Google’s Page Experience Update 2021 and UX Optimization
Struggling with Your website and Google’s Page Experience Update 2021? Learn How to Optimize UX Wisely to Stay Visible in Google.
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When you hear the expression “SEO,” you probably think about tons of keyword research and planting special phrases and words throughout your page’s content.
However, with Google’s latest update to their ranking system, aspects of user and page experience will take on a much more prominent role in determining how well your page ranks for relevant searches.
This means in addition to having valuable content that attracts organic traffic, it’ll be just as important to make sure that content is readily accessible to users and easy to interact with.
In this article, we’ll take a close look at Google’s Page Experience Update, what it means for SEO, and how you can prepare your site to stay on top of the search results page.
What exactly is “page experience?”
In a nutshell, page experience is literally the experience a user has while interacting with your page. More broadly, page experience encompasses all the technical details happening behind the scenes that affect how well a user is able to access the content and engage with the interface.
Why is page experience important for SEO?
For a long time, the predominant focus of SEO was centered around selecting the right keywords and delivering highly relevant and valuable content to users. With the addition of page experience signals as ranking factors on Google, the world’s most popular search engine, relying on content alone is no longer a viable way to show up at the top of SERPs.
Instead, digital marketers need to ensure that websites are delivering articles, posts, and other related news that are not only high-quality, but also accessible and easy to view.
How does Google’s page experience update relate to user experience?
Page experience falls under the umbrella of User Experience (UX). Whereas other major parts of Google UX involve more front-end aspects such as content and visual layout of the user interface, page experience concerns the back-end components and vital features that allow visitors to interact with the page.
Big changes with Google’s Page Experience Update in 2021
After officially mentioning upcoming changes earlier this year in April, Google began steadily releasing updates to the ranking system in the middle of June, with an emphasis on expanding the purpose of page experience as a critical factor for ranking.
What’s included in the latest Google Page Experience Update?
The Google Page Experience Update 2021 was finalized in September. What made this update unique compared to other adjustments to Google’s ranking system was the page experience, which is one of the few ranking factors that the tech giant has been atypically transparent about.
The recent update is all about page speed (Core Web Vitals), so developers have to focus on that in order to get higher rankings. However, content relevancy is still the main signal for the search engine when analyzing your pages. Though page experience signals have previously been used as ranking factors, this latest update places more value on web performance metrics for a given page.
Google’s Page Experience Signals
To give marketers and developers some guidance and direction, Google has specified 4 categories of signals for page experience to concentrate on:
- Mobile-Friendliness (responsiveness) — this tells you how usable a page is for mobile users
- HTTPS — the connection to the page is secure and served via HTTPS
- No Intrusive Interstitials — the user can readily access the page’s content
- Core Web Vitals — the page provides an excellent general user experience, with emphasis on:
- Largest Contentful Paint — how rapidly and fully the page loads
- First Input Delay — how interactive the page is
- Cumulative Layout Shift — the visual stability of the page and its elements
Although these signals didn’t explicitly influence SEO performance before, they’ve long had a significant effect on users’ perception of a given website or page.
By explicitly incorporating signals of page experience as part of their long list of ranking factors, Google tells online marketers and web developers that page experience and performance should be taken more seriously.
Tools for Measuring Your Page in Terms of Google User Experience
If you haven’t spent much time analyzing your site’s performance for page experience, there’s no need to worry.
The good thing about the page experience update are the signals that Google is focusing on is that they’re easy to evaluate and monitor. Here are a few tools you can use to track and evaluate each category of page experience signals:
Review how mobile-friendly your site is by trying out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. It’s a simple “pass/fail” tool and gives you pointers if your page isn’t quite up to par in terms of mobile friendliness.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) Certificate
The simplest way to see if your site is HTTPS-enabled is to navigate to your website address and look for “https” at the beginning. If your site isn’t yet HTTPS-certified, you can apply some tips from Google’s article here on How to Secure Your Site with HTTPS and obtain the help you need.
The metrics of page experience like Largest Contentful Paint and First Input Delay can be analyzed by reviewing your site with Google’s Page Speed Insights tool.
Core Web Vitals
When using Page Speed Insights, you can also receive the Core Web Vitals report if your site is connected to Google Search Console (GSC). Similar to the readout on Page Speed Insights, this report will give you an overview of your page’s performance for the key Core Web Vitals metrics
SE Ranking’s online website audit tool offers users a full and comprehensive assessment of all the aspects of your webpage that relate to page experience. What’s great about this tool is that it points out issues your page may be having, and also provides solutions that you can use to repair any outstanding issues.
How do Google’s page experience signals work with User Experience (UX)?
This update related to page experience places a significant emphasis on:
- Having core elements and content load in the first place
- Organizing content and elements in way that’s easy to navigate
- Providing an interactive page almost instantaneously
This works to tie aspects of good User Experience (UX) into Google’s SEO ranking factors.
Consequently, in the future SEO will most likely depend on high quality content, and content that is maximally available to users.
Simple Tips for Optimizing UX and Page Experience
Now that user and page experience have taken on such a critical role in a page’s ability to rank, it’s important to know how to optimize your page to perform well in each of these signal categories.
Here’s some quick tips to help you make sure your page experience is improving your ranking, and not lowering it.
Optimizing UX is an ongoing and dynamic task that depends largely on changes to user behavior over time. That is why it’s particularly helpful to monitor web analytics data that will give you an indication of how your users are engaging with your pages while being able to judge what’s working and what’s not. You can leverage this data and perform A/B-testing to discover certain elements that encourage traffic to your site and keep users on your pages.
Make sure to incorporate specific keywords that users are using when looking for the kind of content you’re providing. To help show search bots that your content is relevant, you’ll also want to incorporate keywords and keyword clusters that are topically related to your focus keywords. Keep your content updated frequently, especially if your content is time-sensitive, as this ensures your page doesn’t fall off on the SERPs.
Website Structure Optimization
Use internal linking wherever possible to reinforce your site’s hierarchy and help users navigate more easily from page to page, especially those that are closely related. Double-check that the URLs for each of your webpages have a clear structure that indicates the category and subcategory that a given page belongs to. Overall, it’s best practice to make your hierarchy and site structure cleanly defined so that it resembles a Pyramid-like system
Ensure your website is secured by a Transport Layer Security (TLS)/Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. These certificates verify that connections to your website are secured and protected via data encryption, which then indicates to your browser and search engines that your website is safe to interact with. Most of the additional aspects of security optimization take place on the back-end, where you’ll want to take extra care to keep all sensitive data and information protected with strong passwords and reliable security software.
The Bottom Line
Like it or not, Google’s taken a big step toward integrating key elements of good UX into its system of ranking pages in this most recent page experience update. Going forward, that means in order to maintain high-rank positions on the SERPs, you’ll need to not only have high-value content but also deliver a flawless page experience.
For marketers, product managers, and web developers, it’s becoming increasingly important to look at how mobile-friendly (responsive) your website is, how rapidly the pages load, the level of security you’re able to offer, and how easily users are able to interact with your platform.