Google are famously secretive about their algorithm - people dedicate their entire careers to figuring out what they’re up to and how to design sites that meet their mysterious yet exacting standards. So when they actually announce an update? It pays to pay attention.
Google originally confirmed that their Page Experience update was happening in May 2021 a full 12 months ago, although rumours had been circulating in the SEO (search engine optimisation) world beforehand. They’ve now pushed it back to mid-June. Now that it’s almost actually here, what does it mean for your business?
The Page Experience update is about delivering a great user experience (UX), and will concentrate on:
This means that unresponsive sites, content that jumps around and sluggish loading times should be a thing of the past.
Existing metrics including whether a site runs on HTTPS - i.e. is secure - and whether it’s mobile friendly will continue to factor in how Google ranks your site.
Google prioritises relevance - the best information to answer the question - above all else. What Page Experience does mean though, is that pages with similar relevance will be ranked according to the UX they provide.
“Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall... Great page experience doesn't override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.”
So while that 10x content is still vitally important, how it’s presented could now mean the difference between your site showing up on Google’s page 1… or being relegated to the murky depths of page 4. On average, results on page 1 of Google get over 71% of clicks - while results on pages 2 and 3 get under 6%.
The three core web vitals are cumulative layout shift, largest contentful paint and first input delay.
Google wants to show people the site they’ll love - that they’ll have a brilliant experience on, while finding the information they were searching for.
Core Web Vitals are Google’s way of simplifying their guidance so that you don’t have to be an SEO mastermind to create a site that people - and Google - love.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) refers to your page loading performance - how long it takes for your website to show the elements that are most important to your site visitor.
For example, sites often show videos or hero images above the fold - the content you see before you scroll. If these load slowly, the viewer is left with a blank space on the screen, causing frustration and high bounce rates.
Google’s benchmark is 2.5 seconds for everything above the fold to display. You can quickly check the speed of your own webpage using Google’s Page Speed Insights.
First input delay (FID) refers to how responsive your web page is - the time between a user’s first interaction with the page and how long it takes the browser to respond.
This could look like a site visitor clicking the “add to cart” button, or clicking a link to take them to another page. Ever found yourself clicking “submit” over and over again in frustration? That’s why Google is putting first input display at the forefront!
When a visitor is trying to take action on your website - it makes sense to make it easy for them.
Cumulative layout shift (CLS) refers to the visual stability of your web page - whether or not elements jump around the page and appear where they’re not wanted.
If a visitor is reading a paragraph and other elements, such as ads, videos or images keep loading and pushing the text further down the page, the result is frustration and a poor user experience, so Google will be rewarding sites that are visually stable.
If you’re noticing some repetition of the word “frustration”, that’s because Google wants to ensure people have the easiest and most productive experience possible.
The ultimate goal is to have a CLS of 0 - you can check your Core Web Vitals via Google’s free tool.
While Core Web Vitals make up the bulk of Page Experience, Google will also be looking at other UX metrics.
No intrusive interstitials - annoying popups that cover your content
Safe browsing - no malware, phishing or deceptive content
Secure connection - your site is served over HTTPS
Mobile friendly - your site performs well across mobile devices
93ft websites meet these criteria as standard but if you think yours needs a tune up, just get in touch.
Firstly, don’t panic if you’re worried (or certain!) that your site is falling short.
Google is beginning to roll out these changes in mid-June 2021, but they won’t fully come into effect until the end of August 2021. That gives you plenty of time to make any adjustments you need to ensure that your site hits the mark.
When Page Experience is fully in place, Google will be highlighting those pages that offer a brilliant user experience, which could mean that your site begins to drop down the rankings if you haven’t done the work on your core web vitals.
Here at 93ft, we’ve been creating sites with UX in mind since we got started, so we’re taking these updates in our stride. We can help get your site up to scratch, as well as setting you up with other SEO essentials like Google Analytics and Google Search Console (and making sure you know how to get the best out of them).
1. First contentful paint within 2.5 seconds
2. First input delay under 100 milliseconds
3. Cumulative layout shift of zero
4. Mobile friendly
5. HTTPS connection
6. No malware or misleading content
7. No intrusive interstitials
8. Optimise speed
9. Compress images and use lazy loading
10. Reduce 400 errors and fix broken links
Image credits: Websites by 93ft
1. The Pilgrm, Hotel, Paddington
2. Amy Murrell, Commercial Lifestyle Photographer, London
3. Amy Murrell, Commercial Lifestyle Photographer, London
4. The Floristry School, Kelham Island, Sheffield
5. The Conan Doyle Estate, UK
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