Ronak Kothari is the founder of RONKOT, a full-service digital marketing agency.
Google had already understood the importance of page experience and speed back in 2009. As described in its Google AI Blog, the search engine giant ran multiple experiments to understand and determine user preferences for on par page experience.
However, after more research, analysis, and a decade later, Google finally dropped the Page Experience Update. It consists of important page experience signals such as Core Web Vitals, Mobile-friendliness, among others.
The update was gradually rolled out last year between June and August 2021 for mobile whereas the same is expected to complete for desktop by the end of March 2022. Thus, it has become an absolute necessity for webmasters to comply with the update.
Not doing so may affect your Google SERP rankings, traffic, lead generation, conversion rate, and other SEO KPIs. The only way out is to prepare your website for this humongous change.
But before we get into how you can do so, let’s understand what the fuss is all about and why you need to comply with this update.
What’s the Google Page Experience Update?
The Page Experience Update from Google is the latest SEO algorithm update that aims to prioritize sites with better page experience and quality content to rank higher. Preparing your websites for the update would help your small business to master SEO.
Onwards March 2022, Google will determine rankings for websites based on certain page experience signals that include,
- Core Web Vitals
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
- Mobile Friendliness
- No Intrusive Interstitials.
Further, Google will continue to measure and identify additional page experience signals and include them on a yearly basis. This will help Google to further align with evolving user expectations and increase user experience signals that can be measured.
Why Prepare Your Website for Page Experience Signals?
Before the Page Experience and mobile-first indexing update, most of the SEO updates revolved around content quality and building expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T).
However, the page experience update is Google’s push toward offering a better user experience on its search platform. Though Google has always favored sites with great experience, by bringing this update, they’ve solidified their effort.
What this means is websites with average or low on-page experience scores will be ranked lower on the SERP than the sites with a higher score.
Complying with this page experience update, in addition to optimizing content quality & EAT, would do the following for your website,
- Improve Page Experience for Users
- Boost SEO
- More Web Visibility
- Reduced Bounce Rate
- Higher SERP Ranking
- Spike in Traffic
- Increased Conversions, etc.
From the first impression, page experience update promises to offer immense benefits for webmasters. However, preparing for such an important and enormous update is not going to be effortless.
Here, we present a detailed plan on how you can prepare your website for the update:
How Can You Prepare for Google Page Experience Update?
1. Optimize Render Speed of Largest Content
Render speed or page load speed, particularly for the largest content is one of the primary signals and core web vital. As you can see in the image below, the probability of users bouncing off increases with the increase in page load time.
After much discussion and research, Google found that the more meaningful way to look at the load speed of content on a page is to look at the rendering speed of the largest content. Thus, the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) got introduced.
Now how can you optimize your pages for LCP? Let’s get you an answer.
Before starting with optimization, audit your page for LCP using the PageSpeed Insights tool from Google. You’ll find analysis just like the image below where opportunities and diagnostic reports are provided for improvement.
Here’s what else you can do to optimize the render speed of the largest content:
- Compress Images: Google recommends using a WebP image format for both lossy and lossless compression to enhance render speed.
- Reduce Server Response Time: Analyze and audit your servers for any possible bottlenecks and try to eliminate them. If needs be, employ CDN to deliver the largest content/media files from the nearest location to users.
- Remove Render-Blocking Resources: Several JS and CSS files cause blockades for the rendering of content. Try using inline critical CSS and deferring all non-critical JS/style.
- Use Server-Side Rendering: Instead of stuffing client-side machines for rendering pages, you can use server-rendered pages for improved LCP.
2. Improve Your Page’s Interactivity
The interactivity of your website is measured by the First Input Delay. It’s the time taken for the page to become interactive for users to take action like clicking, scrolling, zooming, etc.
Improving a page’s interactivity is imperative for businesses to improve their website’s SEO and make a great first impression on users. If they know your website is slower than a snail, they’ll just bounce right off your page.
After the implementation of this update, Google aims to rank websites higher with an FID score of 100 milliseconds or lower. Now the question is how you can improve that for your website? Let’s go back to the diagnostic report in the PageSpeed tool.
Hefty JS files, long main-thread tasks, chaining critical requests, etc. cause a delay for the page to become interactive. Eliminating them and following the below steps would help you improve interactivity for your website.
- Break Long-Threaded Tasks: Long-threaded tasks block the main thread and impede your page’s responsiveness. Try breaking them down into smaller chunks to improve your FID and interactivity.
- Optimize & Minify CSS & JS Code: By optimizing your CSS and JS code, you can significantly improve the page’s interactivity & FID score.
- Remove or Reduce Unused JS or CSS: By removing or reducing the unused JS or CSS resources the browser has to download, you can improve the FID score and interactivity of your page.
3. Minimize Major Layout Shifts
The third page experience signal and Core Web Vital — Cumulative Layout Shift, is a measure of the layout shift score of major bursts in unexpected layout shifts. They occur when an element or content changes its position from one frame to another.
