In the summer of last year, Google announced that new signals would be added to page experience ranking factors which, along with the existing hundreds of ranking signals, would be a major factor when it rolls out its next big update in May.
Content has always been king and it has been at the heart of most of Google’s recent notable algorithm updates. However, this year we are going to see a much more technical and UX focus.
In order to have a website firing on all cylinders in Google’s eyes, businesses need to shift focus to not only delivering great content but having a great page experience too.
So, if you are a webmaster or own a website and you haven’t nailed these ranking factors, you better keep reading.
What do we mean by page experience?
When determining the experience users receive, Google considers a set of signals. This includes:
Mobile friendliness: The internet is being accessed more and more from mobile devices such as smartphone and tablets.
If you haven’t ensured your website navigates well on mobile this must be made a design and development priority.
Google reports that 94% of people with smartphones search for local information via their mobile devices, so you really want to ensure your site is fully optimised.
Use Google’s on free tool and pop in your URL to see if it meets the standards it is expecting.
Safe browsing and HTTPS: Google wants searchers to know that the pages it shows in the SERPS are safe to browse.
The ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for secure. It goes without saying that you should have an SSL for your website, along with a powerful firewall for added protection.
Google will reward safe pages by ranking them highly as, ultimately, they offer a better user experience.
Core Web Vitals: This is the big one. Google introduced Core Web Vitals in order to help webmasters clearly assess a website’s experience.
The initiative allows site owners to measure their site against three main factors; LCP, FID and CLS.
Google says “each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome”.
Let’s take a closer look at the three main factors:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
- First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
Intrusive interstitial guidelines: i.e. pop-up ads. These are to be avoided. Pop-ups both annoy users and interrupt their online experience, neither of which you want for an update focused mainly on user experience.
The importance of early preparation
Google’s incoming changes are essential to you because your SEO strategy for Q1 and Q2 should focus not just on keywords and authoritative links, but also the technical performance and UX of your site.
Look at both high and low-performing webpages and blog posts. Unnecessary pages should be deleted, while the information and links in your content also need to be up-to-date.
To improve page loading times, consider compressing the images on your website to smaller file sizes and think about the theme you use, too.
One particularly challenging industry is online gaming. FindMyUkCasino is constantly seeking to stand out as a UK casino affiliate, and Head of Content James Ashton explained how they’re doing this.
His revelations give an idea of what other site owners should consider before May:
“In the highly competitive online casino comparison sector, most of our rivals have achieved the same standard of content that we have. So, we have looked to other areas of improvement to gain an edge in the SERPs.
“To this end, we have invested resources into improving site speed and the user experience on mobile. Since doing this, we have seen our rankings increase.”
Don’t disregard your content marketing
Content marketing will still play a key role in your Google search rankings.
Ultimately, Google will prioritise pages that provide the best possible information based on the users’ search query.
However, if two pages from two sites provide the same quality content, other factors will determine which site ranks above the other.
So long as your content is better than your rivals’, you should rank well once the update has been rolled out.
First of Many
The spring 2021 update won’t be the last time that a Google update focuses on a seamless online experience.
The best way to prepare for this update and those to follow is to put yourself in Google’s shoes.
If you were a Google inspector how would you really assess your site; is navigation seamless, buttons where you expect them to be, is the site lightning fast?
Be honest with yourself and you should see areas that need to be improved.
By carrying out regular site audits and trimming down irrelevant pages, optimising your site for mobile and continuing to provide the information and content users are looking for, your site will keep ranking highly now and once the algorithm update has been rolled out in May.