Digital Marketing, Website Development

Google Page Experience Algorithm Update Explained

Are you ready for it?!

The Google page experience algorithm update, that is.

You may have heard it referred to as the Core Web Vitals update too. If you have a website, especially a business website, then I sure hope you are ready. But of course, hope isn’t going to help you here, only action. And you can’t act on something you haven’t heard of or know nothing about. So, we’ve distilled the relevant information to help you make a few informed decisions today. (It’s June already, people, so time is of the essence!) *skip to the summary*

This is a time-sensitive post, because the Google page experience algorithm update is due to hit the internet this June 2021, rolling out into August at a website near you. However, it is also an evergreen summary of one of the most important technical SEO aspects for websites – how users experience your website pages when they click on a SERP link. (SERP = Search Engine Results Page) Google’s main aim with their search algorithm and its continuous adjustments is really all about giving internet users a better experience (and making money, but that’s a whole other blog post). And a better web surfing experience is what we all want, isn’t it?

Google has been talking about this update for over a year now. It isn’t a mystery or even something sudden – so no time for excuses! Sites that have done proper on-page SEO for good user experience shouldn’t be too worried. But most sites don’t do well in Google’s Core Web Vitals, so now is the time for everyone to up their game.

One thing to bear in mind is that Page Experience is only one of many ranking factors and Google has explicitly said that relevancy and good content still matters more than speed. But all these other things being equal, it is good practice to make sure you optimise as much as you can if you want to beat your competition to the top spots!

Summary of the Signals that Google takes into account for Page Experience

  • Text Hover
Source: Google Search Central
 

If you’re not interested in the technical jargon, feel free to skip to the plain english further down!

Loading

LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): how long it takes before the largest content element (image or text block) of the visible part of the page appears to a user.

Interactivity

FID (First Input Delay): the time from when a user first interacts with a page (click, tap, scroll etc) to when the browser is actually able to respond to the input.

Visual Stability

CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): tracks how objects and elements move around a page as it is loading for a user. Mostly affected by ads, pop ups, and banners that suddenly alter the web page as someone is using it.
Mobile-friendly: does the website load quickly and look right on mobile devices.

Safe-browsing: does the page contain malicious or deceptive content.

HTTPS: is your site’s connection secure (this applies to every page on the site).

Intrusive interstitials: is the page content easily accessible to the user. (Intrusive interstitials are essentially any pop-ups or banners that cover up the main content of a page accessed directly from the SERPs.)

For small business owners, some things you can fix yourself if you know your way around your website backend, but the more complex issues will need the help of a SEO specialist and/or web developer to sort out. Bear in mind that small, simple websites will be the least affected, but large, complex sites or e-commerce sites are likely to be the worst hit.


 

Check Immediately

A quick check on your page experience health is to go into your website’s Search Console and look at the Page Experience page and the Core Web Vitals report. (Go do that now if you want, and then come back here to continue.) If your website gets enough traffic, you should see reports for both mobile and desktop letting you know if you have pages that have poor performance or need improvement. If you don’t see anything, then your website doesn’t get enough traffic – and we really need to talk!

If you don’t get enough traffic to have data for the reports here, you can get a good idea of page performance using this free tool: Google Pagespeed Insights

What you may be able to do yourself

There are a few simple things you can do with your website content that will immediately reduce your page load speed. This will have a positive impact on a few of the signals mentioned above.

Optimise your images

Reduce image file size without sacrificing too much image quality. This is done through a combination of:

  • using next gen image formats (eg WebP instead of png)
  • compression
  • setting image dimensions

The simplest thing to do is to upload your image to tinypng.com or tinyjpg.com (or other similar sites) to compress it. If your site runs on WordPress, you can use a plugin like WP Smush that automatically compresses the images you upload.

Reduce text block size

Break large text blocks up into headings and smaller paragraphs so it doesn’t load as one large block.

Reassess your use of video

Make sure the videos you have on your website are truly adding value to make the loss in page speed worth it. For the videos you have, make sure they are optimised for the web.

