Google first informed us about the page experience update last year, and in June 2021, it started the gradual rollout of the update. The update was completed by the end of August 2021. Now, all website owners need to start optimizing their sites for the best user experience.
The page experience update will factor in several page experience signals, including the three Core Web Vitals metrics, HTTP security, mobile-friendliness, and intrusive interstitials. The objective of the update is to prioritize pages with the very best user experience in search results.
The update could potentially affect the SEO ranking of the critical web pages on your website. If the ranking falls on the search engine, expect to witness reduced impressions, lower Click-through Rates (CTR), organic traffic, sales, revenue, and profits. If left unchecked, this update can crash your eCommerce business.
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What Exactly is the Page Experience Update?
Page experience update is a new ranking algorithm from Google to judge websites. It is based on how real-world users perceive the experience of interacting with pages on the site. In essence, if Google thinks that users to your web pages will receive a poor user experience - Google may not rank those pages as high as they are ranked now.
Google will evaluate your page experience per URL. At present, the page experience gets considered only for mobile browsers - users browsing on mobile devices. Thus, only searches from mobile devices get affected. Also, Google brought up that this update will not cause a severe or drastic impact on search rankings.
Furthermore, Google will no longer show the Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) badge icon on the search results to indicate AMP content. However, Google will consider your AMP page and a thousand other signals to rank them in Google Search results. Also, this update is different from the core update that rolled out in June.
Components of Page Experience Update
1. Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals include real-world and user-centered metrics such as Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift. The score against each metric serves a purpose and reveals a particular detail to Google. Google will factor the score to determine the overall user experience.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP measures the loading time and performance of the webpage. To provide a quality user experience, the largest content on the page must load within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
First Input Delay (FID)
FID measures the interactive ability of a webpage. For a quality user experience, pages must respond within 100 milliseconds after the user starts interacting with them. FID indicates the overall responsiveness of a webpage.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS measures the visual stability of a webpage. For a quality user experience, all pages must maintain a CLS score of less than 0.1. The CLS score is the sum of all the abrupt layout shifts that users experience on a page.
Mobile-friendliness has been a vital metric to determine page ranking. In 2018, Google started mobile-first indexing and prioritized responsive and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) over standard web pages that provided a diminished user experience on other devices.
Google will continue to factor in mobile speed signals to determine the overall usability and experience. Since April 21, Google has decided to use mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Thus, store owners may need to start making mobile-friendly websites that deliver a consistent and stable user experience on all devices.
Google wants to promote and give more emphasis on Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) over HTTP. The encrypted communication and interactivity on a web page through Transport Layer Security enables a safe browsing experience for all users. Google expects all site owners to migrate from the non-secure HTTP to HTTPS.
The best part is that site owners can migrate their websites to HTTPS with no drastic impact on Google rankings or organic search traffic. Google aims to build a secure web ecosystem and thus wants all websites to have HTTPS. Essentially, every web page must be served over HTTPS to qualify for good page experience status in Google search.
4. Intrusive Interstitials
Google is likely to demote web pages that obscure content for users with intrusive interstitials. Despite the availability of rich and indexable content on the page, it may all be visually obstructed by an interstitial. This diminishes the user experience on the page for visitors who were hoping to access the content much more effortlessly.
Providing a frictionless experience on every web page is paramount. Web pages that fail to deliver an outstanding user experience pay the price. Since such pages provide a poorer experience than pages where content is instantly accessible. This is more problematic in mobile devices, where screens are even smaller. Thus, pages, where content isn't easily accessible from mobile search results may not rank as highly.
Here are some commonly occurring interstitials on web pages.
- Web pages show a pop-up that hides the main content, either right after a user lands on that page from the search results or while scrolling through the page.
- Displaying an interstitial that stays on the page and doesn't disappear automatically. As such, the user has to close the same before he can access the main content.
- Web pages that use a layout where the above-the-fold portion looks very similar to a pop-up that appears on the page, but the original content gets inlined underneath the fold.
However, this will not consider banners that use minimal screen space and can be easily dismissed by the user. It'll also exclude any login dialog box and other pop-ups that warrant user information about cookie storage and age verification.
5. Content is Still Supreme
Despite the emphasis on page speed and overall user experience, Google will continue to rank pages with superior content for relevant keywords. These pages could have a sub-par user experience and fail to meet other criteria. Still, seeing as the content is complete, relevant, and valuable, Google will rank that page above all the others.
However, if two pages contain similar information, the page that offers a better experience for all the page experience signals will rank higher. In this scenario, page experience becomes much more essential for search visibility. An excellent page experience doesn't override relevant content, but it'll act as a contributing factor to your search engine rankings.
