With Google pursuing user experience to a greater extent than ever before, signified by their continued push to have ‘page experience’ as a major contributing factor in their algorithm update coming mid-June 2021, it may come as no surprise that Google have added yet another report in Google Search Console to help webmasters prepare for the update.
The addition of this report has coincided with Google postponing the rollout of their page experience algorithm update, stating that they wanted to release further resources to webmasters first, to help them better prepare for the change.
Page Experience Search Console Report
The Page Experience report is the latest of a handful of reports Google has provided website owners within Google Search Console. These reports seek to highlight shortfalls on websites, measuring a number of metrics, allowing website owners to make subsequent improvements and provide a better experience for search users.
The Page Experience report is an extension of the similar, Core Web Vitals report. Effectively, it combines existing metrics reviewed by the Core Web Vitals report, such as mobile-friendliness and largest contentful paint, with additional metrics relevant to the upcoming page experience update.
The report itself is broken down into 5 distinct criteria:
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals test the speed and stability of the page loading experience for users. These user experience criteria can be identified further as loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
The loading criteria is determined by Largest Contentful Paint (FCP). This refers to the amount of time it takes to render the largest content element visible to the user, from when the URL is requested by the client.
The Interactivity criteria is determined by First Input Delay (FID). This refers to the time it takes for the browser to respond to a user's first interaction with a website.
The Visual Stability criteria is determined by Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). CLS refers to the gross amount of unexpected layout shift of visual page content that occurs on a website.
In a world of mobile-first indexing, in order for a URL to qualify for ‘Good’ status, it must not have any mobile usability errors.
There are a number of errors that can be uncovered by the mobile usability report. Namely:
Uses incompatible plugins - This error means that your website includes plugins, such as Flash, that are not supported in mobile browsers. This results in content not loading correctly, providing a sub-optimal experience to mobile users.
Viewport not set - This error occurs when the page doesn’t define a viewport property. This results in website content not being scaled correctly to the specific device, causing viewing issues. Best practice dictates that website pages should specify a viewport using the meta viewport tag. Learn more in Responsive Website Design Basics.
Viewport not set to “device-width” - This error occurs when a page defines a fixed-width viewport property. Being fixed-width, this property prevents content being resized to different screen sizes.
Content wider than screen - This error occurs when horizontal scrolling is required to see words and images on the page. This often happens when absolute values are used in CSS declarations, instead of relative declarations.
Text too small to read - This error occurs when the font size is deemed too small to be legible on mobile devices. Font sizes should be set to scale effectively within the viewport to mitigate this issue.
Clickable elements too close together - This error occurs when touch elements, such as CTA buttons and navigational links are too close to each other. This makes it difficult for a mobile device user to effectively navigate the website.
The Security Issues report is designed to identify security breaches within your website. This includes whether your website has been hacked, as well as whether it exhibits behaviour that could potentially harm a user or their device.
Security issues reported can be sorted into one of three categories:
Hacked content - This refers to any content on your website that may have been placed there without the owner's permission.
Malware and unwanted software - This refers to malicious software that has been installed on a website by either the website owner or a hacker. This software target's website users and their devices, intent on causing harm.
Social engineering - This refers to ‘sneaky’ content that attempts to persuade visitors into doing something dangerous, such as revealing personal details. ‘Phishing’ scams are a good example of social engineering at work.
In order to attain ‘Good’ page experience status, a website must be served over HTTPS.
Users expect a secure and private online experience when using a website. For this reason, Google actively pushes website owners to adopt a secure HTTPS protocol for their website, protecting their website users.
For many sites, ad experience will not affect their page experience score. Only those actively advertising on their website will be reviewed by Google, to ensure that their on-page advertisements are not distracting, interrupting, or otherwise provide a negative experience to users. In this instance, think of spammy pop-up advertisements as an example of how not to advertise on your website.
What Does The Report Look Like?
With all the technicalities behind us, what does the report actually look like?
The report shows SEOs, site owners and webmasters important metrics, such as the percentage of URLS with good page experience and search impressions for those URLs in search results over time. This enables webmasters, at a glance, to review their website performance and make proactive changes to meet the upcoming requirements of the page experience update.
If you click into each box, which depicts individual reports, it will show you the ‘failed URLs’ for that criteria. For instance, if you click into the Core Web Vitals report, you will be presented with the following:
Here we are presented with the pages that are failing the Core Web Vitals report. We can see that they’re failing on the Largest Contentful Paint criteria, taking longer than 4s to load on mobile. For reference, Google recommends a target speed of 2.5 seconds.
Unfortunately, Google doesn’t provide direct information on how to improve on these drawbacks. This is a feature we’d like to see them implement and one that we can see being added in the near future if site owners are to use this report to improve their websites as intended.
If your Page Experience report is looking rather red, don’t worry. You still have plenty of time before the mid-June implementation of the page experience algorithm update.
The use of these tools alongside the new Page Experience Report within Google Search Console should ensure that your website is well prepared for the upcoming update.