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It was announced in 2020 that page experience signals were set for inclusion in Google’s search rankings. Those signals are designed to measure the way in which users perceive their experience of using a web page so that people can enjoy the most enjoyable and helpful experiences when using the internet.
Since the announcement, many publishers and site owners began to use the Core Web Vitals report on the Search Console to identify improvement opportunities, and began to use PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse more frequently to ensure that their rankings wouldn’t be negatively affected.
Initially, it was announced that the update would begin to rollout in May of 2021. However, it was actually postponed until mid-June 2021, with completion of the rollout at the end of August 2021.
Page Experience As An Overview
Page experience encompasses every element of how a user interacts with web pages. Not only does it include the existing Google Search signals of HTTPS, guidelines about intrusive interstitials, safe browsing and mobile friendliness, but it also includes Core Web Vitals metrics with a focus on visual stability, interactivity and loading. With all of these aspects brought together under a single umbrella, the impact on search results will be significant.
Page Experience Visual Indicators
As well as the update, Google has introduced a visual indicator that designates search results which meet all the specifications about page experience. This isn’t new behaviour from Google – their AMP icons and mobile-friendly labels are some examples of this. When the indicator is prominently displayed in the search results, users are likely to choose those sites over the others.
Is Page Experience Everything?
While page experience is important, it isn’t the be-all and end-all. Content remains most important. Having an excellent page experience still won’t override having quality content. But if many pages exist with similar content, the pages with a better experience rank more highly.
The Importance Of The Update For Site Owners
Site owners and developers must take these new metrics for page experience seriously if they want to ensure their search ranking result remains high. When user experiences are ranked highly, the visual cue will guide browsers and consumers to those pages over their rivals. If a page doesn’t offer a great experience, it could easily be ignored.
What Does A Poor Page Experience Look Like?
A poor user experience of a page will feature:
Slow Speeds – waiting for pages to load puts off consumers and makes them more likely to go elsewhere.
Poor Design and Structure– even when a page loads rapidly, if it’s difficult to navigate due to a poor design or structure it will deter users from going any further to find information.
Poor Engagement – consumers don’t just want to be sold to – they want to be entertained, understood and engaged with. Sites must have likeability and empathy.
Site developers can take several steps to ensure that their sites offer a good page experience for users:
Before rolling out the updates and changes, Google determined that publishers would need to begin improving their page experiences in readiness for the rollout. Therefore, as soon as it announced the update, they released several tools which could be used for this purpose.
Google encouraged publishers to carry out a website-wide audit to determine where improvements could be made, and to use Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report to get a better overview of how their website was doing so they could dive more deeply into any issues that were highlighted.
Google also recommended the use of Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights to help fix any problems that were uncovered during the auditing process, and suggested AMP as a cost-effective and easy way to achieve a good page experience outcome for users.
Although the rollout of the update was completed in August 2021, any publishers or site owners that have not yet carried out this auditing process or taken action to remedy any issues uncovered should now definitely make moves to use these tools to improve their page experiences. This will ensure that their ranking won’t take a hit and so their users can continue to find their website easily and quickly without having to trawl through the search engine listings to locate it.
Google Search announced this most recent update with the intention of helping users to find sites that offer the highest quality and greatest relevance on the internet. Their goal was to highlight optimal experiences for users, while also ensuring that consumers can more easily locate the information that they are seeking.
However, it’s important for developers and site owners not to rest on their laurels once they have made the necessary changes to ensure their ranking isn’t negatively affected by this update. Google has taken pains to point out that its work is still ongoing and that it will be incorporating still more signals for page experience in the future, updating them on an ongoing yearly basis in an attempt to improve web use for everyone.