UPDATE OF APRIL 20, 2021
More time to prepare ourselves (and our sites) for the Google Page Experience Update: a few weeks from the beginning of May, in fact, a post on the official blog of the Californian company has in fact made official that the departure of this innovative system to evaluate the user experience on the page was postponed to mid-June 2021.
The decision: Page Experience Update postponed by one month
Google has therefore decided to wait a few more weeks to launch the update that will see the Core Web Vitals become ranking signals along with other technical criteria, and that also its release will be gradual and “will not play its full role in search rankings until the end of August”.
“It’s like when you add an aroma to a food you’re preparing: instead of adding flavor all at once to the mix, we add it slowly over this period of time,” explained Jeffrey Jose, Product Manager on Search.
One of the reasons pushing for a gradual implementation is the willingness to monitor the impact of the update for any unforeseen or unintentional problems. Also, the article says, sites should not expect drastic changes at the time of launching this update, since the experience of the page “will be one of the many factors taken into account when classifying web pages”.
Everything else we know about the Page Experience update remains the same in relation to search results – and is listed below.
Google’s announcement: Page Experience starting from May 2021
Now we also have a date: starting from next May 2021, Google will begin to evaluate Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor in the context of the most general revolution of the Page Experience, which also takes into account other previous parameters on the User Experience provided by the site. In addition, from that moment on SERP will appear a “visual indicator that highlights the pages that offer an excellent Page Experience” and all sites will be able to appear in the Top Stories feature from mobile, as the prerequisite for the use of AMP falls.
These are the central points of the announcement given by Jeffrey Jose, Product Manager on Search, from the pages of the Google webmasters blog, in which the point is made on all that these changes mean for webmasters, SEO and all those who operate on the Web.
The first news on the launch of the Google Page Experience Update was revealed last May, and then in total we would have had a full year to prepare for this important update and make our sites more user friendly.
New Page Experience signals
The new Page Experience signals combine the Core Web Vitals – which at this early stage are designed to measure the way users experience the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of a page – “with our existing search signals, including mobile-friendly sites, safe-browsing, HTTPS security and guidelines for intrusive interstitial”.
Their overall task is to measure “the way users perceive the experience of interacting with a Web page” and contribute to Google’s ongoing work “to ensure that people get the most useful and enjoyable experiences from the Web,” writes Jose.
In recent months, reveals the article, “we have seen an average 70% increase in the number of users interacting with Lighthouse and Page Speed Insights and many site owners use the Core Web Vitals report of Search Console to identify opportunities for improvement“.
Core Web Vitals for 2021
It is worth remembering at this point which are the first 3 Core Web Vitals chosen by Google for 2021, namely:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures the loading performance of the main content of a page, with an ideal value of 2.5 seconds or faster.
- First Input Delay (FID), which measures the interactivity of a page, with efficient performance in less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which measures the visual stability and unexpected amount of displacement of the layout: to provide a good experience, pages must maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
Google, however, has already anticipated that this work is ongoing, which is why it plans “to incorporate more signals on page experience in the future and to update them on an annual basis”, also based on the evolution of users’ expectations concerning web pages.
The technical factors of Page Experience
In order to monitor these elements it is possible to use the new report in Search Console, which offers guidance on essential web signals but also on other technical factors that Google will evaluate in the Page Experience, namely:
- Usability on mobile devices: to be eligible for Good status, a URL must not contain usability errors on mobile devices.
- Security issues: any security issues for a site disqualify all site Urls coming from a Good status.
- Use of HTTPS: a page must be offered via HTTPS to be eligible for the good page experience status.
- Advertising experience: a site must not use advertising techniques that distract, interrupt or otherwise do not encourage a good user experience. If a site is marked as having a bad advertising experience, all pages of the site are considered to have a bad page experience.
The Page Experience Report will measure the percentage of Urls on a website that offer good experience based on an assessment of all these factors. Site owners can also use the report to examine the components of the experience signal on the page and get more information on opportunities for improvement.
Other changes coming in May 2021
As already mentioned, there are then two other major changes coming again next May: first, Google is planning “a visual indicator able to highlight pages in search results that have an excellent page experience”, which will be a way to highlight the “great experiences in Google Search”.
According to Jose, “providing information on the quality of a web page experience can be helpful for users in choosing the search result they wish to visit” and “the results, the snippet or the preview of the image help to supply a topical context to the customers in order to know which information can furnish a page”, and also the visual pointers on the results are another way in order to do the same.
For this reason, Google is working on a particular type of signal “that identifies the pages that have met all the experience criteria of the page”: it will be tested soon and “if the test is successful, it will be launched in May 2021”.
Not only AMP pages in Top Stories anymore
In addition, all “pages that meet Google News content standards” will be officially eligible to appear in the Top Stories feature (Featured News) for mobile browsing and Google will give priority “to pages with an excellent page experience, using AMP or any other web technology, as we classify the results”.
This therefore means that the previous prerogative falls, which provided for the appearance in this section only of AMP pages – reason that has increased doubts about the benefits of using the AMP framework in general.
Tools to get ready for Page Experience
in order to help webmasters and publishers prepare for these changes, Google has “released a set of tools to use to start improving their page experience” and to measure Core Web Vitals.
The first step is to run a site-level page check to see where there is room for improvement, using the Search Console report for the Core Web Vitals to get an overview of the site’s progress and an in-depth analysis of the issues. Once opportunities have been identified, Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse tools can help you to solve any problems you may encounter.
Moreover, the Googler explicitly cites AMP as “one of the easiest and cheapest ways for publishers looking to get great results with the page experience“, reiterating that Google will continue “to support AMP content in Search”. So, even from May 2021 “if you publish an AMP version of your content, Google Search will connect to that cache-optimized AMP version to optimize delivery to users, just like it happens today”.