Previously, Google considered individual layout shifts that took place in its entire lifespan, which is now an outdated practice. Today, the metric has evolved to ignore minor layout shifts.
Webmasters should strive to achieve a CLS of 0.1 or less for offering a great user experience. Let’s see how you can achieve so:
- Specify Width & Height of Elements: Make a habit to always specify the width and height of the elements such as images, videos, ad units, etc. to avoid incorrect arrangement of content.
- Reserve place for Ads: Ads majorly contribute to the layout shift. Reserve a definite space for ads, which will limit the major layout shifts.
- Pre-allocate Space for Embeds: Embeddable widgets also cause significant layout shifts and increase CLS score. To minimize it, pre-allocate enough space for embeds with a placeholder or fallback.
- Animation: Animations can sometimes trigger changes in layout or re-layout, which can be transformed by changing a number of CSS properties to minimize impact.
- Dynamic Content & Web Fonts: Reserve sufficient space for dynamic content to keep it inside the viewport to not cause any shifts. Use necessary web font tools and loading APIs to reduce the CLS time.
4. Enhance Your Mobile-Friendliness
Mobile-friendly websites make it to the other side of the Page Experience Update. Google has already adopted the mobile-first indexing approach for the whole web.
It has even come up with a test tool to determine your website’s Mobile-friendliness. This tool also describes all the issues with your website’s mobile version. Also, you can even use PageSpeed Insights mobile report to fix issues with your mobile website.
Fixing these bottlenecks will enhance the mobile friendliness of your website. Here’s what else you can do:
- Select the mobile-friendly platform & templates: For mobile-friendly websites, start by selecting the responsive platform & templates that can easily adapt to the device size and resolution.
- Strip Your Content Down: Break down the large chunk of content, shorten your forms, merge fields, keep menus short & organized for improved mobile friendliness.
- Optimize media files: Compress your images and embed video from a third-party vendor. This will load off the large weight from your website to make it mobile-friendly.
- CTA button size & placement: Design your website pages or landing pages with effective mobile design practices like not placing too many CTAs on one page that confuses users.
- Avoid or remove Flash animations: Older websites that still use outdated Flash animations make your website cluttered for mobile users. Remove them or avoid using them on your website.
5. Improve Content Quality to Reduce Bounce Rate
The page experience update highlights the importance of page experience signals. However, it still favors the quality of the content on the page more than the experience.
By bringing the latest update, Google had created a ruckus in the industry. It made all of us wonder, will Google consider page experience as an important signal for ranking over the relevance of the content?
Well, in one of the articles Google has clearly mentioned that it will seek to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page has a subpar page experience score. A high page experience score doesn’t override the quality content.
However, in cases where multiple pages possess similar context and relevance, Google will rank them based on the page experience score. Thus, businesses need to prepare their website SEO strategy that focuses on both parts equally.
Offering quality content also helps in reducing the bounce rate for your website. Bounce rate may not be the factor for page experience, however, reducing it can help improve user engagement and dwell time.
Here’s how else you can reduce bounce rate and improve user engagement for improved overall page experience:
- Limit content and distraction by utilizing white space properly across the website.
- Leverage visuals and videos as much as possible to engage users with your content.
- Implement an exit-intent pop-up before customers leave your site.
- Make it effortless and hassle-free for users to navigate through a website.
- Format on-page content for easy reading and understanding.
6. Optimize for Other Page Experience Signals
Apart from the Core Web Vitals and mobile-friendliness of a website, site security and intrusive interstitials are also important page experience signals.
Google has made it mandatory for websites to install SSL certificates to make websites secure with HTTPS. HTTPS websites are considered more secure against any fraudulent activity than HTTP websites.
Thus, when it comes to ranking, Google will prioritize HTTPS websites over HTTP to offer a secure and better user experience.
Another important page experience signal that Google now considers as a ranking signal is intrusive interstitials. These are unwanted popups or notifications on mobile devices that hinder the page experience when users are trying to navigate your website.
Websites that install interstitials — which visually obscure mobile users from engaging with the page content and can hence score negatively in a page experience report. Here’s an example of intrusive interstitials.
Meanwhile, websites with the interstitials such as cookie usage, age verification, and banners that use a reasonable amount of space won’t be affected by this new page experience update.
Apart from the page experience signals we discussed, many seem to believe that Safe Browsing is one of the signals. However, Google has clarified that it’s not currently part of the page experience report.
The page experience update from Google marks its foot forward in the direction of taking the user experience a notch above. The search engine giant already favors ranking websites with the best possible information.
Preparing your website for this vital and enormous algorithm update may seem a bit overwhelming. That’s where SEO professionals from Ronkot can come in handy. We are an expert team of SEO to help small & local businesses to enhance their web and SEO presence by implementing strategic SEO.
Get in touch with us for more info and get a complimentary beverage from us.