Google Page Experience: What Google’s new algorithm means for your website

Blog, SEO

Google Page Experience: What Google’s new algorithm means for your website

Blog, SEO

Don’t worry; you don’t have to frantically head over to Google’s Search Console to see whether your rankings and traffic have been affected by the rollout. Save that for next year when it rolls out 😛

Unlike many other search updates (including the core algorithmic update in May 2020), Google has decided that 2020 has been unkind enough and is doing webmasters a favour by letting us know what to expect in 2021.

Crucially, it gives us all time to prepare for the changes ahead of time so that they don’t have disastrous effects on our websites.

So what exactly is “page experience”?

How Google defines page experience

To best prepare for the rollout, it’s best to look at Google’s definition, before reading between the lines and unpacking what they really mean.

Here are Google’s own words regarding page experience:

“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimising for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

In other words, Google is going to measure how user-friendly your site is and feed those signals back into search rankings.

If your site providers users with terrible experiences, then you can kiss goodbye to those revenue-generating page-one rankings. But having annoying pop-ups, and terrible web design have been poor ranking factors for a while now, so what makes this update so crucial?

It’s because it’s the beginning of the next significant shift in search.

Why the Page Experience update is so crucial

For those of you who are long-time readers, you’ll remember we told you back in 2017 about a considerable shift in search ranking factors, namely surrounding semantic search.

All search marketers have spent the better part of the last three years on semantic SEO tasks, to better match their own and client websites to user search intent. However, Google has got that pretty much nailed these days, and they’re coming for user experience next.

In short, Google wants to rank sites that users love the most in the top positions.

But not many small businesses owners can claim to have huge brands that customers know and love, so how can you still manage to occupy those positions?

It’s simple.

By ensuring that when someone does land on your website, they have a great time.

How to optimise your website for the Page Experience update in May 2021

If you’re worried about having to go through every page and blog post to perform a site-wide overhaul, that’s probably not necessary. If you look at the original guidance posted by Google on this update, they keep referring to “page experience” and “website experience.”

Reading between the lines, this means that they will utilise user feedback to determine your page experience scores.

In case you’re wondering, you don’t have to suddenly go over your privacy policy and cookie disclosure pages with a fine-tooth comb and jazz them up for a better reading experience. Instead, you need to improve the experience on the most visited pages of your website, while taking steps to enhance site-wide factors that impact every page, such as loading speeds.

#1: Improve Page-Load Speeds
No one likes to wait, not least search visitors to your website looking for information. Slow loading speeds are one of the biggest turn-offs when it comes to customer experiences. So take action to improve your website loading speeds now before it’s too late.

There are several steps you can take to improve loading speeds, including but not limited to:

  • Performing an audit of your plugins to see if any are slowing down your site.
  • Introducing cache-optimised AMP versions of your most popular pages and articles.
  • Using an image compression plugin to keep page file sizes to a minimum.
  • Upgrading your hosting provider

You can gain a few more tips on improving page speed by reading this helpful guide from Moz.

#2: Fix 404 Errors
Another annoying customer experience issue is broken links, otherwise known as 404 errors. These errors rear their ugly heads when a visitor arrives at a page that no longer exists. Users usually follow up this experience by leaving your website, often never returning.

If you are unsure if you have broken links, you can always find them in your Google Search Console panel, or use free tools such as this one to root them out.

Once you’ve found your broken links, all you have to do is redirect them to an existing page (usually the new home of the original content) using a something called a 301 redirect. You can do this manually (learn here) or go for the more straightforward option of using a redirection plugin if you’re using WordPress.

#3: Assess Your Overall Design
Another site-wide factor affecting user experience is your web design. Remember, 94% of first impressions relate to your website’s design. This factor is even more critical when it comes to e-commerce websites, with 89% of consumers choosing to shop with a competitor after a poor user experience.

If you’re wondering exactly how you evaluate your website’s design, you can make a start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are your chosen fonts legible?
  • Is there enough contrast between background colours and font colours?
  • Is all the text big enough?
  • Is there enough white space?
  • Is this content be relevant to the reader?
  • Is the content concise but still useful?
  • Does the design make content easy to find?
  • Is navigating my menus intuitive?

You could always enlist the help of an expert eye too. Just drop us a line and request a full site audit.

#4: Spend Time Evaluating Your Most Visited Content
With the above steps taken care of, it’s time to apply the evaluation criteria to your most popular pages and content. Go over them carefully to ensure that the vast majority of your website visitors are having a good time.

Check for items such as broken links. Perhaps you’ve got an annoying email opt-in pop-up that ruins the experience of reading your best-performing company blog post that needs to be fixed. Just try and put yourself in the shoes of your customers.

That can be challenging, so get friends and family unfamiliar with your website to deliver honest feedback on vital pages, such as the homepage. A fresh pair of eyes can often pick up something obvious that you are just too close to see.

Give them navigation tasks to the most popular pages. Could they easily find the content you asked them to locate? Did they find reading and consuming the content on your popular pages effortless? If not, you could have some work on your hands.

Final thoughts: Page Experience update marks the beginning of a new era

While it’s certainly not time to panic (yet!), the latest algorithmic update announcement is a perfect time to revisit your website and perform a little TLC to ensure it’s ready for 2021.

Only time will tell how drastic the changes will be on ranking positions after this update rolls out in 2021. However, it only marks the beginning of a broader shift toward measuring visitor experience. Thus, user experience design should take precedence on your site moving forwards.

This blog article was also published on our main website, Nous Digital.

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