Prepare for Google’s 2021 Algorithm Update – Page Experience

Google is updating its algorithm in mid-2021 and anyone who wants a website to rank, or stay, high in search results needs to pay attention.

As part of the update, there will be a new ranking factor – Page Experience. This is a combination of many existing ranking factors for Google, as well as some new Core Web Vitals. Essentially, Google is putting more focus on user experience to ensure only the best webpages for users rank the highest.

In short: site speed and UX will be more important than ever for ranking.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? We’re here to explain it all, offer advice, and tell you how to go from position zero to top-ranking-hero.

The Google Page Experience Update

From May, expected user experience will be taken into account for ranking on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), the ‘Page Experience’. Essentially, the more user friendly a site is, the higher Google is likely to rank it.

Google will measure Page Experience using a combination of existing ranking factors and Core Web Vitals, three performance metrics that focus on aspects of site speed (page loading, interactivity and visual stability). Thus, Page Experience is founded on speed and UX.

If you want to know more in detail, check out Google’s blog, which explains why this update is important for sites and what Page Experience is.

In Google’s own words, Page Experience measures:

“[…] aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile.

We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

To find out what you need to do, with simple explanations, keep reading.

Potentially, Google may show which pages have great Page Experience in the search result using visual indicators. It is not yet clear exactly how these may be presented or if they will be universally rolled out, but the impact is significant.

Just from the SERP, users will instantly see which pages have met all criteria for good Page Experience and which haven’t. You can imagine the impact this may have on click-through rate and traffic for websites that don’t perform well…

For each of the performance metrics that make up Page Experience, webpages will be graded either good (passes), needs improvement, or fail; the combined result would be visible for all users to see.

These potential visual indicators provide a very real and motivating threat to websites that aren’t putting in the effort to have good Page Experience.

But, maybe you like a little risk and don’t think you should act. We’ve looked at the impact of this update. And we think you should care.

Will Google’s Page Experience Update Have an Impact on My Website?

Probably.

A few of the Page Experience components, which will be outlined below, are already ranking factors. The importance of Core Web Vitals is the only real big change. Therefore, for a few already well performing websites, the effects will probably be minimal.

BUT, if your website is already struggling to climb up in the search results and please Google, you need to make some changes. With each update, focus change, and new ranking factor Google puts out, underperforming websites are especially impacted.

Even small changes and minor tinkers to your website can have huge long-term benefits, so it’s best to start early. Or at least start before your competitors work out why their ranking position is going down!

If you don’t act, your website is unlikely to suddenly drop to the bottom of Google’s SERP, but you risk making it harder for yourself to climb upwards. Ultimately, the only way is up!

Just look at this client of ours! With continued SEO efforts over 4 years and multiple Google updates, they’ve seen their page 1 appearance soar for hundreds for keywords!

So, let’s get down to it…

What is ‘Page Experience’?

Quite literally, it is the experience a user has on the page. There are a range of factors that go into what makes a good Page Experience, all to do with site speed and UX.

Google wants to help users and present the best results to search queries. It wants users to find information and services they are looking for. And it wants them to be able to do it fast. Importantly, Google wants users to be satisfied with the experience, no waiting, no snags, no obstacles. If your page or website can’t deliver that good Page Experience, you will be penalised in the rankings.

So here are the factors of Page Experience. It would be a sin not to meet all of these 7 Google commandments…

This evaluates the loading performance of a page. It is measured in the length of time it takes the largest image or text block on screen to render.

Google recommends it loads within the first 2.5 seconds of entire page loading.

This factor is known as ‘interactivity’. First Input Delay measures the time between a user engaging with a page and the response. This may be a user clicking a button or scrolling down the page.

Ideally, the response should be less than 100 milliseconds.

How much do elements move around as the webpage loads? If they move a lot, your website has very little visual stability, negatively impacting UX.

Google already has mobile-first indexing for websites as it recognises that billions of people use the internet solely over their smartphone. A website that doesn’t perform well on mobile gets penalised.
Online safety is a factor of positive Page Experience. Google doesn’t want to highly rank websites with malware or that are easy targets for hackers.

Websites that run on HTTPS have their data encrypted and keep users safe.

Intrusive banners, pop-ups, overlays that block content from user view inhibit positive UX and damage Page Experience. In fact, in this survey, 82.2% of those surveyed said they ‘hated’ website pop-ups asking for their email – what a rubbish UX!

Don’t worry, you won’t be penalised for your cookie banner or pop-up! And, yes, your website does need a cookie policy.


The above Page Experience ranking signals, the first three of which are the Core Web Vitals, will be influential in ranking from May 2021.

Now you know the factors that make up Page Experience! Wondering what these signals look like in practice? Read on.

What is A Bad Page Experience?

Have you ever gone on a website, waited a few seconds for it to load and thought “this is taking too long”, then clicked back? Or scrolled through a whole webpage looking for relevant content you hoped would be on there but never found it?

