Google’s search engine algorithms are quickly changing as time progresses. The search engine giant is constantly refining its search engine algorithms to ensure the best webpages are ranked highly while substandard pages are buried deep down the rankings or not ranked at all. Google’s latest effort to improve its search engine ranking system comes in the form of an alteration to its search engine algorithm known as the Page Experience metric. Below, we provide an in-depth look at what this new metric is all about and why it will soon prove quite important in the context of search engine optimization (SEO).
The Basics of Google’s Page Experience Metric
The search monolith’s latest algorithm alteration is making waves in tech circles. Just about everyone who works in an internet-related job has either heard of Google’s Page Experience or will soon learn about it. In particular, business owners, marketers, and webmasters should understand this important new search metric and alter websites with it squarely in mind. Those who optimize online content in accordance with the Page Experience metric will benefit in the form of an improved search engine ranking.
Set to debut in early 2021, the Page Experience metric is centered on website user experience design. User experience design is commonly abbreviated to “UX” design. The Page Experience metric gauges whether a website is fast, properly structured, easy to use, and intuitive. In other words, this metric is the quantification of the quality of a website’s UX design.
The purpose of quantifying the quality of UX design is to determine whether the web surfer’s experience on the website is positive, negative, or falls somewhere in between. This experience is used to evaluate the website in the context of its merits pertaining to search engine ranking.
Websites with exemplary Page Experience metrics are ranked that much higher on the search engine results pages known as SERPs. Websites with a poor UX design or other UX-related problems have a comparably low Page Experience score and suffer the consequences in the form of a reduced search engine ranking that sends the website down the first page or two of results or even several pages deep into the SERPs.
The Key Components of the Page Experience Metric
Google’s Page Experience metric is not solely centered on seamless navigation from one page to the next. Rather, this metric encompasses a wide array of factors related to UX design. The speed of the website is particularly important. If the website does not load within three seconds or less, it is considered slow and subsequently punished in the Page Experience grade.
Furthermore, websites that do not load properly or permit seamless navigation on mobile devices are also penalized in terms of Page Experience. Websites that load properly on traditional desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other web-enabled mobile devices will rank comparably high. The overarching design of the website is also taken into account. A website that can be navigated quickly and easily has an elite UX design and should be rewarded accordingly.
The Purpose of Changing Google’s Search Algorithm
If Google did not alter its search algorithm, the search giant would be dependent on the use of keywords, key phrases, and localized information to rank websites based on content relevancy. Though the length of content and the frequency at which it is updated also play a role in SEO success, Google’s criteria for SEO rankings have been fairly limited until recently. Now that website UX design is considered, the search giant will be better able to evaluate the true quality of websites both in terms of keyword and key phrase relevancy as well as the web surfer’s actual experience on the website.
After all, a website is not worthy of a high ranking simply because it contains specific keywords, key phrases, and/or words that are relevant to local searchers. If the website contains each of these elements yet is difficult to use, slow to load, or flawed in another manner, it should not rank high on the SERPs. This is precisely why Google has altered its search algorithm with the addition of the Page Experience metric.
Google’s hope is that the tweaking of its search algorithm to consider the quality of the UX design inspires webmasters to improve their sites’ UX designs, ultimately making the browsing experience that much more rewarding for web surfers. This way, websites that are quick, well-structured, and easy to use will rank higher than those that are poorly designed, slow, and otherwise flawed in the context of the user experience. In other words, injecting keywords relevant to a local area, niche, or industry into online content will no longer win the battle of SEO. The proper use of keywords in addition to an elite UX design is necessary to outrank competing websites, ascend up the SERPs, and ultimately boost online traffic.
The Page Experience Metric Also Impacts Google’s Top Stories
It is particularly interesting to note the new Page Experience metric will also be incorporated into the search giant’s criteria for ranking its Top Stories feature in searches on mobile devices. The search giant is removing its AMP requirement, implementing Page Experience ratings, and updating developer tools to facilitate the optimization of website user experience. In other words, Google is making it that much easier for website owners and newsmakers to rank higher in its search engine and also its Top Stories section.
However, moving up the ranks will require some effort. Pay close attention to Google’s upcoming timeline for the new search metric. Google plans on providing six months of notice before Page Experience is fully implemented for search criteria. Prepare accordingly, put in the work to boost your site’s UX design, and your pages will benefit in the context of SEO.
