On May 28th, 2020, Google announced they’d be rolling out a new update, dubbed the Page Experience Algorithm update.
This update will help Google prioritize websites that offer a great user experience, and it’ll be based on a set of signals collectively known as the “page experience signals.”
In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the Page Experience Algorithm update, including:
- What’s the Page Experience Algorithm?
- How does Page Experience Affect Ranking?
- What Are the Important Factors of Page Experience Algorithm?
- How Can You Optimize Your Site for The Page Experience Algorithm?
So, let’s get started!
What’s the Page Experience Algorithm?
The Google Page Experience algorithm is a recently introduced update that measures a website’s ability to provide a great user experience.
Some of these page experience signals include:
- Core web vitals
- Safe browsing
- HTTPS security
- Intrusive interstitials
- Cumulative layout shift
Google has stated that the goal of this update is to help Google prioritize websites that offer a great user experience.
And they hope that doing so will encourage website owners to invest in creating a better overall experience for their users.
How the Page Experience Algorithm Affects Rankings
The Page Experience algorithm update was rolled out globally in Mid-June 2021 (June 15th). Google updated on August 4th, 2021, during which the update went fully live.
The update affects how websites are ranked in Google Search results.
Specifically, the update impacts website ranking on a page-by-page basis.
The page experience update also affects the ranking of those pages that do not pass the core web vitals assessment.
Content is still king, but the user experience is fast becoming the queen.
Given two pages with similar content, the page with better page experience signals will rank higher in search results.
In other words, it’s time SEOs and website owners started paying attention to their website’s user experience if they want to rank higher on Google.
When Was the Page Experience Algorithm Launched?
Google first announced the Google Page Experience Algorithm update on May 28th, 2020.
However, the update didn’t go live until Mid-June 2021 (June 15th).
Google updated it on August 4th, 2021, during which the update went fully live.
Google gave web admins a six-month notice before the update went into effect to give them time to make the necessary changes to their website.
Google gave web admin a six-month notice before the update went into effect. However, Google mentions explicitly on their blog that there’s no need for web owners to take any action. But in the months that follow, Google expects them to start optimizing their websites for page experience.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core web vitals are Google’s metrics to capture real-world user experiences.
They attempt to objectively quantify the experience of landing on a web page and interacting with it.
Google has identified three key aspects of the user experience: loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
The three metrics that make up the core web vitals:
Loading — Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance. Ideally, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading. An LCP of more than 4 seconds is considered poor. If the LCP falls between the two, it needs improvement.
Interactivity — First Input Delay (FID): FID is a core web vital for measuring interactivity performance. FID measures the time it takes for a page to become responsive to user input. A good FID is less than 100 milliseconds. Anything over 300 milliseconds is considered poor.
Visual stability: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability. CLS captures how often users experience unexpected layout shifts while a page is loading. A good CLS score is less than 0.1. Anything over 0.25 is considered poor.
The following table displays the buckets for categorizing good, needs improvement, and poor for each metric:
|Good||0-2.5 seconds||0-100 milliseconds||0-0.1|
|Needs Improvement||2.5-4 seconds||100-300 milliseconds||0.1 – 0.25|
|Poor||4+ seconds||300+ milliseconds||0.25+|
Core web vitals are only one part of page experience signals.
The other part is based on existing search signals, including mobile friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.
Google has said that they will continue to use these other signals as part of their page experience assessment.
In 2015, Google rolled out the mobile-friendly algorithm update, which boosted the ranking of mobile-friendly pages in mobile search results.
The mobile-friendly update was a game-changer for SEOs and website owners.
Now, with the page experience algorithm update, Google is doing the same thing for the desktop experience of a website.
Safe browsing is a Google service that checks websites for malicious content.
If your website is flagged as unsafe, it will receive a warning in the search results, decreasing web traffic.
To avoid this, you need to ensure that your website is free of malware and phishing scams. You can do this by using Google’s Safe Browsing.
The update was rolled out in 2016, and it punishes repeat offenders.
In 2014, Google announced that it would give a ranking boost to websites that use HTTPS.
HTTPS is a security protocol that encrypts communication between a website and its visitors. Website owners must use HTTPS because it helps protect sensitive information, like passwords and credit card numbers.
Eventually, Google started penalizing websites that didn’t use HTTPS. In 2017, they began flagging HTTP websites as “not secure” in the Chrome browser.
Intrusive Interstitial Guidelines
In 2016, Google updated its intrusive interstitials guidelines. An intrusive interstitial is a pop-up that covers the content of a web page.
