In just a few months, Google is set to launch its Page Experience update. The company first announced the update in May 2020, and first made the announcement in November. With four months left to prepare for it, what can we expect?
The update will mean that the expected user experience is considered as part of the search engine ranking signals. Google will test showing a “visual indicator that highlights pages in the search results that have a great page experience.”
What is Page Experience?
Google will evaluate a set of signals to understand how a user will perceive the experience of a certain web page. These signals include things such as:
- Page load time (the faster the better)
- Runs on HTTPS
- Whether the content jumps around the page as it loads
- Whether intrusive interstitials are present
Metrics around speed and usability are refined, and the refinements are known as Core Web Vitals.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Web Vitals is a Google initiative to provide uniform guidance for quality signals that are necessary for a great user experience online. Over the years, Google has provided a number of tools to measure and report on performance. Though there are many developers who are experts with these tools, others have found it challenging to understand and keep up with as things change.
The idea is that website owners shouldn’t have to be performance pros to understand the experience quality they’re providing to users. With Web Vitals, Google aims to help everyone learn and understand the metrics that matter the most. These apply to all web pages, and all site owners should measure them. They will be shown across all of Google’s tools.
Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a certain area of the user experience, is measurable, and reflects real-world experience necessary for a user-centric outcome.
The metrics that are part of Core Web Vitals will evolve, as has the web and SEO over the years. The current set focuses on three aspects: loading, interactivity, and visual stability. The included metrics are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This refers to the render time of the largest text block or image within the viewport. It measures loading performance. The LCP should happen within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts to load, for a good user experience.
- First Input Delay (FID): This measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page (clicks a link, taps a button, etc.) and the time when the browser starts processing a response to that interaction. It measures interactivity. For a good user experience, pages need an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This measures the sum total of all layout shift scores, for each unexpected layout shift that happens during the page’s entire lifespan. Unexpected page content movement usually occurs because resources are loaded asynchronously, or DOM elements are added to a page above existing content. For a good user experience, your CLS score should be less than 0.1.
Visual Indicators of User Experience in SERPS
Once the update goes live, Google will test multiple ways to display visual indicators of user experience. We’ve seen these kinds of indicators before with slow labels, mobile-friendly labels, AMP icons, etc.
“We believe that providing information about the quality of a web page’s experience can be helpful to users in choosing the search result that they want to visit,” Google wrote. “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.”
There is nothing to indicate what these visual indicators may look like, and if they will last. It will all be based on the test results. Google said the plan to test it soon, and if it is successful, it will be part of the launch in May. We can expect more details on this soon.
Preparing for the Page Experience Update
To get a good idea of what you need to do to get a good score once the update launches in May, visit the Core Vitals report in Google Search Console. With it, you can see how your site is currently performing. If you notice any problem areas, or areas that could use improvement, you can develop a plan of action and work toward implementing it ahead of the update occurs in May.
AMP won’t be required for articles to show in the Top Stories carousel in search results until after the update launches. Google will continue to support AMP because they say it is an easy and cost-effective way for publishers looking to achieve a great page experience. If you opt to publish an AMP version of your content, Google Search will link to the cache-optimized AMP version to optimize delivery to users, just like it does now.
It’s not clear how much of an impact the Page Experience update will have on overall rankings. Many experts expect it to be fairly minor, as many of these signals are already part of the Google ranking algorithm. The visual indicator Google announced, however, will give SEO experts more support for companies to start paying attention to more core web vitals and experience signals.
Though this was first announced in November 2020, Google has not released any new information about it. As we get more details, we will update this post, or write another feature covering the subject.