Six months ago now, this past May, Google announced its plans to introduce a new ranking signal to its algorithm, built on ‘page experience’ as measured by Core Web Vital metrics. These Core Web Vitals measure specific engagement metrics and aim to understand how a user will perceive the experience of a specific webpage.
Since this announcement on the 28th May, Google reports they have seen a 70% increase in users engaging with Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report to identify opportunities for improvement prior to the algorithm update going live.
Yesterday, Google confirmed that it’s ‘Page Experience’ algorithm update will go ahead in May 2021, adding new page experience signals to ranking factors.
“Today we’re announcing that the page experience signals in ranking will roll out in May 20201” - Google
This gives SEO’s, webmasters and site-owners six months to prepare for the update, as promised by Google back in May.
The search engine also announced plans to begin testing for a new visual indicator in search results, designed to highlight pages with a great page experience. It’s not yet known if a negative visual indicator will also be implemented, which would highlight those pages with a bad page experience.
What Determines Page Experience?
In order to determine the page or user experience of a specific web page, Google has always relied on several ranking “signals”. These ranking signals indicate how relevant a specific page is in relation to addressing the queries of a user and therefore form a strong indicator of page experience as well.
The page experience signal will primarily be made up of the Core Web Vitals (Loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability metrics). However, Google will also utilise a number of established page experience metrics to determine the experience of a webpage, such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and Google’s intrusive interstitial guidelines.
After the announcement of the page experience algorithm update back in May, Screaming Frog, a digital marketing agency and marketing software company, began a process of lengthy testing in order to determine the ‘state of the web’ in relation to these ranking factors.
To collect their data, Screaming Frog used Google PageSpeed Insights to scan 22,500 websites. They took 2,500 keywords across 100 different topics and scraped together the first-page organic results for each keyword.
In August, this report was published and Screaming Frog’s data found that only 13% of Desktop results and an even smaller 12% of Mobile results passed Core Web Vitals assessment.
The results found by Screaming Frog indicate that in terms of offering a good page experience to users, site owners undoubtedly have a lot of work to carry out in order to surpass the Core Web Vitals assessment and rank highly for page experience.
Page Experience and Ranking
Through the introduction of this new page experience signal, Google seeks to make it easier for SEO’s, webmasters, and site-owners to create great websites that users love.
If Google decides that a page is providing a high-quality experience to users, based on its page experience signal, then it will likely rank the page higher in search results. Similarly, if Google determines that a page is providing a negative user experience, based on its page experience signal, it will likely not be ranked favourably.
However, back in May, Google had this to say about page experience and ranking:
“While all of the components of page experience are important, we will rank pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search”
Visual Indicators To Be Used in Search Results
With Google announcing plans to begin testing for a new ‘visual indicator’ in search results, what does that mean and what will it look like?
At present, Google is currently testing different versions of what the 'visual indicator' may end up looking like, designed to highlight pages that will offer the best experience for a user's specific query. This indicator would be another contribution to Google’s ongoing effort to ensure users receive the most helpful and enjoyable experience from the web. This isn’t the first time Google has experimented with visual indicators, however. Trust labels, mobile-friendly labels, and slow indicators have all been used in the past by Google to enhance search results.
Google, it seems, is putting an emphasis on adding visual enhancements to their search results in order to provide greater topical context for users. This is in order to provide greater information to users about the quality of the site they are about to enter.
Google had more to say:
“On results, the snippet or image preview helps provide topical context for users to know what information a page can provide. Visual indicators on the results are another way to do the same, and we are working on one that identifies pages that have met all of the page experience criteria”
Google intends to begin testing this visual indicator soon, so keep your eyes peeled in the search results. Depending on the success of the test, Google will decide whether to include the indicator in its algorithm launch in May 2021.
Ensure Your Website is Ready for The Page Experience Update
Google has a number of free tools available to SEO’s, webmasters, and site-owners alike, that will allow you to identify and undergo improvements to your website, ready for the Page Experience update.
We recommend conducting a full site audit, using the Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console. This report will provide you with an overview on your website's loading, interactivity, and visual stability performance - the core elements of the Core Web Vitals.
From here, tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse can aid you in fixing any website issues you may have uncovered. Google has a helpful page that groups all of the tools you need to get started, in one place.
These updates intend to highlight the best experiences on the web and ensure that users can find the information they’re looking for, with Google committed to managing the web experience. Google said “Our work is ongoing, which is why we plan to incorporate more page experience signals going forward and update them on a yearly basis”.
Want a marketing professional to audit your website?
BarkWeb can conduct an audit of your website and carry out needed changes, to ensure your website is ready for the user experience update. To learn more, call Ben Keeley on 01323 735800, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can fill in our contact form and Ben will get back to you.