Key Details on the New Google Page Experience Update Algorithm: What it means for Web Lead Generation

An update to Google's ranking algorithms that judge web pages based on how much users enjoy the browsing experience is on the way. The coming algorithm change is called the "Google Page Experience Update." Here's what you need to know for your website and business.

Details on the Google Page Experience Update algorithm change

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Google Page Experience Update Details

As noted, an update to Google's ranking algorithms that judge web pages based on how much users enjoy the browsing experience is on the way. The coming algorithm change is called the "Google Page Experience Update." Here's what you need to know for your website and business.... Once the update comes into effect, if Google thinks your site doesn’t offer an enjoyable experience, the search engine may rank your pages more poorly than they had ranked previously.

The update will come into effect sometime in 2021. The exact date is not known yet, so there is time to prepare. As well, Google says they will provide at least six months’ notice before the changes are rolled out.

Regardless, it’s always better to be prepared. Below, we discuss everything you need to know about the update. From how it might impact your lead generation, to tips to help you prepare for the changes.

A Recap of Google Page Experience

Google Page Experience is a set of signals used to assess a site visitor’s perceived experience of interacting with a web page beyond the informational value of the page.

The primary signals include metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance. This includes interactivity and visual stability on the page. Google calls these metrics their core web vitals and assigns them as a very high priority.

Here is how Google measures the core web vitals;

  • Loading performance: Loading performance is measured through the Largest Content Paint (LCP). Google defines user experience as good when the LCP occurs within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
  • Site interactivity: Site interactivity is measured through First Input Delay (FID). According to Google, great user experience has an FID value of fewer than 100 milliseconds.
  • Visual stability: Visual stability on the site is measured through Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). To offer a great user experience, sites should strive for a CLS score of less than 0.1.

Aside from web vitals, Google also uses the following factors to assess the user experience of a web page;

  • Safe browsing: The page must not contain malicious or deceptive content such as malware or social engineering, respectively.
  • HTTPS: The page must be served over the Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
  • Mobile-friendliness: Sites are considered to be friendly if they are mobile responsive.
  • No intrusive interstitials: Interstitials are advertisements that appear while a chosen website or page is downloading.

So, What is the Big Update?

Well, Google is integrating the above page experience signals into their ranking algorithms. Meaning that these signals will then directly impact your ranking.

The exact words from Google's webmaster blog are as follows;

“We are combining the signals derived from the Core Web Vitals with existing search signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of page experience.”

In the update, Google has also revealed that they plan to add more experience signals to their algorithms every year to meet ever-changing user expectations. The following is an excerpt from their Webmaster blog;

“We plan to incorporate more page experience signals yearly to align with the evolving user expectations and increase the aspects of user experience that (we) can measure.”

Changes to Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) Requirements

The final item in the update is the removal of Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) requirements for Google Top Stories eligibility. This is crucial and will likely see even more of a reaction among digital marketers.

Why? Because maintaining AMP has been one of the biggest headaches for site owners. Often it feels as though you are creating a slightly different version of your original website.

When the Page Experience update is rolled out, AMP requirements will be lifted and replaced by Page Experience metrics.

However, it’s important to note that the changes will not bring an end to the Top Stories feature. Top Stories will remain. What changes is the eligibility criteria. You’ll no longer need to meet a separate set of demanding requirements to compete with other pages for that coveted Top Stories section.

Here’s an excerpt from Google;

“AMP will no longer be necessary for stories to feature in Top Stories on mobile; it will be an open page.”

And, here’s the continuation;

“Page experience will become a ranking factor in Top Stories, in addition to the many factors already assessed.”

Remember – sites that currently publish pages as AMP or with an AMP version will not see any changes to their ranking. Google will continue to use your AMP page experience metrics for scoring purposes.

Getting Ready for the Update: Your Next Steps

Soon there will be plenty of reactions to this Google Page Experience update. Towards the end of the year, many site owners will be reviewing their pages and content to see if they’re in compliance. You should do this too. If you have any issues that might affect your rankings, uncover and fix them promptly.

