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Everything You Need to Know about Google’s May 2021 Page Experience Update

new date for google page experience update

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“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Update 05/01/21: According to Google’s Search Central Blog, Google has has decided to push the May 2021 Page Experience algorithm update launch date back to mid-June, with reports that the update will not play a full role in search rankings until the end of August 2021. This extension provides site owners more time to ensure their pages are in-tune with the update and allows Google to monitor the impact with a more gradual rollout.

As so eloquently depicted by the late Eleanor Roosevelt, to live is to experience, which ties directly into Google’s announcement of its Page Experience Algorithm update, coming to a search engine near you in May 2021. 

We’ve already known that for quite some time that your site’s ranking has been indirectly impacted by user experience. For instance, if a visitor comes to your website and has a bad experience — perhaps the page didn’t load quickly enough, or the images took too long to appear —  it can cause them to leave your site and move on to one of your competitors’. 

However, after this new Page Experience Algorithm Update, Google will be using a brand new page experience signal as a way to directly assess your site’s ranking.

To put it bluntly — this new update will have a substantial effect on your website’s ranking and performance, and you’ll need to act accordingly to ensure a negative score doesn’t completely tank your site and cause your pages to drop significantly.

Now, I know you’re eager with excitement to learn more about this update — but before we can dive into the juicy details of how you can either maintain or improve your rankings across Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), you first need to understand the basics of the following questions:

What Is the Page Experience Signal?

As defined by Google, “The page experience signal 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.”

In essence, what Google is saying here is that page experience measures how easy and accessible your website is for those visiting it. If you’ve got a website that is fast, secure, and creates a positive on-page experience for your users, you’re most likely going to rank higher in the search results, drive unique traffic to your site, and ultimately grow your business online. 

Conversely, if your website has broken links, 404 errors, design flaws, failed interactivity, it takes too long to load, or a host of other metrics that it’s falling short on, its rankings will drop considerably — leaving you with less traffic and even fewer conversions.

About Google’s 2021 Page Experience Update

Dating back to Y2K, Google’s core search algorithm has expanded, changed, and improved its capabilities of retrieving data from its index to instantly deliver a user the best possible results for their search query.

In recent years, Google’s page ranking factors put the most solemn emphasis on signals such as mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, Safe Browsing, and the user experience (UX) of a website. Take a look at Google’s algorithm timeline dating back to 2013. 

As the world has become more reliant on mobile devices for their everyday wants and needs, ensuring your site was formatted with the mobile user in mind was Google’s top priority. That sentiment remains true; however, there are a series of new signals which will factor in how Google ranks your web pages in the search results.

In regards to this latest algorithm update set to roll out in May 2021, the previous ranking factors are still considered but shifts focus to see if your website answers the ultimate questions, “Will this website create a positive experience for users?”

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • How quickly does my website’s content load when I land on a page? If it’s not under two seconds, then you could be in trouble.
  • How does my website look on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices? Is the design made with a mobile-first approach? Is it responsive? Adaptive?
  • Does my website’s navigation make it easy to jump from page to page? Are your labels too generic? Are you employing massive drop down menus with too many items?
  • Do my call-to-action (CTA) buttons make sense and function properly? Are they truly enticing and compelling to visitors? Have they been appropriately designed?

All of these factors make an impact on not only how long a user stays on your site but if they’ll ever return once they bounce to a similar resource, a.k.a your industry competitors, if they have a negative experience to begin with. To help you understand these search signals for page experience, take a look at the graphic below provided by Google.

Why Page Performance Matters

Very rarely does a company or individual build a website without a goal in mind. Whether you’re an eCommerce business looking to sell products online, a law firm seeking consultation form submissions on your Contact Us page, or a blogger at a digital marketing agency in Philadelphia looking to inform readers about the latest trends for 2021, the only way to achieve your goal is by keeping visitors on your site for as long as possible.  In a world where online attention spans are at an all-time low while, and their desire for immediate gratification is at an all-time high, a poor on-page experience for your site visitors will cost you more than just the potential customer who turned to your competitors, but with Google’s Page Experience update coming May 2021, it could mean a drop in your site’s rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

We’ve all been there. You find a product you love online, click the link, and BAM, you get hit with the dreaded 404 error! It’s a broken link :/ 

You really want that product, so you put on your detective hat and head to the company’s homepage to try and navigate to that product you were looking for, right? But the page isn’t loading. You wait and wait, and then wait some more…but you’re left staring at a blank screen. After an eternity passes, the page finally loads, and yet the drop-down menu in the navigation doesn’t work. You resort to the search bar only to find that the button doesn’t work. 

Kudos to you for sticking around so long. Most users would have already been long gone from the site. On average, the bounce rate for slow-loading or poorly performing sites is nearly 40% within the first three seconds. 

Don’t forget, the back button is one of the most-used functions on any website; it’s incredibly important not to give your visitors a reason to use it before they even get a chance to see what your page has to offer.  

Aside from deeply frustrating visitors and losing potential revenue earnings, a poorly performing website substantially impacts page traffic, conversions, and overall UX. All of which determines your search results rankings on Google.

