Google Page Experience Update 2021 – Everything You Need to Know

Whether your site is currently ranking high or low on Google, it’s essential that you’re familiar with the upcoming Google Page Experience Update.

Alongside the importance of having quality content, the update combines new core web vitals with existing SEO signals to determine page experience.

With the change predicted to roll out in mid-June 2021, you’ll want to ensure that you understand each signal, know how to measure them and make any needed changes.

What Determines Your Page Experience?

When someone visits your site, they expect to find the information they need quickly and pleasantly.

The Google Page Experience Update will evaluate your overall page experience by considering your:

  1. Core Web Vitals(including Largest Contentful Paint, Cumulative Layout Shift, and First Input Delay)

  2. Mobile-Friendliness

  3. Safe-Browsing

  4. HTTPS-Security

  5. Intrusive Interstitials

While some signals have been around a while, they will soon play a more significant role in your SEO. So, let’s take a closer look at each one and what it may mean for you.

1. Core Web Vitals

In May 2020, Google introduced the concept of Core Web Vitals as a group of metrics centred around speed, visual stability, and responsiveness. All three factors contribute to the quality of experience that a user has on your site.

What are the Core Web Vitals?

  • Speed – Measured as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
    LCP measures how long it takes for the largest piece of content on your page to load (e.g., the primary text, image, or video). As we all know, long loading times can be extremely frustrating and creates a poor user experience.

According to Google, your LCP should ideally be 2.5 seconds or less (which will appear as a green grade on their PageSpeed Insights).

A load time of 2.5-4 seconds will be marked as orange, indicating that it needs improvement. Any load times over 4 seconds will be flagged as red and should be fixed as soon as possible.

A red scoring LCP could be due to excessive numbers of HTTP requests, plugins, flash content, or coding. For more information about page loading speed, you can check out our blog The Importance of Website Speed for SEO and What You Can Do to Improve It.

  • Visual Stability – Measured as Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures the visual stability of your page. Any unexpected content shift that isn’t prompted by the user (e.g., a pop-up or image suddenly appearing) will be combined to form your CLS score.

  • Good visual stability is reflected in a CLS score of 0.1 or less.

  • A score of 0.1-0.25 indicates that improvements could be made.

  • Anything higher than 0.25 means your content shifts are far too high.

You can review your CLS score by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

A poor CLS score could be due to various factors such as images and videos without dimensions, slow rendering fonts, and dynamic content that doesn’t have enough allocated space.

  • Responsiveness- Measured as First Input Delay (FID)

The last core web vital that will play a contributing factor to your SEO is your FID score.

FID measures the delay time when responding to a user’s first interaction (e.g., first click or the first tap). Ideally, the interaction will immediately be processed—promptly taking the user to the desired information on your site.

When we say immediately, we’re talking 100 milliseconds or less (which will appear as a green score when reviewing your PageSpeed Insights). A score between 100-300 milliseconds needs improvement and anything beyond 300 milliseconds is poor.

A poor FID score could result from JavaScript execution time, third-party code, main thread work, and large transfer sizes.

2. Mobile-Friendliness

With mobile usage continuing to soar, your site must have a mobile-friendly design. By incorporating this factor as an SEO signal, Google can suggest high-quality websites optimised for the user’s device.

Google’s Mobile Usability Report will help identify any potential issues occurring on your site (e.g., small text or clickable elements being too close together). You can also check how mobile-friendly individual URLs are by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

You may also be interested in reading our article Are you ready for Mobile First Indexing?

3. Safe-Browsing

With the alarming number of phishing attempts online, Google aims to further protect users by reviewing if a site has any deceptive content, malware issues, or harmful downloads. The safer the webpage, the more likely Google is to promote your content.

The Google Security Issues Report can be used to identify if your site has any safe-browsing issues.

4. HTTPS-Security

Users expect a secure online experience when visiting your site. An HTTPS (identifiable by a padlock in the web address bar) protects the confidentiality and integrity of user data when on your site—allowing them to browse with reassurance.

If you don’t see the small lock to the left of your site’s domain, follow Google’s steps to securing your site with HTTPS.

5. No Intrusive Interstitials

An interstitial is an ad that is displayed while a site is loading. As highlighted in Google’s 2017 mobile pop-up penalty announcement—your site’s SEO can be bumped down if a pop-up covers the key content on the page or if a user has to dismiss a pop-up before navigating to the main site.

While there’s no proper measure for this signal, it’s worthwhile to read what Google considers to be an intrusive interstitial and review your site accordingly.

And that’s a wrap (for now, anyway). Google has acknowledged that with the evolving nature of user expectations, they plan to incorporate more page experience signals on a yearly basis.

Is Content Still an Important SEO Signal?

Absolutely! While the growing emphasis on Page Experience is well-needed, it’s crucial not to forget about the content—as it is still the foundation for SEO.

Rather than shifting the focus from content to experience, the update simply expands the focus—allowing for the experience to act as a valuable tie-breaker if multiple sites have equally high-quality content.

Are You Ready for the Google Page Experience Update?

If you have any further questions about the update or are struggling to get your metrics out of the poor/needs improvement zone, our team at Authentic Digital would love to help!

You can contact us by calling 0800 400 736 or emailing [email protected].

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