Google Goes All-In on User Experience with New Page Experience Update

It’s no surprise to marketers and website developers that Google is extremely interested in the reader experience. Over the past few years, Google has put increasing emphasis on quick page load speeds, quality of content and time on page — all key metrics that lead to searchers finding relevant and high-quality information. After a 2018 release of their natural-language processor BERT (Bidirectional Coder Representations from Transformers), Google made it clear that they were focused on searcher intent. This goes far beyond traditional SEO of optimizing for highly specific words and phrases. This emphasis allows marketers to write for humans as opposed to stuffing keywords into pages.

The most recent Page Experience update has taken yet another stop towards user-friendly browsing, tapping into core web vitals and user experience signals to dictate the way results are returned to users after a search.

What is the Page Experience Update?

At its most basic, the Page Experience update measures specific aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. According to Google, you will also find that:

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. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.

That all sounds promising for users but has introduced some confusion for marketers. Does this mean that all websites will need to be rewritten to conform to new — and amorphous — standards? Fortunately, there are some specific actions and recommendations that Google introduced, including Core Web Vitals and User Experience Signals.

What Are Core Web Vitals?

These metrics are all based on the visual stability, speed and responsiveness of users on a particular website. With these metrics, website owners are better able to determine whether users are having a positive experience interacting with your website.

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures how quickly the content on your website loads. Google encourages shooting for a time of 2.5 seconds or less.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), determining how likely it is that aspects of your website will shift in a user’s viewport as the user interacts with them. A good score is considered .1 or lower, indicating very little movement of interactive elements on the page.

With these two core signals, Google is attempting to quantify how easy it is for users to load, consume content and interact with your website pages.

Additional UX signals that are considered have been enhanced as well, including the need to have a secure HTTPS connection on your site, that your site is free from malware, limited interstitials (elements that users must dismiss, such as pop-ups) and mobile-friendliness.

How Will Page Experience Affect Rankings?

Google AMP formatting has been used as the gold standard for getting your story features at the top of Google’s SERP, but that is set to change with this update. Fortunately, there is no need to reconfigure articles if you’re currently using the more restrictive AMP formatting. By allowing non-AMP pages access to these top spots, Google is loosening the grip on strict HTML formatting standards required. AMP will still be considered as a signal for this coveted space, but it will no longer be the only requirement.

How Can You Optimize for Page Experience Update (Hint: You’ll Be Using Core Web Vitals and UX Signals)

For several years, Google has been emphasizing the importance of quick page load times. With the newest Page Experience update, Google is indicating once again that this is a critical measure of success for website pages. Users are less willing to wait for pages to load, often losing interest in only a few seconds and shifting to the next site in the SERP. Fortunately, there are multiple tools that you can use to monitor and optimize page load speeds, including:

  • Google Tools, which includes Search Console, Lighthouse, Chrome UX Report, PageSpeed Insights and Web Vitals Extension.
  • GT Metrix, providing information about page load speeds, optimization opportunities and other page-load details.

Marketers will appreciate learning that content is still king, with well-written website pages, long-form articles and blog posts garnering high accolades from users.

What Does Page Experience Update Mean for the Future of Websites?

Ultimately, SEO is all about the experience of the user, and Google’s latest update is meant to laser-focus on that metric. Websites are meant to deliver a seamless experience that will quickly and completely answer questions for searchers while also providing a quick, secure and convenient way to learn more about your brand. While these updates may take some time to work through, you will only have until 2021 to ensure your website is up to snuff with these more rigorous requirements for a positive user experience.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed in trying to determine if your website will meet these new parameters? Contact the professionals at C1 Partners to schedule a complimentary consultation. We work with organizations of all sizes to ensure your website is fully optimized for SERP placement.