By Seth Rand, Co-Founder and CEO of Wizard Digital Marketing.
For many years Google has been advising site owners to prioritize user experience (UX) in order to benefit search engine optimization (SEO) rankings, but now five key signals are being officially announced to amass in Google’s page experience update, launching May 2021.
This new algorithm of lumping together experience-level factors comes with new implications and considerations. There are some practical steps that you can follow to take advantage of Google’s new algorithm’s effect on page rankings to stay on the top.
What Is Included In Google’s New Page Experience Update?
The user experience that a website offers to visitors is the key measurement in the page experience’s ranking factors. This SEO algorithm measures aspects of users’ perceptions of interacting with a web page, giving webmasters a unique opportunity to know exactly what to optimize for. Since we do not know what weight will be applied to each signal, the best bet is to consider all five:
1. Core Web Vitals. This encompasses three performance metrics directed toward user experience:
• Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): The point in the page load timeline when the main content is likely to have loaded is how load speed is measured.
• Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This is the time from when a user first interacts with a page to the time when the browser begins to process that interaction.
• First Input Delay (FID): Visual stability should prevent irritating and unexpected movement of page content.
2. Mobile-Friendliness. Mobile-friendly website designs should work the same across devices.
3. HTTPS Data. Your site should have secure technology that enables encrypted communication in the form of an SSL certificate.
4. Lack Of Mobile Intrusive Interstitials. Mobile users clicking through from Google search should not be displayed intrusive popups.
5. Safe Browsing. Your site shouldn’t have issues such as malware, harmful downloads or deceptive content.
We know that Google will rank sites better based on user-friendliness; however, as Google points out in their blog, great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. While technical metrics of SEO are important, when ranking websites, Google will still put more value on relevant content for searchers.
Visual Indicators Of Page Experience
Google has also stated as part of its announcement that it will introduce a visual indicator that will designate search results that meet all of its page experience specifications. We don’t yet know the shape, size and position of such indicators, but there is a good chance that users will prefer these indicated sites over others.
Understanding These Signals And Making The Necessary Changes
Some feel as though this new update will not necessarily benefit SEO due to factors that constitute the page experience update already existing within Google’s search algorithms. This update may not be perceived as new, but simply a Google rebrand.
Even though feedback found this part of the update uninspiring, there can still be implications for SEO. Having advanced notice of Google’s updates provides good ammunition for your web or performance team to focus on pushing your cause. Any kind of official update or messaging is useful information to have.
The fact remains, however, that the new page experience metrics should be taken seriously by those involved in optimization strategies to improve search rankings. With ample time before the new update, now is the time to prepare. Here are some things to consider:
• Understand the metrics that Google is going to use. Google itself provides an in-depth look at their standards of measurement, which are beneficial for advanced mastery of them.
• Conduct a site audit and optimize based on these new ranking signals, giving close attention to factors like page load speeds, responsiveness, UX, mobile usability and security. You can find a number of tools online that can play the role of performance checkers across devices, such as Google’s mobile-friendly test.
• SEO, UX design and IT departments should all be in alignment when it comes to future goals and actions.
Focusing On Optimizing
So, what does all this mean for developers and other stakeholders? Well, there are a few things you can do right away to help enhance your page experience:
1. Mobile Search Optimization
In quarter three of 2020, mobile devices accounted for over 50% of global website traffic. Google has also stated its algorithms primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site. So, if you haven’t already, you should get your page mobile-ready by reducing redirects and code and leveraging browser caching. A simple and responsive website design and structure is more appealing on smaller screens.
2. Page Speed Improvements
3. Separate Calls To Action
This one doesn’t relate to page speed optimization, but factors that further improve interaction and conversion rates should not be overlooked. Virtually every site has calls to action (CTAs) in one form or another to get consumers to subscribe, sign up or make a purchase. Remember that consumers have different frames of mind and your CTA should be customized accordingly. Think of how the consumer will benefit from the interaction.
4. Image Alt Text
Of course, image compression can help provide an optimal loading experience, but alt tags are another factor when it comes to experience and ranking. Used in HTML code, it describes the appearance and function of an image on a page and will be displayed in case the image file isn’t loaded. Short, specific and ideally keyword-dense descriptions will go a long way.