Last Thursday, Google announced via a blog post that it will be introducing a new signal bringing together its new Core Web Vitals and its existing “page experience” metrics, using both as ranking criteria.
With the search giant saying the changes will not come into effect this year, the fact that Google is giving at least seven months’ notice of this signal suggests it’s likely to be a significant change. The post does acknowledge, however, that site owners are concentrating on the COVID-19 pandemic at present, which may have affected its decision to give plenty of prior warning.
The phrase “page experience” might sound vague to many website owners. Everything from how a page looks, to how long it takes to load, to how well-written its content is might be thought of as “experience”, so what exactly is Google looking for here?
Google lists five page experience signals in particular for website owners to focus on if they want their sites to rank well:
Core Web Vitals
The Web Vitals initiative we mentioned earlier was only introduced by Google a few weeks ago, but is now the first metric listed by Google as a factor in delivering page experience.
The initiative is all about load speed and responsiveness. Sites are given a rating for how long they take to load the main content, how responsive they are when the user first tries to interact, and their layout and how well it stays in place. Each of these are graded either ‘good’, ‘needs improvement’ or ‘poor’.
More information about Core Web Vitals and how they are measured can be found here.
As of late 2019, 52.6% of global internet traffic came from mobiles, and this doesn’t include tablets, meaning desktop computers are responsible for well under half of our web use. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Google sees mobile-unfriendly websites as offering poor user experience.
With Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, you can find out in an instant whether your site is optimised for mobile use, and what you need to do if it isn’t.
Some browsers, including Firefox, now give pop-up warnings to users who try to access HTTP websites, advising them that they may not be secure. Its extension HTTPS is now preferred, with developers noting that it helps protect page authenticity. A guide to migrating your site to HTTPS can be found here.
No intrusive interstitials
This means pop-up ads, basically. Google advises for pop-ups to be non-intrusive, although it does note that the common cookie consent forms we see in the post-GDPR world are not classed as affecting page experience, and nor are notices advising of content being behind a paywall, as you might see on some news websites.
Sites shouldn’t be malicious or deceptive, with no malware or phishing techniques. This might sound obvious, but often, site owners are not aware their pages fall foul of this. Google has a tool that can be used to check whether yours is affected.
As you can see, “experience” in Google’s ranking terms relates mainly to site layout, loading and security. Once you have this framework in place, you can build on it with high-quality, engaging content. At Engage Web, we can help you with all aspects of what makes a website work well, and in plenty of time for the 2021 change.