One of the most challenging aspects of digital marketing is that it’s always changing. While that can be frustrating for many business owners, it’s important to remember that most of these changes are driven by consumer behavior. As demand and personal preferences shift, so does the way in which information is delivered online. And, in many cases, this involves an update to Google’s search algorithm.
Google algorithm updates are nothing new. There are potentially thousands of them that happen every year — though you might not always be aware of them unless they have a huge impact on your site. Google doesn’t always tell us when an update might be happening (or even when it’s already happened!), either.
But this time, we know that there’s going to be an update related to page experience happening sometime in 2021. And if you want to avoid that post-rollout panic, you’ll want to do everything possible to prepare your site. Here’s what you should know about Google’s impending page experience update and how to ensure your website is ready for what’s to come.
What is Page Experience?
Page experience is really an umbrella term involving a bunch of different ranking signals. Google uses these signals to determine the way web users feel about their interactions with a specific page on a site. This extends beyond the basic value of the content provided on the page; it includes a wide variety of metrics that include page load speed, visual stability, web security, mobile-friendliness, interactivity, and more.
Just this May, Google revealed its Web Vitals — an initiative to provide more consistent guidance regarding ranking signals for page experience. Google’s Core Web Vitals are three metrics that apply to all pages and should be measured by all webmasters in order to ensure a superior page experience. These Core Web Vitals currently include Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures loading performance; First Input Delay (DIF), which measures interactivity; and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which measures visual stability. We’ll talk more about the importance of these Core Web Vitals and how they can impact your page experience a little later.
Taken together, all of these metrics impact how someone is able to view and interact with a site page. Page experience is not more important than providing valuable information, but it can be a determining factor when Google needs to assign site rankings to two different site pages that offer similar information value. So while there’s no substitution for great content, page experience can make a big difference when you’re trying to compete with other websites that offer similar content.
What Does This Algorithm Update Mean For You?
Now that you understand what goes into determining page experience, you may be wondering why it really matters. You might assume that your site is doing a good enough job. But unfortunately, that may not always be the case. And if you’re merely guessing, you may end up scrambling once the algorithm update rolls out.
Keep in mind that major updates can have significant impacts on site rankings. Since we know about this forthcoming update well in advance, the general consensus is that page experience will play an even bigger role in how rankings are determined in 2021.
We don’t know for sure what percentage of web queries will be affected by this update — and we do know that pages with subpar page experience could still theoretically rank highly in search results even after the update. But ultimately, you won’t want to take a chance with your website. After you’ve worked so hard to improve your site ranking, ignoring page experience will be doing your business a real disservice. Since you actually have time to prepare for this update (a rare occurrence!), it’s recommended that you seize the opportunity to get your site ready.
How Can You Prepare Your Website For the Page Experience Update?
Now, let’s briefly discuss a few tips that can help you get your website ready for Google’s Page Experience algorithm update in 2021.
- Address Loading Performance: As mentioned earlier, loading performance is now one of Google’s Core Web Vitals. Aim to get the largest content element of a given page completely visible within 2.5 seconds of the start of the page load for best results.
- Decrease First Input Delay: FID refers to the time between when a user first clicks on a page and the moment the browser is able to handle other interactions on that loading page. Your first input delay should be less than 100 milliseconds to ensure the page will respond quickly to user behavior.
- Eliminate Unexpected Layout Shift: If you’ve ever suddenly lost your place on a webpage due to a surprising change, you’ve experienced an unexpected layout shift. This usually happens due to loading, sizing, or rendering issues with images, videos, fonts, and widgets. Try to reduce your Cumulative Layout Shift score (meaning the total of all unexpected layout shifts that occur during the page’s lifespan) to less than 0.1 if possible.
- Reduce Broken Pages: In addition to addressing the Core Web Vitals outlined above, you should make every effort to eliminate navigation errors and broken webpages. Understandably, these problems can have negative effects on user experience.
- Add Clickable Elements: If you’ve found that users are attempting to click on visual elements that aren’t actually clickable, you might be able to improve page experience by making sure your page design aligns with user behavior. This can address usability issues and could even keep visitors on your site for a longer period of time.
- Ensure Mobile-Friendliness: While this should go without saying, mobile-friendliness is a major ranking factor. Since more of us are browsing sites on mobile devices now, a lack of responsive design can be extremely detrimental to user experience.
- Offer Safe and Secure Browsing: Web users want to know that the page they’re on provides secure site connections that are free of malicious or deceptive content. Make sure you’re doing your due diligence with both HTTPS and safe browsing for the sake of your rankings.
- Get Rid of Intrusive Pop-Ups: Pop-up windows have changed a lot over the years, but they haven’t become any less annoying. Known as interstitials, most pop-ups now serve to market the website itself (rather than other businesses). While they may come with decent conversion and cost rates, you must make sure that web content is accessible to web users. If interstitials are difficult to close, especially on mobile devices, make changes to ensure you aren’t creating a poor page experience.
- Work With a Professional: A lot of these important elements are easy to miss, particularly when you have a business to run. By working with a digital marketing firm to optimize your site properly and address any present web development issues, you’ll always be ahead of the game.
Expert Help to Get Your Business Google Ready
There’s a lot we don’t yet know about Google’s Page Experience algorithm update. But until it officially rolls out, there’s still plenty you can do to prepare. Keeping this information in mind will allow you to make positive changes to your site and ensure that user experience is at the forefront of your strategy.
The expert SEO team at Athena Integrated Marketing is ready to help get your business Google ready in 2021. Contact us today to see how we can customize an SEO strategy that meets the unique needs of your business and keeps you a step ahead of your competition.