SEO experts advise that you proceed as follows;

1. Don’t panic, there’s time

The Page Experience update is likely almost a whole year away. Better still, Google has promised to give formal notice of at least six months before it comes into effect. So, there’s plenty of time to digest and react to it.

Additionally, many experts don’t feel like this update will actually affect too many sites. Moreover, those affected won’t feel it as much as say Panda’s initial release, which affected 11.8% of queries.

In a recent discussion with Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land, Aja Frost, head of SEO at HubSpot, called it a mere “rebranding.” She notes that the factors constituting Page Experience already exist within Google’s search algorithms, meaning that most sites are already in compliance.

2. Keep your eyes on the prize

Content is still the most crucial factor in site ranking. Google stressed the same when announcing the update. More so it was made clear that great content will always rank highest in result pages even if aspects of a site’s Page Experience are weak.
“While all the components of Page Experience are critical, we will rank pages with the most valuable information highest, even if aspects of the site’s experience are subpar,” the search giant wrote in one update. “An enjoyable page experience does not override having great, relevant content.”

However, where multiple pages have similar content (quality-wise), Page Experience becomes the next most important factor.

3. Optimize your speed

As we’ve seen, site load-time comes at the top of the web vitals metrics. It’s one of the fundamental metrics when determining where to rank a page/site. As such, it’s one of the areas where you need to spend significant time and resources.

The good news is that Google has provided site owners with the LCP tool to measure perceived load speed. LCP marks the point in the page load timeline when the main content has likely loaded. This is the point at which the page becomes useful to the site visitor. Use this tool to optimize your page load speeds.

At the same time, those still using outdated metrics such as DOMContentLoaded are advised to switch to LCP because the older metrics don’t necessarily correspond to what the user sees on their screen.

4. Reduce 400 errors

A 400 error (or 400 Bard Request Error) is an HTTP response status code indicating that the server was unable to process the client’s request due to invalid syntax. Such errors could cost you when the Page Experience updates take effect.

Why? Because common reasons for 400 errors are issues associated with poor user experience. One common cause, for instance, is invalid URLs. If a client attempts to access an invalid URL, particularly one malformed via odd characters, a 400 error message is generated.

Google treats these broken and malformed URLs as malicious. You would, therefore, be contravening the safe browsing requirements.

5. Compare your experience to your competitors’

This is also crucial as the Page Experience update coming into effect means that experience becomes the new battlefront in the SERP ranking wars. 10 to 15 years ago, it was keywords. Then, more recently, it has been authority links. Now, it will be user experience. If two sites offer the same content, experience will decide who takes the higher ranking spot.

To this end, site owners must keep an eye on how their competition scores in terms of user experience and aim to do better.

Begin by identifying your competition. Then, identify their highest ranking pages and analyze the experience signals of those pages. Tools such as Crazy Egg allow you to capture these signals easily. Finally, compare these signals with your site’s metrics to determine what you may be doing wrong.

6. Don’t fixate on the metrics

The fact that Google has mentioned interactivity and other metrics will likely lead to a scramble for tools to measure interactions such as social media shares and referral traffic. While it’s essential to keep an eye on these metrics, don’t let them distract you.  Continue to focus on producing high-quality content for your audience.

Frost says a technically sound website, great communication, and exemplary storytelling are the main prerequisites for a successful online presence.

Page Experience Update Summary

An important update, Page Experience, is coming to the Google search engine. It’s likely to be rolled out sometime during 2021. Once it comes into effect, Google will begin using user experience on your site as a part of its ranking signals. This means that the degree to which people enjoy the time spent on your website will determine where you rank in subsequent searches.

While there’s no need to panic, you should prepare for this update. Otherwise, your ranking on the Google search engine may be affected. Therefore, keep an eye out for when Google announces that the update will come into effect. Most importantly, start thinking about what you might need to fix to boost user experience on your site.

That’s a wrap on this podcast episode.  What’s the key takeaway for you and your business from these words?

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