The Page Experience Update will introduce a couple of new signals for the search engine to interpret. In November 2020, Google announced its latest update to the ranking systems we all use on a daily basis. Naturally, every time a new update rolls out, site owners and SEO experts dread the prospect of having to reinvent their strategies. This time should be different. Find out all you need to know about the Page Experience Update and how to optimize your website for the upcoming changes.
When to Expect the Latest Update?
The Page Experience Update became part of the ranking systems in June 2021 and it’s already brought about a couple of noticeable changes. However, it won’t into full effect until August of the same year. By the end of August, the latest update will have been fully rolled out and in effect.
What Is the Page Experience Update?
The Page Experience Update introduces page experience score, a measure of how optimal your users’ browsing experience is.
It’s not an unheard-of change. In 2014, Google made it abundantly clear that user experience matters by emphasizing the importance of mobile usability and the HTTPS protocol.
Now they’re just combining all the relevant user experience metrics into a single page experience score. To earn a “good” page experience score, you need to stay on top of the following signals:
- Core Web Vitals
- Mobile Usability
- Ad Experience.
Core Web Vitals is already a metric that many SEO experts get behind. Keeping track of Core Web Vitals is probably already on your to-do list, it’s just that you’ll have to pay even more attention to this signal now.
On top of that, there should be no mobile usability issues of any kind. After all, the Page Experience Update was initially aimed at mobile specifically, however, Google announced that the update will influence desktop websites as well. It’s not clear yet when this change will take place, but it’s safe to assume that it won’t happen before the end of August 2021.
Since security and privacy are the pillars of page experience, solving all safety issues is paramount to getting a good score. It goes without saying that you must have an HTTPS protocol if you don’t already.
As for the ads, the Page Experience Update will look at how websites are displaying interstitials. Intrusive interstitials that cover some of the web page’s content and reduce content accessibility are bound to harm your page experience score.
The End of AMP?
Since Google first introduced AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages, it’s caused nothing but trouble for Google and site owners alike. Website owners who wanted to make it onto the Top Stories carousel or Google News had to sign up for the AMP format. There was no getting around it — you had to use Google’s technology if you wanted to succeed. For Google, it meant antitrust scrutiny as AMP was more than unfair and allowed Google to wedge itself between the user and the websites they were visiting.
It should come as no surprise then that Google decided to get rid of AMP with the Page Experience Update. AMP is no longer a requirement for websites that want to make it to the Top Stories carousel or for content to appear on Google News. To top it all off, Google is also removing the AMP badge icon from search results.
Top Stories and Google News should be a more even playing field now with the removal of AMP. The speed is still the prevailing factor here — the faster your website loads the higher the likelihood it will rank better. Not only that but Core Web Vitals and the overall page experience score won’t factor into the Top Stories requirements.
You can still use the AMP framework if you rely on it for delivering fast-loading pages. However, you don’t have to anymore, which is a significant step up from how it was. It’s never been the only way to deliver fast-loading pages, only now you have a choice in how you want to do it and still make it onto the Top Stories.
Optimizing for the Page Experience Update
You probably deduced some potential pain points you’ll have to solve when the update rolls out completely. It wouldn’t be surprising if you feel like there’s nothing to worry about, especially if you’ve paid attention to user experience in the past. In that case, you might spend your time getting rid of AMP and replacing it with an even more efficient means of deploying fast-loading pages.
For those who’ve paid no heed to UX and let disrupting interstitials run rampant, it’s time for some changes.
1. Optimize Interstitials for Both Mobile and Desktop
If you have large banner ads that are blocking important content on your website, your page experience score is going to suffer. Optimizing interstitials so that they don’t interrupt the normal flow of the page by blocking off pieces of content is the first step to a good score. Accessibility is yet another pillar of page experience, so you don’t want to have ads ruining that.
However, don’t just fix the desktop version without heading over to mobile or vice versa. When all of your content is clearly visible on both desktop and mobile, your website will be better prepared for what’s coming.
2. Track Core Web Vitals
Some of the tools that you’re using such as the Search Console, now have a Core Web Vitals report alongside all the other features. If you don’t do so already, now’s the time to begin keeping track of the Core Web Vitals.
You can use the report to determine which pages are underperforming, and then use a tool such as PageSpeed Insights to get to the bottom of the issue. Improving Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift signals ensures you’re ready for the upcoming changes.
3. Ensure Mobile-Friendliness
Besides making sure that the ads are displaying properly on mobile, you have to check the page loading speed as well as the layout of the page.
The mobile version of a website should check all the boxes that a desktop one should — it needs to be fast, accessible, and offer a seamless experience that users are after. If you’re using a WordPress template, make sure you’re getting one that’s optimized for mobile.
4. Fix Security Issues
Implement secure payment gateways, fix broken pages, and make sure that your website loads fast enough. It also has a role to play in keeping your users safe.
The Page Experience Update’s Effect on SEO
Google’s updates to the ranking systems often wreak havoc on unsuspecting websites and cause spikes in websites’ rankings. According to Google, that shouldn’t be the case this time around for a couple of reasons.
First off, the Page Experience Update isn’t “hitting the shelves” all at once. The gradual rollout process stretching from mid-June to the end of August should be enough time for site owners and SEO teams to adjust to the new reality. In most cases, gradually rolling out updates mitigates spikes that often follow changes to the ranking systems.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Google doesn’t consider the Page Experience Update as a major one. They refer to the page experience score as a lightweight ranking signal or a tiebreaker. In other words, if there are two websites of similar quality, then the page experience score might just give the bump in rankings to the site that offers a better page experience.
The Page Experience Update won’t skyrocket websites that are underperforming or break sites that are already doing well. Having a good page experience score might just give you the edge you need to overtake similarly ranking competitors.
You could make an argument that Google often downplays the effect their updates have on search engine rankings. In this case, they might just be right. Since the core tenets of the Page Experience Update align with good and well-established SEO practices, it’s reasonable to expect there won’t be any major issue for the SEO-minded.
Where to Find Your Page Experience Score?
You can find your page experience score in the Google Search Console. That will be your primary source of information for everything page experience-related.
Wrapping Your Head Around the Page Experience Update
The Page Experience Update has highlighted the need to focus on your users more than ever. Keeping your loading times low and accessibility high is only the first step to getting a good page experience score.
Protecting your users’ privacy and guaranteeing a seamless browsing experience is now going to be more important than ever.
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