July 16, 2021

Google to rank your website based on Page Experience


There are only three guarantees in life; death, taxes, and Google changing their algorithm which impacts your business. All that time and money spent on perfecting your SEO to rank above your competitors, building quality content is wasted, right? Well, if you optimise your page experience it won’t be.

You might be asking yourself, what is this new page experience factor and how do I ensure my website isn’t left behind? Let’s have a look at what it is, and how you can optimise your website for the upcoming change.

What is Page Experience?

Google themselves define page experience as “a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.” In essence, it is the quality of all the elements which impact the users interaction with the website, and how effortless it is for them to use and navigate. Imagine your website is a journey — if the journey is signposted well and the transport is efficient, the experience is going to be pretty good. Compare that to someone who’s journey doesn’t have any road signs or navigation, is a messy zigzag across the country, and to top things off, they’re using outdated transportation. You get the picture.

Google wants to deliver the best results to their users based on the search, but they now want the result to be an enjoyable experience. Not only should it answer a problem, but with minimal fuss.

What is measured?

Google includes existing Google Search signals: mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

It also includes metrics in Google’s Web Vitals. Currently, the focus is on three facets: loading, interactivity, and visual stability. Let’s dive into these:

Loading — This is the time it takes a user to load up your webpage to a point where the main content is likely to be readable and interactive

Interactivity — The delay time between a user interacting with the site to the interacted element responding

Visual Stability — How stable your page looks when it loads. You don’t want elements to unexpectedly move without interaction

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You’ve probably factored these signals into your website development, but that’s not to say they can be improved. Research by Akamai Technologies found that two extra seconds of load time more than doubles a page’s bounce rate, and 53% of mobile users will abandon a page that loads in more than three seconds.

From web.dev/vitals, to ensure you’re hitting the right marks, you should be aiming for:

  • A page load (LCP) occurring in 2.5 seconds or less
  • The speed of interaction (FID) no more than 100 milliseconds
  • A page that maintains a CLS of less than 0.1

How will users know a page has good Page Experience?

Google has already announced that it will introduce visual indicators which will identify search results that meet all of their page experience requirements. You’ll want your site to have this indicator to stay ahead of its page neighbours! We envision it will be similar to the AMP icons to identify fast reliable sites (see below).

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What should I be doing?

If your website is a key component for your business, you’re going to want to ensure you maximise this change and use it as an opportunity to get ahead of those not aware. Visual clues and page experience can put you above competitors with optimised content, while pages not adapting will be left behind = low traffic. Let’s have a look at what you can do:

Improve page speeds

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What can you get done in one second? Well 70% of converting traffic can change their mind about your offering pretty quick. According to a survey from Unbounce, a delay of just one second can decrease conversion rates by 70%. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you:

  • Reduce the amount of http requests your website receives. 80% of a web page’s load time is spent downloading the different parts of the page, like images, stylesheets, and scripts.
  • Use asynchronous loading for CSS and JavaScript files. By doing this your page will load from top to bottom, allowing the essential content to show for the user first.
  • Reduce server response time by switching to a faster DNS provider. This is basically a service translating the URL into an IP to identify locations. Use this updated report to compare DNS providers.
  • Choose the right web hosting provider. While it can always be best to go for the cheaper option to start, as you grow your website becomes more demanding. Compare the best web hosts here.
  • Compress your website. Run a compression test to see how you can downsize your site elements and speed up download times. You can use GIDNetwork here. Make sure you’re also using an application like Gzip to compress your images and files; some hosting providers allow for plugins too!

Use Google’s page speed insight tool for instant data.

The future is mobile, let’s optimise it

Today over 60% of Google search queries are made from a mobile device, and Google actually takes a mobile-first approach to ranking pages. The algorithm uses the mobile version of your website to rank pages from that site. To get your website mobile ready, you should:

  • Enable Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Google introduced a way to improve the design and load times on mobile devices, ensuring the visitors experience is as good as it can be. This alone will give you SEO gains because search results with AMP are highly ranked, sometimes above paid ads. Implementation can be a bit of work, so make sure you hire the right developer for this!
  • Have a responsive web design. With traffic split across desktop, tablet and mobile you want the site to adapt accordingly. Having responsive HTML code results in a cleaner, dynamic and more powerful website. You want to tailor the experience to the device exactly how you want it. Most website management systems allow you to install a responsive theme too!
  • Optimise your title tags. Title tags, or meta titles are often shortened on desktop but on mobile, that isn’t the case; it’s the reason Google increased the character limit to 78. This gives marketers more room to draw in visitors, while also providing you with more virtual ‘real estate’. Semrush provide a great guide to writing title tags.
  • Leave popups to the desktop site. While popups are still effective on your computer, they just aren’t very effective on mobile devices and can make the page look cluttered (you haven’t got as much space to play with). If you rely on them to encourage conversions, consider other ways like buttons.

Signpost your website cleanly and effectively

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As we discussed at the beginning of the article, you want the journey to be as enjoyable and as efficient as possible. The journey your customers take will be dictated by their stage in the funnel, and where they are on the website. On each page you want a clear next step in the form of CTA buttons and navigation.

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Examples of CTA buttons

You want the visitor to firstly notice the button and ways to navigate the site, but also to understand the value of continuing through the funnel. Great UX will result in a better understanding of this from the visitor.

The design of your buttons should be a fine balance between noticeable and elegant. They should contrast but not look out of place. Again, going back to our journey analogy, road signs are colourful , noticeable but extremely effective without needing much text.

Strong UX should be at the top of your list

User experience was already extremely important to Google, and as it becomes a new factor for ranking, you shouldn’t neglect it. While many of the changes can be made in-house, it is the perfect opportunity to invest a bit of time and money into these improvements, ensuring it has a positive impact long term.

At Fortnight, we have worked with some of the UK’s fastest growing startups to ensure their site balances the need for killer content with strong UX perfectly. It shouldn’t be an afterthought, but a key component supporting your business goals.

Want to stay ahead of the field? Contact us now with your information and we’ll see how we can find the right solution to improve your UX, while pushing your further up the Search page.

Google to rank your website based on Page Experience