Google has announced a new ranking algorithm designed to judge web pages based on how users perceive the experience. If Google thinks your website provides a poor user experience, it will be given a lower SERP ranking.

It is called the Google Page Experience Update and will go live sometime in 2021. Here’s what you need to know about it.

About Google Page Experience

In a blog post announcing the update, Google said both internal studies and industry research has shown that users prefer sites with a great experience i.e. quick load times and mobile friendliness.

“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page,” said Sowmya Subramanian‎, Director of Engineering for Search Ecosystem. “Optimising 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.”

Page experience is made up of several existing Google search ranking factors, including the mobile-friendly update, Page Speed Update, the HTTPS ranking boost, the intrusive interstitials penalty, safe browsing penalty, while refining metrics around speed and usability. These refinements are under what Google calls Core Web Vitals.

How big is the update and why should you care?

At this point in time, there is no way of knowing how big the Google Page Experience update will be. Previous updates like Panda impacted 11.8 per cent of all queries, while Google BERT impacted 10 per cent of queries.

Rudy Galfi, the product lead on the Google Search ecosystem team, told Search Engine Land that great content will remain the most important ranking factor, and great content with a poor page experience can still rank highly in Google search.

So, for the time being at least, webmasters and SEOs should continue adhering to Google’s own guidelines when it comes to creating and publishing E-A-T content.

How to prepare for the eventual Google Page Experience Update

The update is set to go live at some point in 2021, with Google promising to give six months notice beforehand. Not only is this standard practice for Google, it’s also because many site owners are placing their focus on responding to the effects of COVID-19.

If you want to start preparing now, consider using the new Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console. This will assess your site based on real-world, user-centred metrics that fall under the following:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.