According to Google Developers, page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. This is where core web vitals come in. Core web vitals are a set of metrics that measure real-world user experience or loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of a page.
Before you start to panic, the page experience algorithm roll out is expected in 2021. Due to the coronavirus, Google decided to let everyone know about the future algorithm and what it covers so that you can adjust your website accordingly to prevent your traffic from plummeting.
According to Google, optimizing these factors makes things better for everyone across all web browsers and devices. It also helps sites move toward user expectations on mobile devices. Google believes this change will contribute to business success online as users grow more engaged and make transactions online with less friction.
Basically, Google is looking at how usable your website is. Things like whether the site runs on HTTPS, whether the site is mobile-friendly, and more.
Closer Look at Core Web Vitals
At this point in time, the CWV are focused on three aspects of the user experience: load time, interactivity, and visual stability. The metrics that make up the CWV will continue to evolve, but for 2020, this is what you should focus on.
Largest Contentful Paint
Also known as LCP, this metric measures loading performance. The LCP should happen within 2.5 seconds of when the first page begins to load. Anything after 4 seconds provides a poor user experience.
First Input Delay
Known as FID, this measures interactivity. For a good user experience, pages need to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
Cumulative Layout Shift
Also known as CLS, this measures visual stability. For a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of 0.1.
For each of the metrics, to make sure you’re hitting the right target, aim for the 75th percentile of page loads segmented across both mobile and desktop devices. Tools that assess your CWV performance should consider a page as “passing” at 75th percentile or above, for all three metrics.
Optimize your site speed and reduce 400 errors
The faster your website loads, the better experience your users will have. When testing your page speed, it should be under three seconds to load. If at all possible, get it to one second or less. You can use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom to test your site speed. Page Insights helps by providing suggestions to help you speed up your site, too.
Check your site for broken links, so you don’t end up with 404 errors throughout your site. You can design a custom 404 page to match the rest of your site and brand’s messaging to make the experience of a 404 error a little less frustrating for users – but you should still aim to have an error-free website.
Analyze the competition
Take a moment to compare your experience to that of your competitors. If you believe you have an awesome user experience but finds that it doesn’t stack up well against the competition, you’ll have a harder time outranking them. Look at their top pages – at least the top 25 to 50, and make sure you’re doing more in terms of speed, content quality, and overall user experience. View the keywords they’re ranking for, and how you stack up.
Look at your design
Usability is about more than site content and speed. Heatmaps show you where people are paying the most attention on your site, where they are clicking the most, and ultimately, how they are engaging with your content. To learn more about how your audience behaves on your website, you’ll want to run some heatmap tests – which are helpful in split-testing because you can see which version of your site your audience responds to better. Heatmap tools include CrazyEgg, Smartlook, and ClickHeat.
Looking at your entire website, you should emphasize page experience. While this doesn’t mean that your whole website shouldn’t have a good user experience, it does mean that Google is probably going to focus its algorithm at a page-level basis.
If you have a few pages on your website that promote a poor experience, but the rest of them are good, it doesn’t make sense for Google to reduce the rankings in your entire site especially if many of your pages provide a better experience than your competition.