Google’s guidelines state that “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. “
The guidelines went on to say that “This can frustrate users because they are unable to see the content that they were expecting when they clicked on the search result.”
Google updated its guidelines in 2017 to include a penalty for websites that use intrusive interstitials.
12 Ways to Optimize Your Site for The Page Experience Algorithm
It’s not too late to optimize your website for the page experience algorithm update. Here are twelve things you can do:
Improve Your Website’s Loading Speed
The first of Google’s CORE WEB VITALS is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures loading performance.
This metric determines how quickly your website renders the most important content on your page.
Ideally, your website should have an LCP of fewer than 2.5 seconds.
You can improve your website’s LCP in several ways, including:
- Speeding Up Your Server:
One way to improve your website’s LCP is by speeding up your server.
A faster server will lead to a faster loading website.
You can use a tool like Pingdom to test your server’s speed.
Speeding a website may also involve running some performance guidance, so the server turns up an already loaded static webpage rather than building everything from scratch every time someone clicks on it.
- Compressing Your Images:
Another way to improve your website’s LCP is by compressing your images.
Large images can take a long time to load, which will slow down your website.
You can use a tool like Kraken.io to compress your images.
Your site will load slower if your images, videos, and block-level elements with text features are above the fold.
The browser must wait for all the resources to load before rendering the page.
To improve your LCP, you can lazily load your images and videos.
Lazy loading means that your images and videos only load when visible on the screen.
When a user scrolls down, the images and videos will then load.
Cache Certain Assets of Your Page
Caching is another way to improve your website’s LCP.
When you cache your website, your visitors will load a saved version of your page rather than having to load the entire page every time they visit.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN is a network of servers that deliver content to users based on their geographic location.
Using a CDN can help improve your website’s LCP because it will deliver your content faster to users far away from your server.
You can use Cloudflare to set up a CDN for your website.
Improve Your Interactivity
The second of Google’s CORE WEB VITALS is First Input Delay (FID), which measures interactivity.
This metric determines how quickly your website responds to user input.
Ideally, your website should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
But what exactly does that mean?
If a user clicks on a button on your website, it should take less than 100 milliseconds for the button to respond.
For example, if they click to edit a shopping cart, it should take less than 100 milliseconds for the shopping cart to become editable.
How can you improve your website’s FID?
There are a few ways:
Minifying your code means removing unnecessary characters from your code, such as whitespace, comments, and block delimiters.
Optimize Your CSS:
Another way to improve your website’s FID is by optimizing your CSS.
Your CSS can slow down your website if it’s not optimized.
You can minify it and use async or defer to optimize your CSS.
You can also inline your critical CSS. Embed it in the HTML file rather than using an external stylesheet.
Now, let’s focus on the user’s first impression of your website. If users have to wait a long time for your website to load, they’ll leave before it even loads.
But a solid first impression – a page that loads quickly- will go a long way in keeping users on your website.
FID is important because it measures interactivity or how quickly your website responds to user input.
Eliminate Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
The last of Google’s CORE WEB VITALS is Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
CLS measures how much your content shifts around while the page is loading.
You’ve probably experienced this yourself: you try to click on a button or link on a website, but before you click it, the whole page shifts, and you end up clicking on something else.
That’s a layout shift. And it’s annoying.
Google wants to eliminate those annoying layout shifts. That’s why they’re now measuring CLS.
Ideally, your website should have a CLS of 0. But a CLS score of 0.1 is also considered good. That’s the maximum amount of shift Google regards as acceptable.
In the same vein, Google considers a CLS score of 0.25 poor. Anything in between 0.1 and 0.25 needs improvement.
So how can you reduce your CLS score?
The following elements might be the cause of CLS:
Dimensionless images and videos
If you have images or videos on your website that don’t have dimensions, they can cause CLS.
Add width and height attributes to your images and videos to fix this. That way, the browser will know how much space to reserve before they load.
Another common cause of CLS is unsized fonts. When you use an unsized font, the browser doesn’t know how much space to reserve for the text.
To fix this, add a size attribute to your font.
Dimensional Ads and Other Embedded Objects
Like you would with images and videos, add dimensions to your ads and other embedded objects.
Resize Elements Dynamically
To fix this, add will-change: transform; to the element. That tells the browser to reserve space for the element before it’s resized.
Animations and Other Dynamic Content
Animations can also cause CLS. To fix this, you can use the animation-play-state property to pause animations until they become visible on the screen.