The Role of Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are user-focused metrics that evaluate the most important components of the user experience, assigning a quantitative value to each. These metrics gauge the dimensions of website usability as it relates to actual real-world searchers as opposed to bots. Examples of Core Web Vitals that will play important roles in the new Page Experience metric include Content stability while loading, user interactivity with the website, and the website’s load time.
The signals taken from the Core Web Vitals are combined with current Search signals for the Page Experience ranging from the site’s friendliness on mobile devices to HTTPS security, safe browsing, and even intrusive interstitial guidelines. The purpose of combining these signals and Vitals is to provide a clear overarching view of the user’s experience on the page.
Google’s Primary Focus is Still Centered on Rewarding Sites With the Best Information
The search giant is making it clear that the components of the page experience are becoming that much more important as time progresses. However, the content has been, currently is and likely always will be king. Truly unique and informative content with the proper keyword saturation rate and optimal local identifiers is likely to rank higher than low-quality or duplicate content even if presented on a webpage with a slightly flawed UX design.
The bottom line is a top-notch page experience will not catalyze a website up to the first page of search results. Sites with both unique, keyword-laden content and a fantastic UX design will reign supreme in the search rankings. However, there will inevitably be situations that arise in which several pages have fairly similar content in terms of keywords and uniqueness. When such a “tie” occurs in the context of SEO, the Page Experience will prove to be that much more important, possibly serving as a tiebreaker in the context of search ranking.
An Example of the Page Experience Metric
Consider a situation in which someone searches the web for his or her locale and a product or service. The web sleuth finds a website that sells the item/service in question near his or her home, clicks the link in the SERPs, and is redirected to the company’s homepage. However, upon visiting this page, and install bar is displayed at the very top of the page, moving the page down lower than it should be positioned on the computer or smartphone screen. The web surfer clicks toward the top of the screen in an attempt to eliminate the install bar and ends up on another page or errantly adds an item to his or her shopping cart. If such a clunky experience occurs on a website, that site’s Page Experience metric will decrease.
Alternatively, a website that loads in one or two seconds, functions without flaw on mobile devices and is intuitive in terms of navigation, will be rewarded with a comparably high Page Experience rating and rank that much better on those critically important SERPs. A high position on the SERPs leads to an increase in online traffic and a considerable hike in subsequent sales both online and offline at traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
Recognize the Importance of UX Design
It is becoming quite clear that Google is now emphasizing the importance of UX design in the context of search optimization. If you own or manage a business or website of any sort, you should expand your focus from keywords to UX design. Zero in on the quality of the onsite experience, provide online visitors with a smooth and intuitive website that loads in three seconds or less, and your site’s SEO will benefit as Google implements its SEO algorithmic alterations.
Even if it takes Google another six months or longer to fully implement the Page Experience metric, your website will benefit in the sense that online visitors will find the onsite experience that much more rewarding. Online visitors who are content with the onsite experience are inclined to follow through with placing orders, returning to the site for subsequent visits as time progresses, and recommend the site to those in their social circle.
The takeaway is you have everything to gain and little to lose by enhancing your website’s UX design. Though it will cost a bit of money to hire a UX designer or assign an in-house web specialist to the project of perfecting your website’s UX in the context of Google’s Page Experience metric, the benefits of doing so are exponentially greater than the cost.
Improve your website’s UX design prior to Google’s full rollout of its new SEO metric and your website will stand a significantly better chance of moving up the SERPs. A high ranking on the SERPs will offset any investment you made in boosting your site’s UX design. In fact, websites that make it to the first page or two of the search results are likely to enjoy an exponential return on the relatively small investment made in enhancing UX design.
Stay Tuned: The Page Experience Metric is a Work in Progress
Google has made it clear it plans on altering its Page Experience metric in the months and even the years following the initial rollout. In particular, new page experience signals will be added on a yearly basis to better align with web users’ expectations and improve measurable UX aspects.
Google will continue to alter its search algorithms beyond the Page Experience component so don’t rest on your laurels. Stay abreast of Google’s latest search engine algorithm updates, make the appropriate changes, exhibit some patience and your website will gradually ascend the SERPs.
Look for the Page Experience metric to affect search results at some point this upcoming year. Though it might be a while until the new metric is fully implemented, it is in your interest to start preparing your website now. Make a concerted effort to improve your website’s UX design and you’ll enjoy a meaningful competitive advantage over others in your space in the months to come.