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Google’s New Search Criteria

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By Joe Comotto, Director of Search Experience

Last week Google announced that, as of May 2021, Page Experience Signals would be included within the Google Search ranking process. Since their initial announcement in May, Google has identified a 70% median increase in the number of users engaging with Lighthouse and Page Speed Insights, with many site owners using Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report to identify areas of improvement. Changing their algorithms to include user experience within search ranking will allow Google to streamline the user journey, whilst pushing advertisers to improve their page experience, for fear of being knocked down the SERP.

So how should one prepare for this? Despite Google introducing the idea of page experience signals within search ranking close to seven months ago, the new feature is relatively unexplored, and as so often happens whenever Google launches a new update, it has been met with a flurry of queries. We asked our Director of Search Experience, Joe Comotto what this update will mean for the search industry, and how businesses can prepare their strategy in advance of the launch in May 2021.

1: What is Page Experience

“Page Experience” is a Google Algorithm update that will be introduced to Google’s search ranking process. The update will focus specifically on how a user will perceive the experience of a specific web page, combining the Google Core Web Vitals with the pre-existing search signals which includes mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

After introducing the idea of page experience signals within search ranking back in May 2020, Google have now formally announced that the update will be included in Google Search ranking from 2021 onwards, specifying that the inclusion of page experience signals will:

“measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page and contribute to our ongoing work to ensure people get the most helpful and enjoyable experiences from the web.

2: Why is this important?

If your site performs poorly or doesn’t comply with these requirements, then you can almost certainly expect to see some sort of downturn in Organic Google performance.

Sites that not only answer the searcher’s query, but provide a good user experience will now be ranked by Google at the top of the SERPS. You might have really great content but if you’re providing users with a lousy site experience and they can’t easily access the information, then Google isn’t doing its job. This has become even more of a requirement as user adoption of mobile has increased, emphasising the issue even more.

3: How do you prepare for this?

If you haven’t already started planning then there is still plenty of time left, and understanding how you currently perform is a good place to start. The best way to ensure that your website is meeting Google’s standards for site quality is to measure your performance using Core Web Vitals. 

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

Knowing where the issues exist on your site is the next step and this is best achieved through a site-wide audit of your pages. Identifying some of the quick wins that you can implement between now and May will put you in good stead for when the update is rolled out. However, don’t ignore the bigger projects because of their complexity. They may take up more time and resources, but the more complex the task the bigger the performance uplift and getting key stakeholders to buy in will be key to your success.

And don’t forget, whilst these changes are being driven by an SEO requirement, the benefits are far reaching and will impact the performance of other channels within your marketing strategy such as PPC.

For more information on what page experience signals will mean for your business, join us on the 10th December at 12:30pm for Incubeta Ignite: The Next Steps in Search, with Incubeta’s Joe Comotto, and Binary Bear’s Joe Doveton. Sign up link here.