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As of mid-June 2021, a gradual rollout began off the new changes to Google Search’s page experience rankings. This update was announced back in November 2020, and has been known since that time as the ‘page experience update’.
The rollout was finally completed in August 2021, however, for all those site owners and publishers who remain unaware of how to ensure their page experiences have been suitably improved in order to ensure their ranking remains unaffected, here is the information that you need to prepare your website accordingly.
Google originally announced their they would be rolling out a new ranking system as of mid-June 2021. This update would see page experience being utilised as a key element within the ranking system structure, although it wouldn’t be playing its complete role under those systems until August 2021 had come to an end.
Essentially, Google would be slowly adding elements of page experience to its ranking criteria over the time period until it would be fully adopted in time for September to begin.
Google’s announcement about the update pointed out that it was designed to showcase pages which offer an excellent experience for the user, although it was at pains to remind site owners and publishers that it would be just one of numerous factors that would be taken into account when ranking any given page.
Therefore, no drastic changes were to be expected, and any unintended or unexpected issues would be picked up during monitoring which would be carried out as part of the gradual rollout.
It was Google’s intention that the adjusted schedule for the rollout would allow site owners to continue making refinements to their websites while keeping user page experiences in mind.
Google also released details of what would be included in this update, which we shall look at more closely below.
As Google announced, their update would take into consideration a number of page experience signals. These would include the 3 Core Web Vitals metrics – CLS, FID and LCP (together with the recent Chrome fix to CLS).
Although there was some lack of clarity about whether Safe Browsing would be included as one of the ranking signals, it was confirmed by Google on 4 August 2021 that it would not be, although Safe Browsing will continue playing a vital role in keeping Google Search users safe, and therefore, any flags will still be surfaced out of the Page Experience report in Search Console.
A further announcement involved the update to the carousel Top Stories feature appearing on Google Search. This would still be updated with the inclusion of all news content so long as it is able to meet the policies for Google News. As a result, use of the AMP format will no longer be required. Also, any page, whatever its page experience status or Core Web Vitals score will now be eligible for inclusion in the carousel of Top Stories.
Further ore, similar updates have now been brought to the Google News app, which is one of the top destinations for worldwide users to obtain an overview of all of the day’s most important news. Within this recent page experience update, Google has expanded the use of non-AMP content in order to power the Google News app and news.google.com core experience.
Also, Google won’t be showing the AMP badge icon any more to indicate any AMP content. This change began to take place on Google products with the start of the page experience update rollout in June; although Google has committed to testing other ways of helping to identify content that offers an excellent page experience and has promised to keep developers and publishers updated when they have more information to share.
Another new element that has been introduced by Google as part of this most recent update is the introduction of the Page Experience report which is designed to give publishers and site owners more actionable insights. The new report combines components of page experience signals, like HTTPS security, mobile friendliness and the absence of any intrusive interstitials with the existing report about Core Web Vitals.
This new Page Experience report has been created to offer valuable metrics including the percentage of URLs that offer good search impressions and page experiences over time, thus enabling developers and site owners to evaluate their performance quickly and easily. The new report also allows publishers to dig more deeply into the various components of their page experience signals n order to gain extra insights about where opportunities lie to make improvements.
As well as the launch of the new Page Experience Report, Google has also made updates to the Search Performance report which allows developers and publishers to filter out pages that offer a good page experience in order to keep better track of how those pages compare with other pages found on that website.
As another change during this update, Google announced that SXG (signed exchanges) would become general available for all web pages on Google Search, whereas previously, it only supported signed exchanges that were built using the AMP framework.
It’s important to note, though, that using SXG isn’t actually a requirement to improve page experience, however, the technology can be considered as an option to improve page experiences. When SXG was tested on Nikkei Style in Japan, a 300ms reduction was observed in LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) when SXG was used. Also, user engagement increased by 12% and there was a 9% improvement in page views per session when this test was put in place on Android Chrome.