Google’s Page Experience Update and What it Means for your Ranking
Another year, another update to the Google algorithm. We’ve had some significant events to contend with this year, and Google is trying to make sure their algorithm update isn’t one of them. They’re giving us a pretty decent lead time so that it doesn’t throw everyone’s carefully-clawed-to-ranking down the drain if the update negatively affects your site. But what does the update entail? Get ready to familiarize yourself with the term Page Experience.
What is Page Experience?
In a nutshell, Page Experience is Google’s coming way to evaluate websites based on what kind of experience your page offers users interacting with it or purchasing from it. So if your page isn’t allowing your users to have a pleasant or positive experience, your ranking might be bumped down a few pegs. Page Experience will be measured in part by a new set of metrics that we’ll all come to live and breathe by in the coming months called Core Web Vitals.
Core Web Vitals have quietly replaced the Speed Report in Google Search Console, so you can already see how your site ranks among these new metrics. It’s the combination of the new Core Web Vitals, the already existing metrics of mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines that encompass the entire Page Experience update. Together, it will serve to give a holistic picture of each page’s offered user experience.
Now the big question—what exactly makes up the new Core Web Vitals?
What are Core Web Vitals?
According to Google’s web.dev, Core Web Vitals are:
“. . . the subset of Web Vitals that apply to all web pages, should be measured by all site owners, and will be surfaced across all Google tools. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome. The metrics that make up Core Web Vitals will evolve over time. The current set for 2020 focuses on three aspects of the user experience—loading, interactivity, and visual stability. . .”
In more detail, these metrics are:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) determines the loading time for your site. For optimal user experience, Google recommends that LCP occur within 2.5 seconds of the initial page load.
First Input Delay (FID) is the interactivity measurement. Building on LCP, this metric determines how fast users can interact with the pixels loaded onto the screen. Less than 100 milliseconds is the suggested FID for the best user experience.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is one of the more important metrics, especially if users make purchases on your site. CLS measures your site’s visual stability, so it doesn’t allow for shifting elements or elements that push the page down without warning. To maintain a good rating, pages should aim for a CLS of less than 0.1.
How will Page Experience Affect my Google Ranking?
It’s hard to say precisely. By now, most websites should be mobile-friendly and offer a safe browsing experience that’s not populated by intrusive interstitials, which will help maintain your ranking. However, the main goal of Page Experience is to shine a spotlight on sites that allow their audience to safely and efficiently find the information they’re looking for while maintaining a positive user experience. So if your website is tough to navigate, confusing, or offers a negative user experience outside of the already established Google ranking metrics, you might need to start working on some updates before Page Experience goes live.
However! According to Google’s Webmaster Blog, content is still vital. If your site has the best information for your audience, you’ll still rank highly. Even if some aspects of Page Experience aren’t quite up-to-snuff on your site. But if your site offers similar information on various pages, adhering to Page Experience metrics will be crucial to maintain your ranking and visibility in Google Search.
Top Stories, those helpful card-style design search results, will also be affected by Page Experience. Typically, these are organic rankings that emphasize AMP (accelerated mobile pages) results. Page Experience aims to amplify the best content and the best pages to get that content from. So, when Page Experience does go live, AMP will no longer be necessary to qualify for a Top Stories spot. True to its name, it will host all of the top stories for your search!
When Does this Update take Effect?
With marketers recovering and rebounding from the effects of COVID-19, Google has only given a loose timeline of “not before next year .” However, they do promise at least six month’s warning time. They’re providing tools, access to new metrics, and copious documentation for those wishing to get a feel for the new ranking system and get a jump on their site updates at their own pace.
It’s just another curveball coming down the pipe from the plight that is 2020, so don’t panic! Utilize the tools Google has released, keep telling your story, and keep thinking of your users. And we’ll all make it through this. And who knows?! Maybe you’ll rank even higher than before.
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