Google’s May 2021 Page Experience Update: What You Need To Know

Back in November 2020, Google announced that it would be introducing page experience as a factor into its ranking algorithm. Google has addressed user experience in the past, albeit via individual and indirect measures (such as the 2018 Mobile Speed Update), but the Page Experience Update represents the first significant attempt to develop a holistic ranking factor around user experience. According to the announcement, the Page Experience Update will be rolled out in May 2021, and coupled with the introduction of the Core Web Vitals, represents a shift in focus towards websites that have a better user experience.

Google Core Web Vitals
Source: Google Developers

 

The change in metrics gives priority to the following Core Web Vitals:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (refers to the website load time)
  2. First Input Delay (refers to user interactivity)
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (refers to the website’s visual stability)

 

 

The Update:

“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

What this means is…

This year, Google aims to include page experience as a more significant factor in its algorithm.

The move involves the inclusion of existing signals of Google Search such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. This also includes metrics in Google’s Core Web Vitals to do with the webpage loading speed, site interactivity, and visual stability.

Hence, if you’re a website owner, or offer services in website maintenance understanding these signals should now become a priority. You should also consider optimizing your server, and reworking your marketing strategy to maintain/improve your SERP ranking.

Some of the factors you should consider focusing on are:

  • Optimizing For Mobile
  • Improving Page Speeds
  • Avoiding deceptive Call To Actions
  • Adding Alt Text For Images.

 
Your next question is probably somewhere around the lines of how does it impact the overall webpage experience? 

Understanding Page Experience

To understand this, we’ll need to take a few steps back and understand the three ‘Core Web Vitals’. These comprise visual stability, better interactivity, and accurate page load time. Let’s go deeper into understanding these. 

Core web vitals
Source: Search Engine Watch

 

Largest Contentful Paint

This metric measures the time it takes for the main content to likely load. The terminology that Page load times greatly impact bounce rate and a user’s average time on page. In light of Google’s recent move, the company has covered this under the vital ‘Largest Contentful Paint’. 

First Input Delay

This move helps measure on-page interactions rather than picking webpage impressions. Google’s web vitals covers this as ‘first input delay’. The metric picks up the time duration it takes for the first user interaction (tap or click) to when the browser starts processing that interaction. 

Understanding this metric will help you understand how long it takes for your user to interact with your website after their first impressions. Improving on this will help you improve your website absorption rate while also pulling the site’s bounce rate closer to 60%.

Statistics about smartphone users
Source: Think With Google

 

Cumulative Layout Shift

You’re probably familiar with this if you’ve seen a jittery webpage. You’re scrolling through the product description page and suddenly you’re scrollbar shifts disorienting you on the webpage. The metric used to measure this is known as cumulative layout shift. 

This happens because some of the content was still loading on the website when you started scrolling, Often, this leads to clicking the option that wasn’t intended, leading to a bad user experience. If this problem isn’t addressed in time, you’ll see your website’s bounce rate increase significantly. Ultimately this compromises your website’s SERP position.

Accidental Submission

Adapting To This Change

Adjusting to these changes can be a tedious task. To help narrow down the tasks at hand, we’d recommend you to focus on the following tasks to improve your page load time. We’ve listed out a few possible areas that can aid you in improving your webpage load time.

Optimize Your Server – Shifting To A Cloud Based Server

You’ll notice that your webpage greatly improves in page load speed time, just by optimizing the server. However, knowing that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we recommend you shift your server towards a cloud-based infrastructure. 

A cloud-based IaaS greatly gives you the flexibility of shifting your website to a data center that’s closer to your target audience. You can scale your server up almost instantaneously and trim it back down to your required package in times of traffic spikes. Essentially, with this type of infrastructure, you save a lot of money in the long run.

Install Caches Plugins That Specialize In Improving Page Load Time

There are a number of cache plugins that help improve your website performance. Consider picking a content management system/ website builder that has these add-ons.

Optimize Plugins

Though this goes without saying, however, a lot of people that are new to building websites tend to overload their websites with plugins and widgets. Loading all of these widgets also takes a toll on the server and can affect your website’s performance.

Think of it as Google Chrome, with some 15 browser extensions running in the background. You’ll notice how your chrome starts more slowly and starts to lag. It’ll often crash as well. The same applies to your website builder and plugins. Keep them optimized and remove plugins that you can do without.

Compress Media Files And The Website Files Where Possible

A lot of people place rich-media images to make their webpage look better. That’s not bad, but it’s important to know where you can cut corners and where you can’t. For instance, you could compress images like buttons, logos, and small jpeg files that won’t be used as downloadable content. However, cutting corners on background images, product images will show poorly and affect the user experience of your website.

Shorten JavaScript And CSS Files

While we’re on the topic of compressing media files and website files, you could have a developer look at the code that runs your website. Longer codes take more resources to process as opposed to optimized codes.

This won’t make a major difference, but it will contribute to optimizing your website for better load time and user experience.

Key Takeaway

We recommend that you run an audit for your website. You can use Google’s online mobile-friendly test, as well as Page Speed Insights, to find out your website’s performance across different devices.

Keeping your users front and center will help you build a web experience that is informative, intuitive, and delightful for everybody. Apart from the technical fixes, many marketers will also have to refocus their content strategy to ensure they are providing the most useful information to their users. Needless to say, you should also consider aligning your content strategy with your link-building strategy to maximize your SERP rankings.