Last November, Google announced that 2021 would be when Page Experience becomes a vital part of Google Search ranking signals. Coined the "Google Page Experience" update, the aim is to give users a more enjoyable time on the web, help them find the most relevant information on high-quality sites and reward websites that offer excellent user experiences.
But what changes for you as a site owner?
To help you as publishers and site owners improve your page experience and keep up with Google Updates, we’ve created a short and sweet guide that covers everything you need to know about page experience signals for Google Search.
The Google Page Experience Update
The Page Experience Signals measure how visitors interact with a website. In combination with existing search signals, such as security, accessibility and mobile-friendliness, they are now crucial factors for your search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts.Google already uses some aspects of user experience to assist the ranking of websites. With the 2021 experience update, Google is introducing three new metricsthat focus on the page experience users have on a given website. These metrics are called core web vitals, focusing on loading speeds, interactivity and visual stability. They are based on data aggregated by the Chrome User Experience Report. In other words, real user experiences govern these metrics.The update began in mid-June 2021 and was rolled out in two phases over the following months. It would take until the end of August for the Page Experience update to be completed.
Source: dnovo group.
The core Page Experience metrics include:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
A metric that measures how long it takes for the largest page element to render. Slow response times cause poor LCP scores, which is why you need to ensure that page elements load in 2.5 seconds or less.
- First Input Delay (FID)
First Input Delay (FID) measures the time between a web user’s first interaction with a site, perhaps by scrolling down the page or clicking on a link, and the moment when the browser responds to that interaction. An FID score of 100 milliseconds or less is seen as a good score.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
The Cumulative Layout Shift metric assesses unexpected layout shifts that can happen over a website’s lifespan. In other words, CLS measures the perceived visual stability of a page load. Layout shifts include changes in the position of visible elements from one rendered frame to the next. Related: Why page loading speed has a major impact on your marketing efforts.
Source: Google Search Central.
What to Expect From The Update
Like with any Google algorithm update, your rankings may go up, may go down or may remain just the same. Google has explained that most sites won’t notice the updates, but SEOs who manage a lot of sites will likely see changes in the Google search results. Google also noted that you could expect to see a bit of recovery between core updates, but the biggest change you would see would be after another core update. And, of course, if these changes negatively impact you, you’re not going to have to fend for yourself.
How to Optimise Google Page Experience Signals
Using the core Page Experience metrics from above, Google assesses your website's signals and gives the website an overall Page Experience score.
Measuring Core Web Vitals Compliance
To track these new metrics, you can use tried and trusted tools such as the Chrome User Experience Report, Google Search Console, Chrome DevTools or Lighthouse. Once you’ve understood how Google sees your website, you can move forward and identify areas of improvement.Below, we’ll share some ideas on how we optimise for LCP, FID and CLS.
- Optimising Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Google Search Console - Page Experience Metrics Overview
First, take a look at your LCP stats in your Google Search Console. Alternatively, you can also use Lighthouse or PageSpeed Insights. In your Search Console report you'll find LCP stats grouped under Core Web Vital performance by status, issue type, and URLs.
To improve poor LCP ratings, do the following:
- Reduce server response time
- Choose a fast server hosting service
- Enable page caching
- Use a CDN
- Defer non-critical CSS
- Optimise your images
- Compress text files
- Use preload for critical assets
- Establish third-party connections early
- Optimising First Input Delay (FID)
PageSpeed Insights - Page Experience Metrics - Time to Interactive
To measure your FID take a look at your PageSpeed Insights or check out the Search Console Core Web Vitals Report. And remember, a FID of 100ms or less is considered good; anything between 100-300ms - or worse, needs improvement.
To improve poor FID ratings, do the following:
- Remove non-critical third-party scripts
- Use web workers to run scripts in the background
- Run code during idle periods or when the resource is requested
- Remove unnecessary parts of code, incl. Comments and whitespace
- Optimising Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Google Search Console - Page Experience Metrics Overview
With Google’s Page Experience rollout, layout shifts have moved into the centre of attention.When it comes to CLS, the lower the score, the more stable your layout is. Official CLS scores indicate that a CLS below 0.1 is good; anything above needs improvement.
To improve poor CLS ratings, do the following:
- Use font:display values such as auto, fallback, and optional
- Preload font files using <link rel=preload>
- Use aspect ratio to resize images
- For responsive images, use srcset attribute.
Why We Are Excited About The Google Experience Update
Google released a blog post detailing why the changes to the Google Page Experience were necessary. With “billions of queries every day from countries around the world in 150 languages”, Google had to improve its ranking algorithms to stay competitive and serve its user base.The web continues to grow without any signs of slowing down. To deliver excellent results at an incredibly complex scale and display the most relevant results possible, Google will have to keep evolving. “Continued updates are key to ensuring we’re supporting a wide range of publishers, creators and businesses while providing searchers with the best information available,” Google concluded.
Good News for The News
The Google Experience rollout also included changes to Top Stories mobile carousels. Since the update went live, all news content that meets the Google News policies is now considered for a feature in the Top Stories carousel on Google Search. That means news websites will no longer be required to use the AMP format for a chance to feature on this section.
The update also affected the Google News app. Non-AMP content will now also feature on the Google News app as part of the experience update. Google will no longer be displaying the AMP badge, which was put in place to help distinguish AMP content.For digital marketers and businesses on the digital front, these SEO changes are essential to note. And whilst it may take some time to wrap your head around these metrics, they are good scores to track and optimise. If you could use a helping hand to optimise your site for these brand new Google Search ranking signals, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the SEO team here at Anchor Digital! We’d love to hear from you!