Google’s algorithm updates roll out frequently. In fact, there is normally at least one update per day but these are small and have no direct influence on where your website’s search results appear within their search engine.

Broad algorithm updates on the other hand normally do influence your search engine visibility and, in the past, these have covered areas such as mobile-friendliness, security and speed.

Well, it seems website speed is once again in focus as an update rolling in May 2021 will focus on page experience signals. So, what are page experience signals and how will they affect you?

 

 

Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value. It includes Core Web Vitals, which is a set of metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of the page. It also includes existing Search signals: mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

Let’s break this down.

Core Web Vitals:

This is the most important one, so we’ll revisit this further down.

Mobile-friendliness:

Towards the end of 2020, Google started to roll out mobile-first indexing and aims to have this update fully rolled out by March 2021. Simply put, we live in a world where most people use their phone to browse the web and Google will now be looking at the mobile version of your site to determine how you appear in search engines for mobile AND desktop.

This is particularly important if you provide B2B services and have always been under the impression that your clients sit an office on a desktop when searching for your products or services.

The short take away point here is that if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you can expect to see a negative impact on your organic traffic once this update has fully rolled out.

Safe-browsing:

Safe browsing is all about keeping end-users safe from malware, harmful downloads, and deceptive pages such as those used for phishing purposes. If you’re a genuine business owner, the chances are you won’t need to worry about this unless your website has been hacked.

HTTPS:

We’ve said it before but it’s surprising to see some websites that still don’t have an SSL certificate installed. It protects not only your business but your customers.

If your website address starts with https:// then that’s great. If it starts with http:// on the other hand, then data is not encrypted when sent between the browser and server, leading to potential data loss/theft.

Intrusive interstitial guidelines:

We’ve all been on websites with popups and most of the time its not an issue and can be used to re-engage customers before leaving the site.

If however, your website uses a popup that covers the main content area of your website, the chances are that your web visitors don’t like it, which means they’re not having a good experience. And if they’re not having a good experience… yes, you guessed it.

Google’s core web vitals:

Ok, so we are back to core web vitals. Why did we say it was the most important one on the list? That’s because Google’s John Mueller has confirmed that all three Core Web Vital benchmarks need to be met to qualify for the ranking signal boost.

Core web vitals are a way of measuring real-world user experience and covers loading times, interactivity, and visual stability. Let’s break this down:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The first one on the list measures the speed at which a page’s main content is loaded. The LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds from when the page starts loading. If it does not then you need to investigate as to what is causing this delay and rectify it.

It could be a range of issues from images not being correctly optimised to something as simple as a bad hosting provider.

First Input Delay (FID)

This one is a bit more technical. The FID measures how fast a user can interact with the page after landing on it. It sounds crazy but this should be within 100ms.

There are various techniques to reducing first input delay, but these are more technical than resizing and compressing images or finding a better hosting provider so if you have a developer on hand, reach out to them. If you do not, feel free to get in touch with us.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Lastly, we have CLS which measures stability and shifts. Ideally, pages should be below 0.1

Summary

The update rolling out in May 2021 will have an impact on the organic traffic your website receives. If you are in good standing, then great. If you are not, you still have time to improve your results.

You can test your website by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights and entering your website URL. It will give you a good indication of how your website is performing. Make sure to run the tests a few times in succession and ideally using Google’s own Chrome browser.

You’ll notice after carrying out the benchmark that a score is presented for both mobiles and desktop. it’s important at this stage to focus on improving your mobile benchmarks. If everything is highlighted green, then that’s fantastic. If it’s not, now is the time to start optimising your website.

Notes

  1. Google PageSpeed is a technical checklist more than a ‘page speed’ test. Confusing, but true.
  2. Whilst mobile performance is what you’re aiming to improve, it’s worth noting that the mobile tests are done on throttled connections. Annoying, but true.
  3. As above, run the test several times. Due to differences in geographic locations, different runs will give you different results.
  4. Remember to test all your pages, not just your homepage. Especially if you are ranking well for inner pages.
  5. Looking for a more comprehensive website audit? Our first one is free. Simply fill in your contact details and we’ll get back to you with a comprehensive checklist.