User experience and SEO haven’t always been the best of friends. Thankfully, Google has upped its game over the last decade and has developed more of its algorithms to act more and more like actual users. While metrics like site and page speed have officially been a ranking factor since Google released its “Speed Update” in 2018, other areas of user experience haven’t seen the same level of attention.
To the joy of user experience and web design teams everywhere, Google recently announced a new algorithm update that will officially make the user experience a ranking factor as a whole. The Google Page Experience update isn’t slated to roll out until sometime in 2021, which gives us at least half a year to make sure our ducks are in a row.
Core Web Vitals for Page Experience
The ranking signals for page experience will include the existing signals for mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, safe-browsing, and accessible content as well as these Core Web Vitals:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)—How quickly does the main content of the page load? According to Google, this should happen within 2.5 seconds. Waiting around for the content that enticed you to click through to the page is always frustrating. Beyond being a future ranking signal for Google, having content that takes too long to load turns visitors away. For B2B technology companies, that can mean a lost conversion opportunity!
- First Input Delay (FID)—How long does a user have to wait until they can interact with the page? Even if the content on the page loads at the speed of light, if you can’t interact with the page, how are you going to fill out the form or click the CTA? Google recommends that this delay be no longer than roughly a minute and a half.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)—Do elements of the page shift around unexpectedly? There’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to click a CTA only to have the page suddenly shift mid-click. (I’m not sure I can count the number of times I’ve exclaimed, “WHY?!” at my phone because of this.) Luckily, Google has created a CLS score measurement to track against to make it easier to identify when you may be serving this dreadful experience to your users.
These metrics can be found in your Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console, from the Page Speed Insights tool or the Chrome User Experience Report. There’s also a Chrome extension that’s in the works that will make it easy to see these metrics while browsing.
Page Experience vs Content
Having high-quality, informative, and authoritative content that meets the needs of your audience will continue to be the best thing you can do when it comes to increasing visibility in search. However, if you’re up against competitors, you may lose out in search because of user experience if your page experience is frustrating, unwieldy, and slow.
“While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.” —Google
The search engine giant has promised to give an update six months before the Page Experience update rolls out, so you still have a bit of time before it goes in to effect to make any changes. But don’t wait until Google forces you to update your site, having an unpleasant user experience isn’t going to serve your marketing goals in the meantime.
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