How Can You Optimize the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) of Your eCommerce Website?
Try implementing the following tactics to optimize the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) value of your website and get the same in par with the optimal value expected by Google:
- Improve the efficiency of your server. Divert visitors to the nearest Content Delivery Network (CDN). Users will receive all the assets from the server nearest to them. Plus, you get to enable text compression and serve static assets with an improved cache policy.
- Prioritize and preload critical assets like fonts and all above-the-fold content to prevent the appearance of blank spaces when users land on the web page.
- Compress heavy visual elements on the web page where possible. Select the best image format (WebP, JPEG) without compromising the image quality.
How Can You Optimize the First Input Delay (FID) of Your eCommerce Website?
Try implementing the following tactics to optimize the First Input Delay (FID) value of your website and get the same in par with the optimal value expected by Google.
- Download and parse CSS files as soon as possible to help the browser render the layout of the page. This helps to reduce the impact that CSS will have on the input delay time.
- Use the "Idle until urgent" approach to provide a best way to analyze the code to minimize the input delay. The code runs during idle periods. This is the best approach compared to eager evaluation (all the code) and lazy evaluation (needed code only).
How Can You Optimize the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) of Your eCommerce Website?
Try implementing the following tactics to optimize the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) value of your website and get the same in par with the optimal value expected by Google:
- Fix images with irregular dimensions, this ensures you always serve the best possible scaled images. Use aspect ratio to set the width and height of videos and images. This helps the browser understand the amount of space required for the element. Use the "srcset attribute" when dealing with responsive images.
- Plus, get to fixing embeds, ads, and iframes without dimensions. Either use reserve space, or specify the sizing, in which case you'll need to preallocate the width and height.
- Optimize custom web fonts or hosted fonts to prevent Flash of Invisible Text (FOIT) or Flash of Unstyled Text (FOUT). As a result, users see blank space till the browser gets done loading the image. You can preload the fonts using <link rel=preload> to avoid any delays.
- Don't inject any dynamically injected content above the existing content. Except when this change happens as a result of the user interacting with the web page.
How to Make My eCommerce Website Mobile-friendly?
- Remove any ads and other intrusive elements that block the text and disrupt the page experience. Users shouldn't have a hard time scrolling through a page.
- Irrespective of the eCommerce platform you use, don't ignore a responsive theme or template. If your website has a dated, non-responsive template, add this line of code into each web page’s <head> tag: <meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″>
- Improve the performance of your website. Check your hosting, database, use a CDN, utilize Accelerated Mobile Pages, and compress images to improve mobile speeds.
- Shorten the content on the page, limit the same to a few lines per paragraph. Space out the text and links on the page. If possible, reduce the form fields as well and remove autocorrect from the code.
- Make your button size and font size bigger. This helps the user to view the page on a smaller screen more clearly. Plus, it allows them to click on the right element.
- Use the "viewport meta tag" to tell the browser to fit the width of a page to the screen of the device that the visitor uses to access the page.
- Test your page consistently on the free mobile-friendly testing tool from Google. The tool will help you detect any flaws. Plus, it lets you reposition the page.
Why Does the Page Experience Update Matter?
Let's say you fail to optimize your site in sync with the page experience update. In that case, be prepared to witness several setbacks to the critical pages on your website. Since Google factors all the above metrics to determine the page experience, any irregular (unoptimized) value will mean it'll penalize the pages of your online store.
Website owners will start witnessing a drop in the SEO rankings for their key web pages. If that were to happen, you'd lose impressions on those pages. Furthermore, you'll see a drop in Click-through Rates (CTR) and organic traffic. If the traffic to the page depletes, it will diminish the likelihood of getting sales, affecting your revenue and profits.
Your page may already be ranking high on search results with engaging and relevant content. However, besides being informative and helpful, the page has to meet other expectations set by Google. From the security of the page (HTTPS), speed, ad blocking to mobile-friendliness, and other factors. Simply, writing SEO-centric content won't cut it.
Google believes these variables will have a tremendous impact on the user experience of a page. Of course, immersive content is the primary criterion. Still, according to Google, a good web page is the one that serves quality content and does so with a top-notch user experience. Thus, you'll need to optimize your website at the earliest.
Optimization can get a little tricky and overwhelming, so we'd like you to leave it to the experts. Virtina has certified and highly-skilled performance experts who can optimize the page to Google's standards. Don't let highly ranked web pages slip down in ranking and lose organic traffic. Get in touch with our experts immediately.