendly
With mobile dominating the world’s web traffic and nearly half of users using their phone to search, it’s more important than ever to make sure your website is mobile-friendly and Google knows this. As we know, there are plenty of ways that mobile-friendly sites look different from desktop versions especially in terms of layout and the order of content. User experience is gaining more weight in search engine algorithms, so if you want to find out how well your site is doing, you can use an SEO score checker that explains how your UX is doing in terms of desktop load speed, mobile page load speed, and how mobile friendly your site is. By making use of tools like this, you’ll not only improve your user experience but you’ll also enhance your SEO overall.
Firstly, enter your website into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see what you’re working with. It will provide some useful notes on how to meet Google’s requirements for this factor. If you’re starting from scratch, or need large improvements, you want your website to have Responsive Web Design (as recommended by Google), which may involve working with a developer. There are several key things that a mobile-friendly version of a site should have – single, easy to read columns as content is king here, condensed navigation and larger touch targets.
Invest in security
Google cares about the safety of its users and so the security of your website will impact your search rankings. It’s a fairly easy fix, you just need to prove to Google that your website can be trusted and that you’re doing everything you can to protect your users. Not only will this improve your rankings, but it will also reflect positively on your brand’s reputation.
Start by getting your website an SSL certificate if you haven’t already – this will give you your website the trusted https label. Next, head back over to Google Search Console and run a security report. This will flag all kinds of security risks and malicious and deceptive content, which you can then action as appropriate.
If you’ve followed all these hacks, or even better, if you’ve realized you already have great page experience, then you should be more than prepared for when Google’s Page Experience Update launches next year. In the future, the metrics may change as Google redetermines what makes a good user experience, so make sure you keep up-to-date on the latest SEO news.