Perhaps you’ve struggled to navigate a website on your mobile phone? Maybe you’ve noticed the padlock icon in the address bar is unlocked and feared for your cyber security?

THAT is a bad Page Experience. When you get the ‘ick’ from a website, the website is delivering poor Page Experience.

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Content that takes too long to load, that moves around, or that is covered by a million and one pop-ups will be ignored. Users who experience the above will simply leave a webpage. Obviously, that is not ideal and prevents leads from being made, conversions from being secured, and users from thinking positively about your brand.

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There are many factors that lead to a negative experience, some of which are listed here, which luckily means we can easily identify problems and work out how to solve them.

How to Improve Page Experience?

Here we go. The Ultimate-Google-Algorithm-Update-Preparation-Guide!

Understand User Behaviour

To know how to improve your website’s Page Experience you must first assess the current performance. There are many tools online to track where users click on webpages, calculate the bounce rate, estimate organic traffic, find out loading speed and much more.

You can even compare your website’s performance to your competitors’, from estimated monthly traffic to keyword rankings!

Once you know how users interact with your webpages and content, you can get a better idea of how to improve the UX. And we can help you! We perform technical SEO audits on websites to get a picture of just how well a website is performing and where SEO improvements can be made.

Improve Site Speeds = Upgrade Hosting

Site speed is key to good Page Experience, especially as the Core Web Vitals are now prominent in Google’s algorithm. The longer a page takes to load, the higher the bounce rate and the lower the conversion rate.

But you already knew that if you read our blog on bounce rates!

The easiest way to increase site speed? UPGRADE YOUR HOSTING.

Cloud hosting provides the fastest site loading speeds as it enables rapid data retrieval from anywhere in the world. Solid State Drives (SSDs) do the job, but for ultimate speed, cloud hosting is the ideal solution. And we all know; the faster the loading, the better the Page Experience, the higher rank on SERPs!

Look what happened when one of our clients went from SSD hosting to cloud hosting – a load time decrease of 68%!

With your own cloud-hosted server, there’s no fighting over who gets resources, or performance issues at times of high traffic. Instead, you get unadulterated storage, server resources and SPEED!

If you don’t know much about hosting, we’ve got you covered! We’ve already put together some resources on how to make your website faster and the various types of hosting available.

With a range of hosting packages available to suit your needs, as well as a partnership with leading cloud hosting providers Cloudways, Squarebird are your one-stop-shop for all your website needs.

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Ready to make your website super speedy and climb the rankings? Get in touch!

Get Better Content

The power of website content should never be underestimated, especially for SEO. Content has and always will be important to Google, which values relevance for its users.

While UX factors and speed may help your Page Experience, if you have underperforming content, your efforts will be for nothing.

So, while we get busy making the necessary technical adjustments to your website, you can cast an eye over your content. As the update is called ‘Page’ Experience, you should focus your efforts on the most visited and important pages of your website. You don’t have to rewrite every page; just ensure the most viewed content is updated, relevant, and helpful.

Get to work on your content SEO strategy alongside your Page Experience amends and watch your rankings soar!

Optimise for Mobile

Everybody does everything on their phone these days, including searching Google. And your website has to adapt to that for good Page Experience.

Without effective mobile optimisation, your website risks missing out on ranking. In fact, not having a mobile friendly site is effectively waving goodbye to a huge chunk of the market.

This is what you want to see; no mobilise usability issues. And with Squarebird, you do!

Whether you do a whole rebuild using a mobile-first design, or you just ensure your site is responsive, it’s key that your site accommodates mobiles. Top aspects to consider include menus, CTA buttons and responsivity.

Ever noticed how static rectangular feeds look outdated? It’s because they just are.

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Stay in The Know

It’s all well and good reading this article on Google’s update, and maybe even implementing a few changes, but if you don’t keep up your SEO efforts, your rank will suffer.

You may rise a position or two by getting an SSL certificate, improving your content, switching to cloud hosting, removing your pop-ups and more, but soon this may not be enough. In a few short months you may see the rise and fall of your own ranking.

It’s pretty common for businesses to sideline SEO then surge all their efforts at once. Then, in a few years, they will notice their competitors ranking above them, wonder why, then invest in SEO once again. Instead, if they were consistent with their efforts, they may never have been overtaken.

Partner with a website agency and stay ahead of the competition. With experts by your side, you’ll never be behind updates, crawling slowly behind your competitors. Instead, you’ll be storming ahead.

Optimise Your Website with Squarebird

Now you know what Google wants from your website, it’s time to make some changes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, we advise you to let the experts help. Websites are our bread and butter after all!

We will help make your website super-speedy, super user-friendly, and super high-ranking!

Fortunately, we are SEO geeks – we simply can’t get enough of Google. Honestly, we get a kick every time we help clients go from invisible to top 10 positioning. And we’d love to help you get there.

With the golden trio of smart, modern design, expert development, and specialist search engine optimisation, Squarebird are the holy grail of website ranking knowledge and ability.

Contact us to rise above the competition!

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