We’ve been saying for a long time that web pages that deliver a great experience are more likely to rank highly in the search engines compared to those that don’t. Users prefer sites that are quick to load, are mobile-friendly and deliver a great on page experience. While signals like these have been part of Google’s ranking algorithm for many years, starting in 2021 they will look at the holistic experience as part of a new page experience ranking signal.
What this means for you
In short, if you want to continue to rank well in the search engines then you need to ensure that your pages are properly optimized, load quickly, work well on all devices, are safe and secure. This new page experience ranking signal measures aspects regarding perceived experience when interacting with a web page. This new signal will give a ranking boost to websites that provide an excellent page experience on mobile and make engagement and transactions as frictionless as possible.
How the new page experience signal works
Starting next year Google will be combining their existing Search signals for page experience including mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS security, and the usage of intrusive interstitials and adding some new real-world user-centric metrics known as Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals are related to the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of a website and the main factors that they look at are:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – A measure of loading performance, according to Google the LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of the page first loading. Elements that are considered to be part of the largest contentful paint include images, videos, block-level elements that contain text and other inline elements.
First Input Delay (FID) – The FID measures how interactive your web page is. To provide a good user experience your web pages should have a first input delay of less than 100 milliseconds. This metric is all about how long your browser takes to respond to actions such as clicking on a link, tapping on a button or using a control such as a filter on a form.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – A measure of stability, CLS looks at how much elements move during loading, to provide a great experience you should maintain a cumulative layout shift of less than 0.1. An example of bad CLS would be if you go to click on an order button and it moves down causing you to click on the cancel order button instead.
How to optimise your site for Core Web Vitals
The first step when it comes to optimising your website is to measure the current performance and how your website stacks up when it comes to the new Core Web Vitals metrics. Luckily, these are easy to test with new tools added to Google’s suite of products such as Search Console, Page Speed Insights, Lighthouse and Chrome DevTools.
In addition to the Core Web Vitals there are additional metrics that are essential to deliver a great user experience. These include metrics such as Time to First Byte, Time to Interactive and First Contentful Paint which are all part of the loading and interactivity of your site.
Is page experience more important than content?
Having a great page experience is not a guarantee that your web page will suddenly start to rank above those of your competitors. Google will still prioritise pages that have the best information based on the needs of users. Where page experience will make the biggest difference is where you are in a competitive industry with lots of websites having great content, in this case the sites with the best page experience are likely to be the ones that feature more prominently in search results.