The best thing about Google and its products is the promise of making life easier. Since its launch in 1998, the company consistently defies expectations in producing groundbreaking software and hardware — arguably the most popular is Google Search.
As consumers, we hardly think of Google’s search engine as anything more than a tool to answer questions. But as business owners, marketers, and SEO specialists, it’s a never-ending puzzle that shifts and moves just as you’re about to crack it open.
Google is known for rolling out updates to suit the needs of its users. For example, Google Search slowly shifted to mobile-first indexing in response to the growing preference for mobile devices over desktops.
Now, the company is set to place user experience front and center with its upcoming core update.
What is User Experience?
User experience (UX) is a broad concept that ultimately refers to how someone perceives, responds, and interacts with a product, service, or system.
It is best viewed as an umbrella term for multiple disciplines working together to ensure a pleasant journey for end-users. This includes:
- Interaction Design
- Information Architecture
- Marketing and Communications
- Usability Engineering
- Visual Design
- Information Design
- Computer Science
Google’s Page Experience Update
The value of good user experience in web design has long been espoused by UX designers and SEO experts. When a website is difficult to navigate or doesn’t load fast enough, visitors are likely to leave.
A single bad experience while reading a blog or reviewing products reflects poorly on the brand and doesn’t leave a lot of room for second chances. Studies show that 79% of online shoppers never return to a website after a dissatisfying visit.
Industry research supports this by demonstrating how users are more inclined to use websites that provide a great page experience.
Websites that offer quick loading times, good visual design, and mobile-friendliness among others show higher conversion rates and repeat customers. Such factors are already part of Google’s criteria in ranking pages.
But sometime in the next year, Google’s algorithms will take things to the next level.
In May 2020, Google launched Core Web Vitals, a fleshed-out set of metrics that helps site owners evaluate user experience. The company announced its plans for the major update soon after.
Google’s Page Experience Update will incorporate facets specified on Core Web Vitals into its ranking criteria. The goal is to improve web experiences holistically by aligning web designs with modern needs and expectations.
So if you have pages that fall short in providing a smooth design and interface, they may fall off the ladder once the new algorithm goes live.
Google Page Ranking Algorithm: What You Need to Know
Before you start panicking, take note that the update isn’t happening anytime soon. Google ensures six months’ notice before implementing the update and supports site owners in weathering the effects of COVID-19 first.
In reality, there is no immediate need to take action. Nonetheless, Google has already provided you with the necessary tools to get started.
The most important things to get familiar with are page experience signals, how to measure Core Web Vitals, and optimizing page experience.
Page Experience Signals
Page experience signals are website qualities that Google considers vital for delivering a good user experience. It focuses on five metrics:
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are common user experiences that make or break website satisfaction. Google highlights loading time, interactivity, and visual stability, which are measured using LCP, FID, and CLS, respectively.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) gives the point in which the page’s main content has loaded. According to Google, pages should load within the first 2.5 seconds of landing.
First Input Delay (FID) rates how users feel as they interact with a page. It does so by measuring the time it takes for a browser to respond to a request after a click or tap. Ideally, delays in command execution should be less than 100 milliseconds.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) scores pages according to the movement of unstable elements. Sudden changes in the position of text boxes, buttons, images, and others result in misclicks, thereby harming user experience.
CLS is calculated by multiplying impact fraction and distance fraction. The former is concerned with the fraction of the viewport that is affected by the movement, while the former measures by the distance an element has moved.
All layout shift scores are totaled to come up with the CLS. Google recommends a CLS score of less than 0.1.
The majority of users surfing the internet are doing so using mobile devices. Websites look different on smartphones than they do on desktops. The simplest solution is reworking layouts into mobile-friendly patterns.
You want your pages to fit beautifully into any screen, regardless of size. Text, images, and other graphics should adapt to different resolutions so as not to interfere with website navigation.
Google ranks websites with suspicious behaviors poorly or labels them with security issues upon appearing on the results page. Generally, security issues are of three categories: hacked content, malware, and social engineering.
Hacked content refers to unwanted elements on your pages placed there without authorization. Malware is software designed to damage your website or visitors’ devices. Lastly, social engineering is deceptive content used to trick users into revealing confidential information.
To fix these vulnerabilities, run a thorough scan of your pages using a tool like Google’s Security Issues Report. Expand each issue description and follow the steps indicated to remove malicious content.
HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is a communication protocol that protects data sent between a web server and browser. Data sent using HTTPS goes through several layers of protection to maintain data integrity.
It uses data encryption which is especially useful for transmitting sensitive information such as credit card details, personal data, and login credentials. In transit, data cannot be tampered with without detection. Furthermore, it provides website authentication to guard against cyber attacks.
Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS requires you to obtain a security certificate issued by a certificate authority. This is to verify that the web address truly belongs to your organization. Moving your website means changing your URL, so it can temporarily affect traffic, but you should be able to regain and top lost visits in the long run.
No Intrusive Interstitials
Intrusive interstitials are design choices that make content less accessible to users. Popups, for example, tend to frustrate visitors when they obscure content while scrolling through a page. They do worse damage to user experience when they’re difficult to close on smaller screens.
It’s not to say that popups, login dialogs, and banners have no place in the upcoming update. The key is using them responsibly.
Allot only a reasonable amount of space for interstitials to appear and make sure they don’t inconvenience users as they explore your website. Interstitials in response to cookie usage and age verification are not affected by the new page experience signals.
How to Optimize Web Page Experience
The first step to optimizing web page experience is gathering data. The Chrome User Experience Report is tailored to Google’s Core Web Vitals. It was made specifically to help site owners measure and monitor the three key aspects of user experience.
Google also offers many other tools such as the Mobile-Friendly Test and Security Issues Report, but do not limit yourself to these options. Conduct your own tests and roll out improvements based on data.
While page experience will matter more after Search’s algorithm is updated, it’s still just one part of the big picture. Great page experience won’t override quality content and page relevance, but for pages with similar information, it will make a huge difference.
Work with a Professional Team of Web Developers
Prepare your business for Google’s latest core updates with a professional team of web developers and designers. Contact DevWerkz today.