In November, Google announced that starting May 2021*, page experience signals will be included in Google Search ranking. This will update the Google algorithm to incorporate new signals to determine search ranking.
*Note: As of April 19, 2021 we learned that this has been postponed — Google will not start rolling out the Page Experience Update until mid-June. While this update will now be complete in late August, the Page Experience Report is live in Search Console starting today!
💡 Watch our webinar to dive deeper into how this update impacts SEO and UX teams.
What does this mean for search? Let’s take a closer look at page experience signals and what you can do to prepare for this update.
In This Article:
- What are Page Experience Signals?
- What Does the Page Experience Update Mean for Search?
- What You Can Do to Prepare
- Seer POVs on Page Experience
To understand these signals that will impact search ranking, we went straight to the source. According to Google,
Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.
Page experience signals include Core Web Vitals, mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPs, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.
Here’s an overview of what these signals mean and how they can affect your website.
As the name implies, these are similar to a person’s vital signs. The Core Web Vitals are a subset of Web Vitals that matter the most. These measurements apply to every page on the internet.
Core Web Vitals provide a quick check of a user’s experience and help evaluate a site’s performance. Core Web Vitals are based on three metrics:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
💡 Find out what else you need to know about Core Web Vitals in this guide.
Google announced its mobile-friendly update in February of 2015, which established a site’s mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal and increased the number of mobile-friendly websites in search results.
Your site is likely already optimized for mobile users, but if you’re looking for more tips, here’s a tutorial on mobile-first indexing.
Safe browsing allows webmasters to resolve security issues with their website.
Webmasters can use Google Search Console to access the security issues report, which detects six security issues: malware, deceptive pages, harmful downloads, and uncommon downloads.
Safe Browsing also provides recommendations for each type of security issue.
In 2016, Google provided an update on websites transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS to incorporate secure browsing, enable the best performance, and introduce features to benefit site conversions.
For more information on secure browsing and HTTP vs. HTTPS:
- How to Fix the HTTPS Not Secure Error
- SameSite Security Update for Chrome: What it Means & How to Prepare
Intrusive interstitials are popups, ads, or other features that block part of a mobile landing page. These types of features are intrusive in that they can affect a user’s experience and prohibit a user from accessing the content they need.
In 2017, Google announced that in the transition to mobile search results, pages without easily-accessible content would not rank as high.
💡 Check out these best practices for website pop-ups, overlays, modals and interstitials.
Since Google believes providing information about a website’s user experience is helpful, they will begin testing visual indicators to identify pages in search results that meet all of the page experience criteria. This feature will roll out in May 2021.
This update should serve as a reminder to always put your audience first. This means you should ensure your content and user experience cater to user preferences and accessibility.
We offer important tips to create an accessible, user-friendly website in our UX Checklist Series:
While page experience will be an important factor, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best overall information. According to Google, great page experience does not override having great page content.
As a first step, webmasters can use the following tools to assess and improve their website’s page experience.
- Google Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report
- Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse to fix page load issues
To prepare for the 2021 update, use the tools mentioned above to ensure your site meets the new standards for Core Web Vitals, and address any issues. Not fixing these page experience errors could result in a decline in rankings once the update is fully rolled out.
Since the Page Experience update won’t roll out until May 2021, we can’t say for sure how this will affect rankings and search behavior. What we can do is provide best practices, advice, and predictions based on our experience, historical examples, and industry knowledge.
Here’s what Seer team members are saying about the update:
“We’ll want to monitor the impact that this change in organic results has on paid ads’ click-through rate. If there are more signals showing the authority and ease of use of organic results, users may be less inclined to click on ads … This is a great opportunity to join CTR and Bounce Rate data with other user behavior metrics … e.g. Scroll Depth and Dwell Time in heatmaps.”
— Kim J. | Data Strategy Lead
“This latest update just reinforces the importance of having a technically-sound website. We often focus so heavily on content, but remember, the foundation has to be there as well.”
— Tyler C. | Sr. SEO Manager
“We’ll need to take a hard look at what we’re deploying on-site that may prevent pages from loading in a timely fashion. The top things you can do now: 1) Up your page speed sample to understand existing page speed across pages and device categories … 2) Consider exploring server-side tracking implementation to lighten the load on the browser. 3) Improve your governance around third-party tags being deployed on-site …”
— Jocelyn C. | Sr. Analytics & Strategic Partner Lead
“This update highlights a lot of what we already know about page speed and UX, but adds pressure for website owners to prioritize these items in 2021, where they may not have in years past. When planning your development team resources for the coming year, make sure to account for and prioritize the Core Web Vitals metrics.”
— Katelyn S. | Technical SEO Manager
“Google continues to tip off search marketers on what people value. This update presents a great opportunity for those of us in PPC to take notice of what organic content is driving great user experience and leverage that data for paid landing pages. Improving landing page experience using this information will improve quality scores and drive better, and hopefully more efficient, engagement with our paid ads.”
— Dan L. | PPC Team Lead
“This is Google’s latest tactic to turn user-centric ideals into requirements, but they’ve been pushing these paradigms for years. Today it’s security, mobile-friendliness, and performance. Prediction: accessibility will be added to this list in the coming years.”
— Stephen H. | Lead Developer