Fixing CLS is especially important for mobile devices. That’s because Google prioritizes mobile-first indexing.
It’s also because mobile devices have smaller viewports and weaker processors.
So if your website has a lot of CLS, it will be even slower on mobile devices.
What can you do to eliminate CLS?
- Browsers don’t know how to space images and videos without dimensions. That’s to say that your website could have lots of fluctuating blank spaces until these elements fully load.
- Add width and height dimensions to all images and videos on your website to fix this. That way, the browser can reserve the correct amount of space for them as the page loads.
- You have to preload your fonts for flashes of unstyled text (FOUT). That way, the browser can display the text while it’s still loading the fonts.
It tells the browser to display a fallback font first and then swap it out when everything finally loads.
That should prevent jarring font changes that cause CLS.
Mobile-Friendly Update: Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Google’s MOBILE-FRIENDLY update is all about making your website mobile-friendly.
It’s no secret that more and more people use their smartphones to browse the internet.
To be more precise, more than half (54.4%) of online traffic comes from mobile devices.
And that number is only going to grow in the future.
There are two ways to make your website mobile-friendly:
- Use responsive design
- Use a separate mobile site
Responsive design is the best way to make your website mobile-friendly.
Responsive design means that your website automatically adjusts to fit any screen size. So, whether someone is viewing your website on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone, they’ll always have a great experience.
A separate mobile site is a website designed specifically for mobile devices.
It has a different URL than your main website, and it’s usually much simpler and easier to use on a small screen.
The problem with separate mobile sites is that they’re much work to maintain. You have to create and manage two different websites, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Plus, separate mobile sites can be confusing for users. When they visit your website on a mobile device, they might not realize they’re being redirected to a different URL.
Speed Up Your Website
Page speed has been a direct ranking factor from as far back as 2010.
In April 2010, Google announced that they’d be adopting page speed as a prime ranking factor, next to content and backlinks.
Websites that load faster generally tend to rank higher than those that don’t.
The thing is, if you offer a great user experience, your website will naturally load faster. A slow website can offset your other SEO efforts and cause your business to lose traffic and revenue.
You can use Google’s page speed insight tool to check your website’s speed. The tool will quickly analyse your website and give you a report with specific recommendations on how to improve its speed.
Ideally, your website must load in under three seconds.
Here are a few quick and easy ways to speed up your website:
- Optimize Your Images
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Minimize HTTP Requests
- Use Caching
- Enable Gzip Compression
- Minimize Redirects
- Use a Fast Web Host
- Optimize Your Code
- Avoid Resource-Intensive Plugins and Themes
- Monitor Your Site Speed Regularly
Minimize the Number of Ads on Your Website
Ads can be a great way to generate revenue for your website. But if you’re not careful, they can also harm your SEO.
Google’s ad policies state that websites should not “exceed the recommended number of ads” on a page. It could result in a lower quality score for your website if you do.
So how many ads are too many?
That’s a difficult question because it depends on your website’s overall layout and design.
A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of ads to three per page.
Any more than that, and you risk hurting your SEO.
Even more important is to make sure your website doesn’t host malware or deceptive ads. That’s because Google will not hesitate to remove your website from their database if they suspect you’re up to no good.
Use the Google search console to check your website for malware or deceptive ads. If you find anything, remove it immediately.
Monitor Your Website for Broken Links
A broken link is a link that points to a page that no longer exists.
They’re often caused by typos, changes in URLs, or pages that have been deleted.
Broken links can hurt your SEO in two ways.
First, they make it difficult for Google’s crawlers to navigate your website. That can lead to a slower crawl rate, hurting your website’s ranking.
Second, broken links are a sign of a poorly maintained website. And that’s something that Google takes into account when determining where to rank your website.
To find and fix broken links on your website, use a tool such as Screaming Frog.
The tool will crawl your website and highlight any broken links for you. You can then go in and delete or redirect it to a functioning URL.
HTTP Is Now a Ranking Factor
In July 2018, Google started giving preference to websites secured with an HTTPS certificate.
HTTPS is a security protocol that encrypts the data between your website and the user’s browser.
It’s an important security measure, especially if you’re handling sensitive information like credit card numbers or personal data.
If your website is not HTTPS, you’re at risk of being flagged as unsafe by Google.
To switch to HTTPS, you’ll need to get an SSL certificate for your website. Usually, your web hosting provider will have this available for purchase.
Once you have the certificate, you’ll need to install it on your server and update your website’s URL to HTTPS.
