Recognizing the growing value of user experience, Google has announced an upcoming search ranking change that incorporates page experience metrics like load time and interactivity.
The new page experience ranking signals are planned to deploy in 2021 and will add to recently updated user experience criteria for Google Search, such as mobile friendliness. The signals will combine Google’s existing signals for page experience with its newly updated Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability.
In this article, we will break down the upcoming change to Google Search and how page experience metrics might affect your search rankings.
How Does Google Measure Page Experience?
The page experience signal will measure “aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page,” according to Google. It hopes that businesses will optimize for these factors in an effort to improve web experiences across all browsers and devices, as well as to help sites evolve toward user expectations on mobile.
Core Web Vitals were introduced in April to incorporate user-centered metrics into Google Search that quantify aspects of web usability, such as load time, interactivity and the stability of content as it loads. Those measurements will be combined with the search engine’s existing Search signals for page experience, including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS security and intrusive interstitial guidelines, to provide a more complete picture of webpage experience.
As it continues to map out key metrics of page experience, Google plans to incorporate more page experience signals annually to align with user expectations and improve the online user experience.
How Page Experience Affects Google Ranking
By adding page experience to its hundreds of search ranking signals, Google aims to “help people more easily access the information and web pages they’re looking for, and support site owners in providing an experience users enjoy.”
The new addition won’t completely change your rankings. Google still plans to prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some of its page experience metrics are substandard. However, when multiple pages have similar content, page experience will become a much more important factor for ranking high on a SERP for a particular keyword.
To help businesses and their webmasters plan and optimize for the update, Google updated developer tools including Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights to display Core Web Vitals information and recommendations. Google Search Console also provides a dedicated report for identifying improvement opportunities for site owners.
Mobile Top Stories Update
The mobile Top Stories feature in Google Search currently emphasizes AMP results, which are optimized for a fast, simple page experience. But that will change as the page experience update rolls out.
As part of the update, page experience metrics will factor into ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature on mobile. Meanwhile, Google will remove the AMP requirement for Top Stories eligibility, so it will be open to any page.
All pages still must meet the Google News content policies to be eligible. And site owners who already publish pages as AMP will see no change in behavior, according to the search engine.
The page experience ranking changes will not happen before next year, Google says, and it will provide at least six months’ notice before they roll out. There is no need for immediate action, but the company is beginning to provide tools to stay ahead of the update.
As user experiences improve on the web, so will user engagement. Businesses that anticipate these updates to search and optimize for fast, easy web browsing will be the first to capture its benefits.
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