New Google Page Experience Update in May: Are You Ready?
As per a Google announcement released last year, a new search engine ranking factor is coming in May 2021. From then on, the Google algorithm will look at page experience signals when determining search ranking. With the update drawing closer, it’s worth making sure that you’re pre-prepared. Let’s take a look at how you can get ready for this change.
How does the page experience ranking factor work?
The upcoming search ranking change brings a new signal that merges a set of metrics called Core Web Vitals with the existing page experience signals. This Google algorithm update is meant to ensure that websites are optimised for user experience, even more so than before.
The existing Google ranking factors include a few indispensable elements. Those are control of intrusive interstitials (for example, popups that make browsing on mobile more complicated), general mobile-friendliness, safe browsing and HTTPS (security).
The new Core Web Vitals set includes the following metrics:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
The LCP measures the loading performance of your website. It does so by looking at the amount of time it takes for the largest image or text block on your page to load. It’s best if your LCP occurs within 2.5 seconds of your page starting to load.
First Input Delay (FID)
The FID is the interactivity metric. It measures the event processing delay. In other words, it measures the time from the user’s first interaction with a page to the moment the browser begins processing event handlers. For the optimal result, the FID of your page should be 100 milliseconds or less.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
The CLS is the visual stability metric. It measures the total of all unexpected layout shifts a user experiences on your website. A layout shift occurs when visible elements on your page change their start positions (unstable elements). You should aim for a CLS score below 0.1.
To help you gain insight into the Core Web Vitals of your page, Google updated their developer tools to support this new metric. Additionally, a Core Web Vitals report has been developed. It evaluates your website’s performance and points out aspects that can be improved for a better UX.
Before we move on with details regarding the update, it’s worth mentioning that your content still comes first. The best-performing website in the world is not going to be sufficient if its content is irrelevant, useless or outdated.
Why the new Google search ranking algorithm matters to you
It’s only natural that a confusing design, slow loading time, broken links or annoying popups will cost you a lot of users. In fact, a 2020 survey revealed that 89% of consumers will shop with a competitor if they have a bad experience on your website. Moreover, a telling example comes from Google’s own research as well. It shows that the probability of bounce rates on mobile devices increases 90% as the page load time goes from 1s to 5s.
So, it’s undeniable that your business success virtually depends on user experience. After all, customers are the main driving force behind digital transformation. What’s more, developing a good UX strategy may increase your conversion rates by a whopping 400%!
We cannot stress enough how vital a strong digital presence is for business survival. Therefore, an improved tool that allows you to evaluate and improve the page experience of your potential customers is something you should definitely take advantage of.
How can you handle the Google page experience update?
Now that you’ve understood the impact of page experience as a ranking factor, it’s time to find out how you can prepare for it. Here are a few actions you can take now.
1. Study the tools and metrics
In order to make the most of page experience as a Google search engine ranking factor, you should familiarise yourself with it in advance. First, make sure to scrutinise the resources available on Core Web Vitals. Fortunately, there are plenty of such sources to consult.
Once you’ve grasped how LCP, FID and CLS are calculated, learn how to use the tools to do it yourself. Also, keep in mind that the Core Web Vitals report in the Google Search Console is your best friend from now on.
Analysing all of this may be a relatively time-consuming process, but it will pay off, especially after the update has launched. It’s simply a way to adapt your website to the changes in advance, and to be familiar with the update before it even rolls out.
2. Audit your website and identify areas of improvement
If you want to meet your users’ expectations and give them a seamless user experience, you have to maintain your website. This means you should regularly audit it and look for improvements. This is something you can (and should) do right away, without waiting for the page experience update.
Remember that your top priority should be content. Once you’ve got quality content, that’s when you think about the experience your users have engaging with it. Always keep in mind the thresholds your site should meet, and rank the identified areas of improvement by urgency.
3. What you can work on right now
With or without the update, the impact of some aspects of your website is constant. There are a few things you can work on immediately to not only enhance UX, but also appear higher in search results and get more organic traffic. However, remember that 94% of first impressions relate to your web design. So, before you get to work on the following elements, ensure a good structure and visual appeal of your website.
Make it friendly for mobile devices
A huge part of your digital presence is creating a mobile-friendly website. Around half of the global website traffic comes from mobile devices. If your website cannot keep up, it will quickly fall into the background. This is especially true for search results. Websites that aren’t optimised for mobile devices will rank lower in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). You can run a test to check the mobile-friendliness of your website.
The most important thing is to apply responsive web design best practices to make your content optimal on all devices. Also, using a headless CMS will spare you a lot of headache because content is automatically adapted to different channels and devices via an API.
Optimise pictures and videos
Aside from optimising textual content, you should pay attention to optimising pictures and videos as well. Pictures should have high quality, but don’t forget to compress them to avoid slower loading speeds. We also strongly recommend always adding alt text to your images. It serves as an SEO factor for your images because it lets engines know what exactly is in the picture.
Furthermore, the thumbnail of your videos should be relevant and engaging, but not a clickbait. In addition, meta elements aren’t reserved just for textual content, and your videos should have them too. Avoid meta titles longer than 70 characters and meta descriptions over 150 characters.
We also recommend providing a transcription for your video. It offers more information to the search engine, while website visitors whose circumstances won’t allow them to watch the video can still access the whole content in written form.
An on-page SEO method for generating more traffic and enhancing the UX relates to internal links. Internal linking facilitates website navigation for users and points out relevant content to the search engine. Both users and search engines will prefer sites with strong internal linking to sites with links leading nowhere.
Content, content, content
No matter what, the page experience of your users will be considered poor if your content is not up to par. We recommend that you publish content regularly and avoid sticking to text only. Enrich your page with pictures, videos, surveys, quizzes, checklists and live chat. However, do try to balance the content so that the user does not feel overwhelmed, leaving your site due to frustration.
The Google page experience update is just around the corner. And by putting effort into enhancing the user experience on your website now, you’re buckling up for it. We strongly advise you to spend the next month running tests and eradicating any errors that may have occurred, along with your web design agency. That way, you’ll be limiting any potential damage this algorithm update may have on your organic traffic.
If you need any help facing this new Google update, digital agency GRM Digital are here to provide services that boost UX and enforce your digital presence!