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Starting in mid-June 2021, Google will begin the gradual rollout of a new page experience update that could impact how your website is ranked in Google’s search algorithm.  

Now more than ever, it is critical your website delivers the best possible user experience to ensure your business continues to rank well in Google search. Not to worry!  

We’ve prepared some resources and key information to help you get ahead of the coming changes, optimize your website experience, maintain a high ranking in Google search, and continue to drive traffic to your website. 

What is the Google Page Experience Update? 

Short and sweet: Google rewards websites that are user-friendly and deliver quality, relevant content on all pages with higher search rankings. A poor page experience will have a negative impact on your Google page rankings and ultimately result in a decline of traffic to your website. Google looks at five critical ranking signals to determine the quality of a website’s overall page experience:  

  1. Core Web Vitals: Pages should provide a quality user experience with efficient page loading time, high interactivity, and visual stability (no unexpected shifts or movement of page content).  
  2. Mobile-friendliness: Pages are optimized for browsing on a mobile device – users can navigate the site with ease and quickly find what they are looking for. 
  3. Safe browsing: Pages do not contain malicious elements such as malware, phishing or deceptive content. 
  4. HTTPS-security: Pages are secure and served over HTTPS (an encrypted network protocol and an alternative to HTTP).  
  5. Intrusive interstitial guidelines: Content is easily accessible to users without disruptions that lead to unpleasant user experiences (think: annoying pop-ups!)  

Is your website hitting the mark on these five ranking signals? Or do you even know? 

If not, now is the time to reassess your website optimization strategy. We’ve got you covered with key improvements you can make to your website in advance of Google’s algorithm update.  

Core Web Vitals: Three Key Performance Metrics 

Google will now use Core Web Vitals as a key metric for quantifying a page experience and use this measurement as an indicator for how well users experience your site.  

These factors evaluate the loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of a webpage. It is essential to test and optimize for the three performance metrics listed below in advance of the page experience updates to ensure your Google search rankings are not impacted.  

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The amount of time it takes for the main content on a page to fully load. By Google’s standard, an ideal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or faster and anything over 4 seconds is considered a poor LCP.  

How can I improve LCP on my website?  

  • Optimize the Critical Rendering Path 
  • Remove web fonts that are slowing down the page loading time  
  • Remove any unnecessary third-party scripts  
  • Upgrade your web host 
  • Remove large page elements 
  • Minify the CSS (bulky CSS significantly slows down the page) 

First Input Delay (FID)

The amount of time it takes for a page to become interactive between the first user interaction with the page (i.e., a click or a scroll down) to the browser becoming responsive. An ideal FID measurement is less than 100 milliseconds and anything over 300 milliseconds is considered poor performance.  

How can I improve FID on my website?  

  • Minimize or reduce JavaScript execution and implementation time 
  • Use a browser cache to make content load faster 
  • Reduce the impact of unnecessary third-party scripts like Google Analytics  
  • Minimize main thread work  

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

The amount of unexpected layout shift (browsers or webpages shouldn’t show unexpected moves, changes or shifts while the page is loading).  By Google’s standards, a CLS score of less than 0.1 is optimal and anything over .25 is considered a poor score.   

How can I improve CLS on my website?  

  • Set size attribute on images, videos, GIF’s or other media so that the website doesn’t change once the browser loads  
  • Reserve space for ads using CSS aspect ratio boxes so that they are properly transitioned on to the page 
  • Add new UI elements below the fold so that layout changes are not forced on the page  
  • Avoid stacking content on top of each other, unless it’s for the purpose of user interaction (i.e., a chat or a dialogue box)  

Measuring Core Web Vitals  

In anticipation of the updates, Google has made it easier for SEO and web managers to measure Core Web Vitals. You can now use any of the tools below to evaluate your website:   

  • Google PageSpeed Insights: PageSpeed Insights (PSI) is a speed test tool that analyzes the content of the web page.   
  • Search Console: Google is releasing a new Page Experience report in Search Console that will combine the new components of the page experience signals with the existing core web vitals.  
  • Lighthouse: The Lighthouse feature is available in Chrome DevTools to assess website performance, accessibility, and user experience.   
  • Chrome DevTools: The Dev Tools Performance panel can be used to improve performance and user experience by detecting unexpected layout shifts on a webpage.  
  • Chrome UX Report: The Chrome User Experience Report provides web metrics for how a real-time Chrome user experiences a webpage.  
  • Web Vitals Extension: The Chrome Web Vitals extension available on the Chrome Web Store is another tool used to measure Core Web Vitals.  

Mobile Friendliness      

It’s important that your site delivers a positive user experience on both desktop and mobile to avoid being penalized by Google. Is your site mobile friendly? If not, you could experience a lower ranking in Google search as a result. Try Google’s free mobile-friendly test to assess your website’s responsiveness.  

Safe Browsing & HTTPS-Security 

Google’s page experience updates will prioritize safe browsing and site security in determining your page experience quality. Make sure your website is free of malicious content, social engineering scams, spyware or false information. You can check how safe your website is through the Security Issues Report in the Google Search Console. It’s also important to serve your pages over HTTPS to protect the integrity and confidentiality of user data – learn how to secure your site with HTTPS. 

Intrusive Interstitial Guidelines  

Intrusive interstitials are essentially pop-ups that block some or most of the screen area. These can be very annoying for a user and negatively impact your site’s ranking signal. Below are a few examples that are considered intrusive interstitials and should be avoided:  

  • A pop-up that covers your main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results or while they are viewing the page 
  • A pop-up that appears on its own without prompting  
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user must dismiss before accessing the main content 
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold 

Now is the time to start preparing your website for Google’s page experience updates. Follow these tips to protect your existing Google search rankings and set your business up for SEO success!  

Questions? If you have any questions about how to prepare for the Google Page Experience updates, our team of analysts would be happy to assist! Contact Brian Rogel at [email protected].