Google recently announced their new algorithm update for 2021: The Google Page Experience Algorithm Update. In this blog post we’ll be focusing on everything you need to know to get yourself prepared for next year’s update.
Typically, Google likes to play their cards close to their chest when it comes to algorithm updates, so when Google themselves announce their next update, we know it’s likely to be a significant one.
The Mobile First announcement in 2015, followed a similar pattern. And just like when Mobile First was announced, Google has kindly set out a rough timeline of when the Page Experience algorithm will be rolled out. Although, we’re not entirely sure exactly when it will happen, we know it will be sometime in 2021.
Why is Google Introducing This Algorithm?
It will come as no surprise to learn that both internal Google studies and wider industry research tells us that users prefer websites that offer them the very best user-experience.
However, over the years Google has rolled out a variety of factors which determine ranking results based on user experience, page load speed and mobile-friendliness.
In preparation for the rollout, back in March 2020 the Google Chrome team unveiled a set of metrics related to responsiveness, speed and visual stability, to help site owners determine how a user will interact with their website, called Core Web Vitals.
What Will the Page Experience Algorithm Focus On?
Some of the factors that feature within the update are already part of Google’s other algorithms, so it’s a good bet that Google are pulling different factors from various algorithms together in one.
HTTPS – a website must be secured with a security certificate. You can read more about HTTPS in this article.
Mobile Friendly – the size of a website must change depending on the size of the screen it is being viewed on.
Page Speed – your website pages should, ideally, be loading in less than 2.5 seconds. To see how fast your website is take a look at Google Page Speed Insights.
Unnecessary & Intrusive Interstitials – this means pops up that appear too frequently and take up too much of the mobile screen. Cookie policies are exempt though.
Safe Browsing – ensuring your website isn’t compromised by malicious software, such as Malware for example.
What New Features Are Included in the Update?
As we’ve mentioned, Google has already introduced its Core Web Vitals; measures which define the quality of the user experience.
While some facets of user experience will depend largely on the website and context in question, there are a few common signals that are absolutely crucial to a quality web experience.
Largest Contentful Paint – this measures the load speed of a page and marks the point within the loading phase in which the page’s main content is likely to appear.
First Input Delay – measures the responsiveness and calculates how quickly users can make their first interaction with a web page.
Cumulative Layout Shift – measures the visual stability and calculates any unexpected layout shift of visible page content.
What is Cumulative Layout Shift & What Does it Look Like?
Cumulative layout shift looks at how stable a web page is during the loading phase. It will inspect whether images, text or videos are moving while the page is loading, or whether the content is positioned in the correct place.
If content begins to shift from its original position and a user clicks on the wrong content, this will be classed as poor user experience.
All of this together looks something like this:
Content Still Rules the Land
Whenever any new algorithm rolls out, the most common questions usually surround content, and we’re here to tell you that content will still have the rule of the land in 2021.
Google pointed out that even the page experience on some websites is poor, but the content on it is of exceptional quality it will still rank well.
This continues Google’s commitment to wanting to provide the best possible answer to a user’s search query.
Conversely though, if you’re overly fixated on your page experience to the detriment of your content, it won’t meet the intent of the user, and therefore will not rank well. The update will come in to play in the case that there are many results to a search that matches both criteria and intent, and therefore Google will rank them in order of best user experience.
What Can We Expect Next?
Google, as we’ve mentioned, will not roll this updated algorithm out until next year at the very earliest. This gives you the chance to take a look at your website and start to address any user experience issues that may be impacting your website.
As we explored earlier in this article, some of these factors are already in place, so by investing in your user experience now, you can get yourself into a good position to make the most of the algorithm when it is rolled out.