  • MP4 format is the safest bet
  • don’t host the video on your site – embed it from another platform like Youtube or Vimeo
  • use a custom thumbnail if possible – looking up & loading services from the video platform unnecessarily slows things down
  • for mobile it is best to keep the video central on the page and switch off autoplay

Check for broken links

Clicking on a link that takes you to an error message makes all internet users sad 🙁 So check your website for broken links and make sure no one lands up on a 404 page on your domain!

Heatmaps

Heatmaps identify useability issues by giving an indication of how people are interacting with your web pages. You can identify things like users expecting something to be a link that isn’t (which confuses and/or frustrates people). We use Hotjar but there are other services available.

Assess your hosting service

Your hosting company plays a very significant role in your website’s performance. When it comes to hosting, you get what you pay for. If your hosting is cheap, then it is most likely shared hosting and the other sites can use up the server’s resources so that your site loads slowly (or worse, goes offline intermittently!) You can read our explanation of website hosting in a previous blog post.

Don’t be a snake oil salesman

Please give users a good experience when they land on your web pages by not overwhelming them with pop-ups and advertisements (interstitials). If you do have pop-ups like email sign-ups or banner advertisements, make sure that they don’t load before everything else and block the rest of the page, especially on mobile. Make sure that the page they land on is what they are expecting – that the page content matches the SERP meta descriptions. Using bait-and-switch techniques is going to hurt you in the long run.

What Your SEO Specialist or Web Developer Should Do for You

We’re not going to tell other SEO specialists and web developers how to do their job, but here are a few key points you may want to make sure they are doing for you.

Run regular site audits

This means they are staying on top of your website vitals and fixing issues as they are identified.

Monitor your website hosting

They should know if your website is down or under attack long before you ring them up because your mother called you to say she couldn’t show off your site to the neighbour yesterday.

Make sure there is a SSL certificate enabled

This is a no-brainer but yet so many websites still don’t use HTTPS. Make sure the certificate is enabled properly, but also check that the whole website is set up correctly – sometimes some content like images still loads on HTTP and a mixed content site is not a secure site.

Implement a CDN

A Content Delivery Network is one of the easiest ways to boost your site’s loading speed. We use Cloudflare but there are a number of services out there.

Leverage browser caching

When browser caching is enabled, a user’s first visit to your page won’t be any quicker; however, subsequent visits to the page will be.

Eliminate render-blocking elements

Render blocking JavaScript and CSS are files that prevent a website from displaying a web page before loading these files – they essentially form a bottleneck.

Implement lazy loading

Essentially this is where elements like images are not all loaded at once but only when needed. For example, images outside of the screen viewport only load when the user scrolls to that section of the page.

Include size attributes on your visual elements

You need to tell browsers about the dimensions (width and height) of elements like images, video embeds, ads, banners, etc.

Minify CSS and JavaScript

Clean and compress the code on your site so that unnecessary code is not being loaded.

Be smart with web fonts

Web fonts look great but can be slow to load, so consider using web-safe typefaces or at least a Google font, and preferably one type only.

So that's about the bones of it, folks!

Congratulations on making it all the way to the end of this article! There are a number of other issues that can be addressed to improve Page Experience but these are the most likely to have the most impact.

You need to consider that fixing or improving many of these issues could cost you quite a bit of money. You should aim to strike a balance between improving these technical issues, and improving your content-based, on-page and off-page SEO.

If you have further questions or need help in implementing any of these measures, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at [email protected]n.consulting.

Return to the main blog page to read more blog posts.


 

 

 


In summary:



  • The Google page experience algorithm update is due to hit the internet mid-June 2021, rolling out into August.

  • Sites that have done proper on-page SEO for good user experience shouldn’t be too worried – but if you haven’t, then you better get ready asap.

  • You can check your site health on Search Console – the Page Experience page and the Core Web Vitals report.

  • What you can do yourself


    • Optimise your images

    • Reduce text block size

    • Reassess your use of video

    • Check for broken links

    • Use heatmaps

    • Assess your hosting service

    • Don’t be a snake oil salesman



  • What Your SEO Specialist or Web Developer Should Do for You


    • Run regular site audits

    • Monitor your website hosting

    • Make sure there is a SSL certificate enabled

    • Implement a CDN

    • Leverage browser caching

    • Eliminate render-blocking elements

    • Implement lazy loading

    • Include size attributes on your visual elements

    • Minify CSS and JavaScript

    • Be smart with web fonts