Google announced the addition of another feature to its much-coveted list of ranking factors earlier this year. Google’s ranking factors are the basis on which it determines a web page’s ranking on its search engine results pages (SERPs).
Its latest update is called “page experience,” which can be defined as the experience a user perceives when they interact with a web page. This experience goes beyond the pure informational quality of the web page.
Page experience is a set of metrics that will measure user experience (UX) for the loading performance, interactivity and visual stability of a page. This is in addition to the existing ranking signals like mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) and intrusive interstitial guidelines.
So, if Google thinks your website’s visitors or users will have a poor experience on your pages, it might not rank your pages as high as it is now.
According to NetMarketShare, 75 percent of all website traffic runs through Google. Although Google has not yet mentioned the exact weightage of this particular update, it can be an important update to incorporate considering the increasing number of internet users. But the good news is that this update won’t be live until 2021. So, you have plenty of time to optimize your website’s page experience.
The Growing Importance of User Experience
So, why is this update important? And what is the message Google trying to convey with this update?
For a long time, Google has been asking businesses to build their websites with users in mind – what would please the user, what might they look for in the website, aesthetics, call-to-action (CTA) buttons and more.
More and more people are using the internet today and they are continuously browsing on multiple websites. Google realizes that the time spent on each website by a user is an interaction between the user and the website. To make this interaction smoother and seamless is the website’s responsibility because, according to Impact, 79 percent of users who don’t find what they’re looking for on one website will go to a different one.
Existing Ranking Factors
The existing search signals that determine a web page’s authority over another are:
Google gives a great deal of importance to backlinks. If your website is getting backlinks from high authority and relevant websites, Google views your website as a leader in that niche. It considers websites with a good number of quality backlinks as credible and more relevant than others in their SERPs. This gives your web pages a good push and helps improve its rankings.
As Neil Patel suggests, time and again, content is king. A website’s value depends heavily on the kind of content it generates. Your content is the information you’re giving out to your users. It has to be easily readable, SEO-optimized and clear to understand. Your content is spread out across your web pages, CTAs, blogs, marketing copies, etc.
If you have good content, users might get hooked and return to your website, which will, in turn, affect your page ranking positively.
3. User Experience
UX involves the technical aspects that determine a web page’s ranking on Google. It is impacted by mobile friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS and intrusive interstitial guidelines. These points also determine a user’s page experience. Let’s look at what these are in detail:
Smart Insights reports that 80 percent of all internet users own a smartphone and 53 percent of users leave websites after three seconds. So, you have approximately only three seconds to engage your customer to navigate through your website!
Mobile optimization is nothing but adjusting your website’s content for visitors who access the site from their mobile devices. This usually involves larger navigation buttons, reformatted content and mobile-optimized images.
You can check whether your website is mobile-optimized with a “mobile-friendly test.” This will give you an idea of the areas you can and need to improve on.
Google will never rank a website that seems unsafe. Safe browsing will ensure that a page is devoid of malware, deceptive pages, malicious content, harmful downloads and uncommon downloads.
With so many websites going live every day, this has become an important factor to consider to ensure a seamless page experience for users.
HTTPS is the secure version of the previous HTTP. In HTTPS, the communication protocol is encrypted in order to increase the security of data transfer. This is done so the data sharing between the client and the server is secured against forging of information, eavesdropping and tampering of data.
- No Intrusive Interstitial
Interstitial refers to an advertisement that appears while a chosen page is downloading. These interstitials appear over the main content and make it a little difficult to immediately access the content that a user had clicked on the link for.
In fact, Google has indicated that pages showing intrusive interstitials are seen to provide a poorer experience to users as opposed to other web pages where content is easily and quickly accessible. Google has warned that pages, where the content is not easily accessible to the mobile user may not rank as highly.
Google defines interstitials as popups that cover the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to the page or while they are going through the page.
The New Additions to the Page Experience Algorithm
Core Web Vitals are the new set of specific factors added to the page experience ranking factors mentioned above. These are made up of three specific measurements and signals that consider the user experience on each website.
Here’s The Lowdown on Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals are a set of metrics that give a page scores on the basis of its loading performance, interactivity and visual stability of the content as it loads. Each of the core web vitals will represent a different segment of UX and aim to offer a smooth page experience to the user.
The core web vital will be measured by the following metrics:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP measures loading performance, but this is different from a page’s loading speed. LCP counts the time it takes for the main content of a page to load. Although completely user-centric, a good LCP takes two and a half seconds for the content to load. A score of four seconds and above is considered poor.
This feature will measure a page’s responsiveness and interactivity. It will measure the time from when a user first interacts with a site to the time the browser actually responds to that interaction. These interactions can be when the user clicks a button or a link to navigate to another page.
A good page experience will have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds, while an FDI of more than 300 milliseconds is considered too long.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
A new feature, CLS will focus on visual stability and measure the unexpected layout shifts. In simple terms, this refers to the unexpected and sudden movement of the content while the page is loading or when you click a button.
CLS uses two ways to measure movement – impact fraction and distance fraction. These look at how much visible content shifted in the viewport and the distance between the elements impacted by the shift.
For a good page experience, the CLS score should be less than 0.1 and stay between 0.1 and 0.25.
The page experience ranking factors will be an accumulation of the existing and the additional Core Web Vitals ranking factors, which will determine how high a page will rank on Google.
This new update won’t be the sole deciding factor because Google still considers content to be the most important ranking factor. A page with exceptional informational quality can override a subpar page experience. But for pages on different sites that may be in the same niche and relevance, page experience will be an important aspect to improve their visibility in Google search results.
The number of internet users is rising astronomically every day. Whether it be on a desktop or mobile phone, people are always browsing through the internet searching and clicking on links. To make sure that you can capture their attention and provide flawless UX, excellent content and a great page experience is the magic concoction to high rankings on SERPs.