Starting in 2021, SEO is becoming more focused on UX than ever before with the introduction of Google’s Page Experience Update.
As you know, Google’s mission is to constantly find new ways to become better at spotting the difference between “good” and “bad” websites. This upcoming change to the algorithm does exactly that, focusing on factors such as loading times, intrusive pop-ups and poor visibility, making each of these an opportunity to improve rankings.
This article is going to take you through a checklist of questions you need to know before starting to implement a new UX-focused SEO strategy.
1. When does the update launch?
While the exact date hasn’t been announced yet, Google has said they will give six months notice before the update drops. Thankfully, that’ll give you plenty of time to understand the update and its new Core Web Vitals metrics, start optimising your page experience and integrate this into your existing SEO strategy.
Get this right and its a great opportunity for you or your clients to boost organic rankings, traffic and leads, so it’s well worth a substantial investment of time and money to improve the performance of each webpage.
2. What exactly is the Page Experience Update?
In simple terms, Google wants you to create intuitive user-friendly pages throughout your website. There’s a good chance this is already a part of yours or your client’s existing strategy to some degree, or at least it should be for sustainable long term success. Brands will be rewarded for creating a website that is easy, quick and accessible to use so users’ search intent is fulfilled without having to look elsewhere at competitors. Pages with a high bounce rate are a good place to start as it suggests there may be a factor that is discouraging visitors.
Google has outlined five main factors that contribute to a website’s page experience. These include:
- Core Web Vitals
- Safe browsing
- Intrusive interstitial content
3. What are the Core Web Vitals?
Recently introduced, Web Vitals is Google’s initiative to give developers useful guidance on their website’s speed and performance, leading to better user experience. Core Web Vitals are a subset of this initiative and bring together the three signals that you’ll want to look for to measure your speed metrics. These apply to all webpages and should be regularly measured by all site-owners once the update is live.
You may have experience with the signals already, but, in the past, they have been hard to measure accurately or to assign a value to. These are:
1. Largest Contentful Paint
Largest Contentful Paint is measured by the time it takes for most of the main content of a page to load and become visible to the user. This includes elements such as images, text, video and HTML.
2. First Input Delay
First Input Delay measures the responsiveness and interactivity of the site. When a page is first loaded, your user may click on a link or a drop-down menu and experience a delay before the browser actually executes the action. Specifically, this metric measures the time taken from clicking to the browser executing that action.
3. Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative Layout Shift measures visual stability and the impact of unexpected layout shifts. Imagine a user journey where they load up a page and immediately click the link they’re looking for. Instead of executing that command, the page layout shifts, the link moves down and is replaced by another element like an ad. The user is now redirected to a completely unrelated page after this misclick. The frustration caused by this unsuccessful journey, which has always been difficult to quantify, is what this metric aims to measure.
The currently announced Core Web Vitals are not permanent but instead designed to be changed and adapted based on what Google users consider a good web experience. Each year, Google have said they will be adding new page experience signals to consistently align themselves with what users really want
4. What is more important: content or page experience?
Informative, engaging content that meets the users’ search queries is still the key to impactful SEO. Page experience isn’t intended to change or replace that, but instead to work alongside content and make it easier to present and communicate it.
You may still rank well with excellent content and below-average page experience, but to truly maximise results, both are necessary.
5. What does this mean for AMP?
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) will no longer be required to reach the featured Top Stories on mobile devices. Instead, page experience scores will become a vital factor in this. This is great news for those clients without the budget for expensive AMP projects.
6. What actions can I take right now?
There are plenty of changes you can make to yours or your clients’ websites immediately in advance of the update. Follow our advice and be sure to apply these principles to each section or page of your site, not just the landing pages if you want to maximise the rewards from Google. Use this as a checklist to get started:
- Improve your page load speed
- Review how you use ads and images
Every element of your page must add value to its usefulness and not detract from the content users want to see. As a best practice, keep pop-ups and intrusive objects to a minimum.
- Optimise your site for mobile
Use Google’s mobile-friendliness test to see where you can improve the experience for mobile users.
- Make your site more secure
If you haven’t already, get an SSL certificate for the website and switch to https for added trustworthiness and security that the user perceives it to have.
- Check your site for security issues
Generate a security report with Google Search Console and avoid malicious or deceptive content including clickbait titles.
- Compare with competitors
Research your search competitors’ pages and see how their user experience compares to yours, especially their most successful pages, then use the ideas to make yours even better.