With Google commanding more than 86.5% of the search engine market and boasting at least 200 individual ranking factors, chances are, you’re already constantly optimizing your marketing efforts to improve Google search rankings. But are you prepared for the Page Experience update?
The 2021 Google algorithm update is rapidly approaching, and Google is implementing a new search ranking criteria known as page experience.
What Is the Google Page Experience Update?
Page experience is how Google will measure how much a client’s audience likes their website, based on interaction with their web pages.
Google uses various key metrics and insights to measure the value of a page’s design when ranking page experience, but in 2021 and beyond, Google will emphasize user experience in their ranking algorithm. The update will reward sites that put users first and prioritize ideal visitor encounters.
Google is in the process of implementing its Core Web Vitals (loading, interactivity, and visual stability), as pictured in the graphic below. Mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitials will also impact page experience search rankings.
Image source: Google
User Experience vs. User Interface
The most important aspect of the new Google Page Experience update (currently being slowly rolled out as of May 2021) is the measurable user experience of a page.
While User Interface has to do with the website’s responsiveness, User Experience is based on audiences’ feelings about the design, layout, and brand message of a webpage.
Smooth UX used to be a feature of premium website design or large agency pages. However, a clean and efficient UX is now necessary for any brand that wants to rank highly on Google.
UX design is vital to maintain or boost SERPs in 2021 and beyond. UX and UI are most successful when the content, designs, messaging, etc., are highly relevant to the target audience. (Tip: Check website pages for relevancy with the Ideal Target Audience Persona.)
Here are the top 7 things to consider to help align your marketing efforts with the 2021 Google Page Experience Update, along with tips for leveraging the update for maximum search ranking potential.
1. Mobile-Friendliness Is Crucial
Mobile eCommerce sales reached over $2.91 trillion in sales in 2020 and are projected to reach over $3.56 trillion in sales in 2021 (Statistica, 2021).
As if that weren’t enough motivation, Google is now making mobile-friendliness a key metric for the 2021 Google Page Experience Update. Here are a few ways to improve users’ mobile experience.
- Streamline performance. Check that mobile pages, apps, and payment methods are optimized for the mobile experience (phones, tablets, and other devices).
- Check for responsiveness. Test out buttons, links, menus, and other website elements for responsiveness by either using built-in website design tools or searching the website URL on different devices.
- Get rid of interstitials. Another important fix is to remove website interstitials, which are buttons or elements that block, intrude, annoy or hinder user experience. Reduce or remove all intrusive, non-consensual interstitials.
While these can all benefit a website’s monetization and overall traffic, intrusive interstitials are now a critical ranking factor. Overuse of interstitials, paired with other ranking factors like bounce rate, can tell Google that a site is not user-friendly.
Tip: For more on mobile-friendly practices and interstitial information, check out Google’s guide on helping users access content on mobile.
2. Get Core Web Vitals in Order (Page Speed)
Google is now ranking website UX on three core web vitals: Loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability.
Officially, the three core web vitals are:
- Loading Speed (Largest Contentful Paint): How fast the largest element of the webpage loads.
- Interactivity (First Input Delay): Site speed measured by first user interaction (clicks, searches, etc.)
- Visual Stability (Cumulative Layout Shift): Stability of webpage loading based on whether elements shift as new content loads.
Aim to optimize the website to the new standards of core web vitals to improve rankings and domain authority on Google. Adhere to set industry standards when working on core web vitals.
Tip: You can track your core vital metrics using the Google Core Web Vitals Report tool and optimize for the highest rates on LCP, FID, and Cumulative Layout Shift.
3. Website Security Is Paramount
It has always been important for a website to be secure, encrypted, and protected from hackers. But in 2021, Google is adamant that website creators and businesses adopt a no-tolerance policy to hacking.
To put this into perspective, Google looks terrible when they refer their search audience to a website with malicious links that can cause a computer virus, or worse.
Without proper auditing and a good understanding of website security, a website could be spammed or hacked, severely affecting Google rankings. Enough bad user experiences can even get a website removed from Google indexing altogether.
A site with an HTTPS tag goes hand-in-hand with site security. HTTPS used to be a nice add-on to websites, a symbol of authoritative standing. Today, however, an HTTPS tag is non-negotiable, especially if you’re building a significant performance brand with long-term search ranking goals.
Websites now need HTTPS tags; without them Google will no longer consider a site safe for web users. Confirm a SSL/TLS certification or contact web hosting managers to install an HTTPS tag on the website for optimal page experience rankings.
Tip: Run a few site security tests on your website and high-performing pages starting with the Google safe browsing test.
4. White Hat SEO Tactics Only
While every Google algorithm update is important, don’t neglect the obvious; make sure your basic ranking factors are in order.
A few of the most central basic SEO tactics include:
- Heading and title tags (H1, H2, H3)
- Hyperlinks (internal and external)
- Basic SEO and keyword optimization
- Post and page tags
- Authoritative backlinks
Although these ranking factors may not be directly addressed in the newest Google Page Experience Update statement, they are valuable in keeping Google rankings high.
In addition to ironing out SEO basics, it’s crucial that you no longer use or rely on black and grey hat SEO tactics, like keyword stuffing and paid backlinks.
Not only will these tactics become less and less effective as Google continues to update ranking factors, but they are also unethical business practices. Make sure your headlines match your content and that your content delivers the promises of those headlines.
Tip: Review and implement basic Google SEO strategies on your website and avoid any sneaky SEO tricks for ranking longevity.
5. Use Google Search Console For Page Experience Reports
Google is providing the perfect way to track and optimize Google search results through their new page experience reports in Google Search Console.
While 3rd party analytics tools have always been great, there is nothing better than going to the source. Google is now offering a new function in their Search Console for measuring Page experience efficiency.
Image Source: Google
Tip: Sign up for Google Search Console and enter your website into the new Page Experience Reports section to develop site authority.
6. Make UI Improvements to Attract, Interact and Engage With Your Audience
As part of their effort to focus on ranking factors that promote outstanding UX, Google has made it a special point for website owners to pay special attention to User Interface (UI), in other words, how easy it is for your audience to interact with your website.
How can you improve your UI in a way that Google understands?
- Include CTA’s that Google can view and track.
- Give your users a chance to opt-in to your offers without intrusive pop-ups.
- Be engaging and use permission marketing to avoid spamming your audiences.
- Make sure that you provide a clear path for the reader to take the desired action that your page is pointing to.
Use UI to make your digital marketing funnel as high-converting as possible and bring higher SERPs on Google indefinitely.
7. Quality Content Is (Still) King
Above all else, great content is what will drive your audience to your page. Content is what Google is optimizing for; everything else is technical tweaks and slight alterations.
Your content and page should always be relevant to your target audience. Ensuring page relevancy is one of the main ways to get your audience to stay on your page longer, reduce bounce rates, and increase engagement. Without quality content, your optimizations will not convert or rank effectively, even if you follow all of the best practices.
Adhering to the above principles will give your content the best possible chance for competitive rankings. Google’s job is to put the right message in front of the right people at the right time. If you test and optimize your web pages for your ideal audience on your own, you’re setting yourself up for success.