In November 2020, Google announced plans to update their search algorithm in May 2021. Part of that announcement was the introduction of a new factor within the update – the Page Experience. But what exactly is Page Experience and how will it affect how websites are ranked in online searches in 2021? 
Google algorithm updates are not new; indeed, they release at least two a year. But following last year’s May update, it caused a certain amount of consternation among website designers and owners due to the way it affected their search rankings. This time, Google has given six months’ notice. 

What is Page Experience? 

The latest algorithm update from Google, which will be effective from May 2021, includes a new factor called Page Experience. It incorporates existing search criteria, such as safe browsing, mobile-friendliness, and the use of HTTPS (these were included in May 2020’s algorithm update).  
However, Google has added further metrics that will be taken into consideration in search rankings. These will include how quickly a website loads, how stable its visuals are, and the website’s interactivity with users. These factors will come under the title of Web Vitals. 
For website designers and owners, now is the time to sit up and take notice of Google’s latest algorithm update as it will impact your website. 
Google has developed Page Experience for the user, not the website owner. Let’s explain; it includes all the latest requirements users want when they are conducting a Google search. It will consider how users interact with a website or web page, determining whether it was a good or bad experience.  
As well as existing aspects, the algorithm will also look at a website’s load speed, its visual stability – more on this later – and interactivity. 
Load speed – Google’s research into website page loading times demonstrated that a website’s loading speed can have a significant effect on bounce rates, particularly from mobile visitors. Websites that take three seconds or more are likely to have an increased bounce rate of 23%. Compare that with websites that take as long as 10 seconds to load and you are looking at an increase of 123%! As the nation becomes more mobile-reliant, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s become imperative to ensure that your website loads quickly. 
Visual stability – We’ve all experienced how annoying it is when you think the web page has completely loaded, go to click on a button only to find that it moves at the last minute and you end up clicking on the wrong button! Termed Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) by Google, it measures how stable the images are on the website, i.e. does the layout change during the loading process, thereby delivering a negative user experience? So the metric measures the number of times the layout shifts on a web page during its lifespan. Google believes that to provide the best experience for users, website designers and owners need to aim for a CLS, or visual stability, score that is 0.1 or lower not only on desktops but on mobile devices, too. 
Interactivity – This metric measures how quickly a web page responds to a user’s action. So, from the moment a user interacts with the web page, such as clicking on a CTA button or a new web page, Google’s new algorithm will calculate how long it takes for the website to react and process that interaction. 
By bringing together the Web Vitals and Page Experience metrics, Google searches will have an even greater impact on organic search results. 
As part of their announcement, Google also said that they are going to introduce visual page indicators to search results. So, similar to the current AMP icons that indicate a mobile-friendly website or a slow-loading web page, these indicators will be clearly displayed in a user’s search results. This may well result in users clicking through to certain sites based on the expected user experience. 

What does Google’s algorithm update mean for my website? 

First of all, don’t panic! It’s not all a disaster and that’s primarily because despite the addition of the new metrics to the update, website content is still the overriding factor in search engine queries. Even Google themselves have confirmed that “a great Page Experience doesn’t override great page content.” 
That said, the new Page Experience metrics must be taken seriously by website designers and marketers that manage online advertising campaigns and SEO strategies to improve search rankings. 
So, consider the following: 
Improve slow page speeds 
Restructure page layouts and design 
Create content that engages your audience 
Optimise your website for mobile search. According to Google, between July to October 2020 mobile devices generated more than 50% of global website traffic 
Ensure call-to-action (CTA) buttons are clear, bright, colourful and easy to use on mobile devices as well as desktops and laptops. Engage with your visitors and invite them to click on action, such as download a white paper, sign up for a newsletter, book an appointment or make a purchase 
Add alt text to all the images featured on your website so that they are recognised as part of the HTML code, meaning that search engines will be able to ‘read’ the image. Alt text descriptions should be short, specific and try to include a keyword 
Review and refresh your website content. As Google says, good content will always override any metrics and plays a major role in determining your website’s page ranking in online search queries 
Looking to build a new website or refresh an existing website in 2021? At it’seeze Web Design Twickenham, we make website design easy, flexible, and cost effective. Not sure if your website is working for you? We offer a free website audit that will identify the areas where improvements can be made. Call us today to create a website that works hard for you and your business. 
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