How to Test Your Website for HTTP Usage
To test if your website uses HTTP, load the page on a web browser and check the address bar. If you see a closed lock icon next to the URL, that means the website is being loaded over HTTP.
Click on the padlock itself to view the details of the connection. If it says, “connection is secure,” your website uses HTTPs.
If you don’t see the padlock icon or the word “secure” next to the URL, your website is not running on HTTPs. You might need to install it afresh.
Implement AMP on Your Website
AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, is an open-source initiative started by Google to improve the performance of mobile web pages.
AMP pages are designed to load quickly on mobile devices, even on slow connections.
They’re easy to read and navigate, with a simplified layout similar to apps.
Google has been pushing AMP heavily in recent years, and it’s now a ranking factor for mobile searches.
To implement AMP on your website, you’ll need to create a separate AMP version of your pages. These pages are different from your regular web pages and have a different URL.
Here’s an article you want to read to learn more about AMP and how they help with user experience:
Implement PWA on Your Website
PWA, or Progressive Web App, is a technology that combines the best of the web and the best of apps.
PWAs are websites that look and feel like an app, but they’re still accessible through a web browser.
They’re designed to be fast, reliable, and engaging, even on slow connections.
PWAs are also designed to be installable on mobile devices, just like native apps.
Google is a big proponent of PWAs, and it’s been pushing them heavily in recent years.
Again, here’s an article you want to read to find out more about PWAs:
Reduce Bounce Rates
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on your website and then leave without viewing any other pages.
A high bounce rate is generally a sign that your website is not relevant to what the user is looking for or that it’s not a good user experience.
Google interprets a high bounce rate as a page with little value to the user or that the site has a poor user experience.
The more users hang around your site, the more Google considers it valuable.
There are several things you can do to reduce your website’s bounce rate, such as:
- Improve the quality of your content
- Make sure your website is fast and easy to use
- Improve the design of your website, more specifically the navigation
- Target long-tail keywords that are more specific
- Limit the number of CTAs on your website (stick to one to solve the problem of analysis paralysis, where users can’t decide which one of the CTAs to click on)
- Use pop-ups sparingly and make sure they’re relevant to the user
- Format your content and make sure it’s easy to scan and understand
- Use images and videos to break up your text and make your content more visually appealing
- Use internal links to other related pages on your website
- Use external links to direct readers to other relevant pages
Improve Your Site’s UX
Your website’s UX, or user experience, is how easy and enjoyable it is to use your website.
From content to URL structure to navigation, everything on your website should be easy to understand and use.
A good UX is important for several reasons, including:
- It helps reduce your website’s bounce rate
- It helps improve conversions
- It can help improve your website’s SEO
You can begin by conducting a UX audit of your website. That should help you identify any areas that need improvement.
To make things easier for you, we’ve prepared a checklist of all the things you could do to improve your website’s UX:
Prepare High-quality Content: Your content is the foundation of your website. It’s what drives traffic to your site and keeps people engaged.
By high-quality, we mean content that is well-written, informative, relevant, and full of practical advice, not re-written stuff.
Your content should also be properly formatted and easy to read.
And finally, your content should be updated regularly to ensure that it remains relevant and engaging.
Here’s an article you want to read to find out more about what constitutes high-quality content:
Keep Your URL Structure User-friendly: Your website’s URL structure should be easy to use and understand.
Users should easily guess what a URL will lead to just by looking at it.
Your URLs should also be short and to the point.
And finally, your URLs should be keyword-rich to improve your website’s SEO.
Avoid Intrusive Pop-ups: Pop-ups can be intrusive and annoying, and they can quickly ruin the user experience.
That being said, some types of pop-ups can be used without harming your website’s UX.
For example, you can use exit-intent pop-ups triggered when a user moves their mouse to leave the page.
These types of pop-ups can effectively get the user’s attention without being too intrusive.
Include a Search Button: Ever approached a stranger for directions? Including a search button on your website is like having a sign that says, “I’m here to help!
A search button allows users to find what they’re looking for without asking for help.
That’s especially important for a website with a lot of content.
Use Relevant Images and Videos: Images and videos can help break up your text and make your content more visually appealing.
However, you only want to use images and videos relevant to your content.
Use Clear and User-friendly CTAs: Your call-to-actions (CTAs) should be clear and easy to understand.
They should also be user-friendly and easy to find and use.
It should be placed strategically where users can easily see it, and, most importantly, it should be designed to stand out from the rest of your website.