Google page experience update 2021 – what is set to change?

Google regularly updates its search algorithm to help ensure users can find exactly what they need in the shortest amount of time.

For example, Google rolled out ‘Pigeon’ in 2014. This gave more precedence to local search results, and there have been many other updates since then.

Google will launch its latest update in May this year.

In this article, we’ll look at what this update will cover and how you can ensure your website is primed for any changes.

2021: The year of page experience

Last year, Google announced that page experience would be a significant factor in its upcoming update. Google wanted to give companies as much time to prepare for this new update as possible because of COVID-19.

What is page experience? Page experience is all about how visitors interact with your website. Google wants to promote websites that offer a positive user experience, and downgrade sites that aren’t well-designed and have poor UX.

The latest update will focus on five key ranking signals. These are:

Core web vitals

These are three performance metrics that Google will use to determine user experience on your website.

Largest contentful paint (LCP) – this is how quickly your site loads. 40% of people will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load, so it is essential to ensure that you have nothing on your site that will delay loading times

Cumulative layout shift (CLS) – this is how visually stable your site is. For example, if a button that you want your visitor to click on keeps randomly jumping around on your page, then this will be taken as a negative sign by Google. If your site is behind a paywall and content keeps moving around to accommodate the paywall, this will be a negative sign too

First input delay (FID) – this is the time taken for your site to respond to actions. For example, if you click on a link to another page, how long does it take for your website to show the new page

Mobile friendliness

It is important for your site to look as good on a smartphone as it does on a desktop or tablet.

Mobile friendliness will become a critical factor in the new update, with non-mobile responsive sites being penalised.

Safe browsing

Cybercrime is now a major issue on the internet, with one small business in the UK successfully hacked every 19 seconds. If your site has any malware issues or potentially questionable content, this will be held against you in the SERPs.

HTTPS usage

There has long been debate in the SEO community about whether using HTTPS (as opposed to HTTP) has any advantages.

From May onwards, having an SSL certificate on your website will be a positive ranking signal.

Interstitial advertising

Full-screen interstitial ads can be effective in encouraging customers to carry out a specific action. When Airbnb used them to promote its app, downloads increased by an incredible 300%!

However, if these ads are carried out incorrectly, they can be frustrating and invasive – especially on mobile.

In the new update, intrusive popups and interstitials displayed to mobile users could potentially result in a downturn in the search rankings.

What does this mean for my website?

This new update means that you not only need to focus on high-quality website content, but an exceptional user experience too.

If you don’t, you could find that your website doesn’t rank as highly as it used to on Google.

How to prepare for Google’s upcoming page experience update

As the page experience update rolls out in May, you still have some time to make changes to your website.

Here are our top tips for making sure you are ready…

Check for major issues

There are free tools available to help you spot any problems.

There are reports available in Google Search Console that will help you see if there are any security or core web vitals issues on your site.

You can also use Lighthouse to run tests on your pages.

Invest in SSL if you do not have it

If you don’t use HTTPS on your website, now is an excellent time to get an SSL certificate.

Even if you don’t sell products or ask visitors for personal details, HTTPS will help give your site a valuable boost in the page rankings.

If you are unsure about which company to purchase an SSL certificate from, this guide may help.

Carry out an audit

The best way to prepare for the page experience update is to carry out a thorough audit of all your pages. Look at:

  • How long each page takes to load
  • How each page renders on mobile
  • How easy it is to carry out critical tasks on each page and if there are any potential roadblocks (do this on both desktop and mobile)

This audit will help you pinpoint any potential issues and put a plan into action to get them fixed.

Keep focusing on your content

Although Google is introducing page experience as a ranking signal, content is still the critical factor when it comes to site rankings.

Keep ensuring that your content is high-quality, well-structured and that you carry out extensive keyword research.

We hope this article has given you some insight into the upcoming changes and how you can take action to ensure that your site stays at the top of the SERPs.

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