As the leading digital marketing agency in Philadelphia, our job is to continually push our clients’ online campaigns to the next level to help them generate a positive return on their marketing investment. However, without improving the page experience for site visitors, all efforts elsewhere are for naught. 

Regardless of your creative assets, your ad targeting, or the amount you spend on advertising campaigns on Facebook or Google, it’s going to be extremely difficult to scale your business when users land on a crappy website that doesn’t load properly and creates a negative experience for visitors.

Not sure if your site speed is up to snuff? Click below for your instant website report.

How to Prepare for Google’s May 2021 Algorithm Update

To begin preparing for Google’s Page Experience update set to go live in May 2021, the first thing you need to do is remain calm. As Philadelphia’s leading Local SEO company, we’ve got you covered. Given there’s still a few months left while Google tests this update, you have the time to make the necessary changes and improvements to your site before suffering a loss in the search rankings following the rollout. Just know, it’s far easier to get in-tune with the update and make improvements now, rather than wait until you see how this update impacts your site and then have to claw your way back up to the top of the search results. Either way, the urgency is real — the Page Experience Update should not be taken lightly by any business owner who wants to stay ahead of the curve. Begin by popping the hood for your site using tools such as Google Analytics, Search Console, and its latest feature, Google Core Web Vitals Report.

Google Core Web Vitals Report

As one of the best PPC agencies in Philadelphia and throughout the country, 1SEO’s digital marketing team stays on top of the latest tools and technologies to ensure our clients’ campaigns are successful. Recently, Google announced the addition of Core Web Vitals to Google Search Console in preparation for the May 2021 algorithm update.   

Core Web Vitals, as defined by Google, “are a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience. They measure dimensions of web usability such as load time, interactivity, and the stability of content as it loads (so you don’t accidentally tap that button when it shifts under your finger – how annoying!).”

With this new algorithm update set to launch in May 2021, the first of the latest ranking factors is loading. In this context, Google will measure perceived load speed, which is the point in the site’s page loading timeline when the core content is likely to be loaded and when the average user considers the “beginning” of the page loading. 

This metric is fundamental because users want to physically see that the page is loading and things are happening on their screen, even if it’s just for a brief moment. Any longer than 2.5 seconds and you risk creating a bad experience for that particular visitor. 

Think of your website as a representation and a reflection of your business. A sloppy, poorly-functioning, and slow website can serve as a reflection of your company, its products and services, and your attention to detail as an organization. 

To put it another way — if you own a retail store with a brick and mortar location, ask yourself this question: Can you afford to lose all of your foot traffic due to long lines and a poor shopping experience? No? That’s what we thought. The same logic applies to your website; the longer the user has to wait, the more agitated they become, and their experience will soon turn sour. 

As you can see in the example below, directly from Google’s internal research, as page load times jump from zero to ten seconds, particularly on mobile devices, the likelihood of visitors to bounce increases by a whopping 123%.

Think With Google – Google/SOASTA Research, 2017

Second, Google’s latest update will be closely examining site interactivity. What this means is the time from when a site visitor first interacts with a page, whether it’s a click or a tap, to the time when the browser begins processing that user’s physical interaction with the page.

As you can see below, Google considers FID under 100 milliseconds for at least 75% of your site’s pages to be good, and anything over 300 ms is bad and can negatively impact your users’  experience along with your ranking in the search results. But exactly what does that mean, and precisely how fast is that? 

Let’s put it in perspective — the average human eye can blink in a mere 100 milliseconds. Talk about “happening in the blink of an eye!”

Last, but certainly not least, is visual stability. This signal has to do with preventing any unexpected (and annoying) movement of the page content while users are on your site. Google wants to ensure that users have an easy, enjoyable experience while digesting your site’s content. 

Based on Google’s Core Web Vitals report, you want to be sure that your store’s pages maintain a CLS score of less than 0.1 in order to create a positive page experience for visitors. If your content is not visually stable, especially for mobile users, you’re likely going to suffer in the search rankings. Let’s take a look at what this truly means: 

In the example above provided by Google, did you notice how the user attempted to click “No, go back” to adjust their order, but due to a pop-up, the CTA buttons got pushed down, which caused the user to submit their order unintentionally? 

This is precisely what the Cumulative Layout Shift signal seeks to prevent to help create a more positive, seamless shopping experience for the everyday user.

Get Your Site Ready for Google’s Core Update With 1SEO

As organic rankings on Google continue to become more competitive across nearly every vertical, a strategic approach to search algorithm updates can make all the difference in whether you rank higher than your competitors, ultimately driving in more leads (and in turn revenue) to your business. Whether you’ve relied on our Philadelphia agency for pay per click management or search engine optimization, the most crucial aspect of your digital marketing campaigns is website performance. 

TL;DR – Google announced a Page Experience search algorithm update in the Summer of 2020 and gave users an entire year to get their websites ready for the update. Recently, they announced this was going to roll out in May 2021 and focused on three crucial components of Search Console’s Core Web Vitals that were going to be factored into rankings: loading, interactivity, and visual stability. Right now, you should be updating your website to protect your rankings, or if you aren’t already ranking, use this update to snag some search results real estate from the competition.

Author: Casey Quinn

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