Google is well-known for regularly changing the algorithms it uses.
It does this to ensure that high-quality sites are pushed to the top of the search results, and the spammy pages fall to the bottom.
The latest algorithm has just rolled out – Google Page Experience. This factors in a range of page ranking signals, some of which will already be familiar to SEOs.
Let’s take a look at Google Page Experience, the signals it uses and how you can check your website to make sure it is compliant.
What is Google Page Experience?
Google Page Experience is the latest algorithm update from the world’s most popular search engine. It started to roll out to selected users in May 2021 and rolled out to everyone in August.
All of the ranking signals are focused on page usability. According to Amazon Web Services, 88% of users will not return to a website after a bad user experience. The more browsable a website, the higher Google want it to rank in the search engine results.
What signals are included in the Google Page Experience rollout?
There are five signals Google is including as part of the Page Experience rollout. Google will give each website an overall score depending on how it performs for each signal.
The higher the score, the more likely Google will rank a website at the top of the search results.
The five signals that Google will check for are as follows:
Core web vitals
Core web vitals are new metrics that Google has introduced as part of the Page Experience score. These metrics not only measure the speed of a website but how it responds when it loads.
There are currently three metrics included as part of the core web vitals, but Google has advised that it will add more over time.
- Largest contentful paint (LCP): This is the amount of time that the content on a website takes to load. Anything under 2.5 seconds is good, while anything over 4 seconds needs improvement
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS): This is the probability that content on a page will shift around as users interact with it. Images, text and buttons that constantly move around a page can lead to annoyed web visitors. Google will calculate a score based on page instability – anything under 0.1 is good, while a score over 0.25 needs immediate attention
- First input delay (FID): This is the time it takes from when a web user interacts with an element on a page, to when the element responds. For example, if someone clicks on a button to buy a product, how long until the purchase is confirmed. Ideally, this time should be under 0.1 seconds (100 milliseconds), with over 0.3 seconds (300 milliseconds) being too slow
Google introduced mobile-first indexing as a ranking signal in 2019. With mobile usability, all websites must be accessible on mobile with no critical errors.
This means websites not only need to load quickly, but be easy to read and navigate.
Web users must be able to browse websites safe in the knowledge that they will not fall victim to malware or phishing scams. If Google thinks your site will put people at risk, it will penalise it as a consequence.
Use of HTTPS
Websites have been encouraged to use the more secure HTTPS rather than HTTP for several years, even if they do not handle sensitive financial or personal information. A website that offers a safe browsing experience is more likely to be included in the top pages of Google.
No intrusive adverts
Adverts and popups can be a good way of encouraging web users to convert on your website, but specific adverts can make the user experience much worse.
Take for example, interstitial adverts that take up the whole of the screen and are hard to click out of. Google ran a study and found that seven out of ten web users they served an interstitial ad to left the site.
Adverts that block critical parts of the site or are hard to interact with will have a negative impact on the overall Page Experience Score.
This signal does not affect elements that are needed for legal requirements or for the site to function, such as GDPR compliance banners or login popups.
How to check your website for Page Experience
Google has reassured SEOs that there shouldn’t be any drastic results due to Page Experience being introduced.
Many of the factors contributing to the Page Experience Score have been on the radar of SEOs for several years, such as mobile usability. This means they should have already factored them into their website’s user experience strategy.
Google has a range of tools and functionality to help SEOs check their core web vital scores, including:
- Google Search Console’s core web vitals and security issues report
- PageSpeed Insights to measure the speed of a page on both desktop and mobile
- Lighthouse to check how a page functions on mobile. Lighthouse also lists ways you can improve the performance of your site
- There are also several core web vital tools available as Chrome extensions; however these are not endorsed by Google
It can be frustrating when Google launches yet another update to how it ranks website pages. However, the Page Experience algorithm update will mean higher-quality websites appear on the first page of the search engine results.