How Page Experience Will Impact Search Rankings After Google’s 2021 Algorithm Update
Written by John Kennedy on June 24, 2020
On May 28, Google released information about an upcoming update to their search algorithm, which will go into effect at some point in 2021. The algorithm will officially make user experience metrics, such as load-time and mobile-friendliness, important search ranking factors. Google announced that this update will not occur before the end of 2020, and that they will give a 6-month notice before enacting these changes, which means there is no immediate need to take action. However, you now have the information and the opportunity to tweak your site in preparation for the update and avoid taking a hit in your rankings and traffic.
So, why is Google adding new page experience factors to their search algorithm? This is their official explanation:
Great page experiences enable people to get more done and engage more deeply; in contrast, a bad page experience could stand in the way of a person being able to find the valuable information on a page. By adding page experience to the hundreds of signals that Google considers when ranking search results, we aim to help people more easily access the information and web pages they’re looking for, and support site owners in providing an experience users enjoy.
In other words, Google wants top-ranking sites to create an experience that users will enjoy and won’t have technical issues with. Google has a mission to show users websites that they love, and they are continuing to update their algorithm in ways that align with this mission.
What New Metrics Will Impact Google’s Search Algorithms in 2021?
Google is combining a set of existing user experience signals with a new set called Core Web Vitals. The existing signals include:
- Mobile Friendliness: Site is easily viewable and usable on all mobile devices.
- Safe Browsing: Google penalizes sites that break its safe browsing policies.
- HTTPS: HTTPS is encrypted in order to increase the security of data transfer.
- No Intrusive Interstitials: No intrusive pop-ups, banners, overlays, etc.)
The new Core Web Vitals include:
- Loading Performance: Measured by Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). LCP is basically a measure of when the page loads visually for the user, and it should occur within 2.5 seconds of opening the page for the best user experience.
- Interactivity: Measured by First Input Delay (FID). This is the time between a user interacting with a page (clicking on a link or button) and when the browser actually responds to that interaction.
- Visual Stability: Measured by Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). This indicates pages that shift unexpectedly. If you are reading an article online, the page shifts, and you lose your place, that is a CLS issue. This typically happens because items on the page load at different times. For the best user experience, pages should have a CLS of less than 0.1.
How Can I Prepare My Site for the Google Update?
While rankings won’t be changing today, you can start preparing for the 2021 Google update by assessing your site Here are some resources that Google has provided to help webmasters assess page experience:
All of these free tools can be used to identify user experience issues on your site so that you can make the adjustments you need to avoid losing your rankings next year.
Despite these new ranking factors, many existing factors are still crucial. For example, engaging content that answers the questions of search queries will still rank high even if their page experience metrics aren’t perfect. Here are some other helpful articles we’ve written to help business owners increase their websites’ search rankings and produce more relevant, organic traffic from search:
Thanks for reading, and remember, if you have questions about search rankings and how you can improve your site for the best results, you can speak with an SEO specialist at Plum.