Google’s Page Experience Update is Causing Problems

In fact, Google has just recently updated their SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) algorithm, in a massive way… They’ve released their ‘Page Experience Update’, forcing websites to become much more user-centric in their approach to SEO and usability. In turn, page speeds are being more closely monitored than ever before; and websites are losing their much-coveted positions if they fail to keep up with improvements.

Here’s how Google page experience update has changed the way we need to optimise websites, and the problems it’s causing for digital marketing service providers across the board.

The Importance of Site Speed in Optimising Your Website

Google accounts for many factors when determining the ranking of your page on SERPs (search engine results pages). Everything from your website’s written content, to your navigational layout, to the use of accessibility functionalities such as image alt texts and URL descriptions. This is all at the heart of what SEO masters do, as they work to optimise your website, inside and out. If your website isn’t cut out for the level of quality that Google expects when determining whether a website will be placed within the top results – you’ll lose out on vital traffic, who could have potentially become leads or customers for your business. It makes sense that website and business owners want to optimise everything to suit Google’s expectations. But why are they there in the first place?

Evidently, these ranking factors are in place to improve user experience for those that use Google – which is almost everyone! We all know just how much those low loading websites are a pain when you’re quickly looking to find information on a search engine. That’s why this is a massive factor that’s taken into consideration as crawl bots scurry to determine where you’ll be ranked on Google.

This user-first approach to ranking factors is an indisputably positive one. We all use search engines, Google in particular. This means we all benefit from these carefully considered algorithm alterations that have been slowly refined over time to wholly concentrate on functionality and accessibility. So while these updates are frustrating for those that work in SEO, they are important in ensuring that Google maintains its widespread reputation as the number one search engine to use whenever you have a question.

SEO: How Site Speed & User Experience are Intertwined

So, SEO and site speed all feed into user experience. If you work in SEO or digital marketing, you already know this. Considering how your strategies impact site speed and loading times are naturally engrained in the process of implementing everything you do on a website. The difference with this google Page experience update is that your focus on site speed should become much more concentrated. The algorithms are becoming more brutal, so to speak, and websites are suffering as a result.

Here are a few notes that explain how google page experience update , site speed, SEO, and user experience are so intricately connected:

  • Page speed is a definite, direct ranking factor – even more so now with the google Page experience Update, which we go into even more detail about below. As we mentioned earlier, slow loading speeds are just irritating. With the advances in website technology we’ve amassed in recent years (moving from 3G, to 4G, to 5G), there’s often no excuse for having a slow website. It makes things feel outdated and not only can it harm your ranking potential, but also the way that visitors perceive your entire brand or business, too.
  • Slow page speeds can increase bounce rates. Bounce rates are monitored by Google in determining how user friendly your site is. Essentially, a high bounce rate means users are quickly leaving your site upon visiting. This signifies to Google that users don’t like your site, which can be down to a number of factors. Loading times may be slow, your site may not have the relevant content the visitor is looking for, irritating popups may deter the user, amongst other factors that diminish the quality of your site and the relevance of its ranking.
  • Slow loading times reduce the time spent on the page. These are called dwelling times, and if a visitor spends more time on your website, this suggests to Google that your site health and the quality of your content is likely exactly what the visitor was looking for. This has an impact in improving rankings, as Google understands that you’re focusing on user experience and enticing the visitor to look through your site.

Below, we’ll discuss the existing guidelines for page experience that your site should already be following. Then we’ll explain the new 3 core vitals that Google released with their update.

‘The Page Experience Update’

The new update is called the ‘Page Experience Update’. This has been released to enhance user experience whenever they visit a website displayed on their results pages. This all relates back to some of the page experience factors that Google already has in place for measuring the quality of any website. These is where it gets a bit technical, as metrics are rooted deep within the website’s code, device compatibility, and responsiveness, amongst other factors.

Existing Page Experience Factors

The page experience factors that Google already focused on quite heavily (since 2010, even), are:

  • Mobile friendliness. This is an important one, since Google actually crawls websites with a mobile-first approach. They understand that the majority of searches are made via mobile devices, and so they’ve prioritised mobile in determining how user-friendly a website is.

    Google therefore prefers websites that offer identical experiences across devices: desktop, mobile, tablet, and so on. This means the same content must be visible across all versions of the site optimised for mobile and desktop, using identical headings, meta robots tags, and structured data. The identical content issue gets tricky since the interface on mobile screens is much more compact, and it may be tempting to reduce or cut down on content for mobile versions of your site since it can otherwise look a bit wordy. But due to the mobile-first approach, you can’t really do this without dropping your rank.
  • HTTPS-Security. This has been tracked as a ranking signal for SEO since 2014. It’s all about ensuring that your site is safe to use. HTTPS is vital for keeping in line with security protocols, so your website connection can’t be infiltrated by hackers or bots. This is a basic expectation of any website, and has been for just under a decade as security protocols are tightened.

    If your site fails to meet the security standards, Google will mark your website as “not secure”. This is a mark that becomes visible to visitors too. The padlock on the top left corner before the URL will open, and users recognise your site isn’t secure as many browsers also utilise pop-ups in notifying them of the danger. Stick to HTTPS, and you’ll open the door for opportunities in ranking – as well as being able to rest easy knowing you’re not scaring off visitors!
  • Intrusive interstitial guidelines (avoiding pop up ads). We’ve got a bit more technical SEO jargon here, but let us explain what it all means. In laymans terms, intrusive interstitials are pop up advertisements. They’re the highly irritating ones that appear just as you load up a website, and they often get in the way of the entire page so you can’t even see the content you’ve been looking for. These invasive popup ads are highly detrimental to user experience, so Google has been penalising websites that have them for years. It’s just not worth it.

The above are the existing page experience criteria that Google sift through in ranking your site. If you’ve been keeping on top of SEO, you’re already likely to have optimised to follow the criteria. If not, get on it now before further changes come!

The new Pagespeed Update identifies 3 new factors, named ‘Core Vitals’.

The New 3 Core Vitals, Explained

Again, we’ve got to go a bit technical here, but we’ve organised these new 3 core vitals in more understandable terms first. In maintaining a website that’s already optimised or managed by an SEO agency, you have likely already fulfilled some of these vital considerations. Either way, Google is now pressing for more of a focus on these page experience factors, and so it’s important that we get to understand exactly what this means. Here they are:

  • Performance & loading (LCP: Largest Contentful Paint)
    This is a timing-based vital where Google works out how long it takes for your content to load. It specifically works out the time it takes for the biggest section of content to fully appear on screen. Longer loading times may mean you have issues such as slow server response times, which can be discussed with your developer. You may also have a lot of heavy duty content that increases resource load times, such as overly high-resolution images that should be compressed. Essentially, you need to keep loading times to under 2.5 seconds.
  • Interactivity & responsiveness (FID: First Input Delay)
    Another timed measurement of page experience, this is based on how quickly user interactions (such as the click of a button) are processed by your website. User frustration is an issue when they’re sat waiting around for your site to respond, so first input delay times should be kept to under 100 milliseconds if you want to secure a “good” FID measurement.
  • Visual stability (CLS: Cumulative Layout Shift)

This is all about keeping your website layout and content static. It’s annoying when we visit a website and start reading through, only to find that the content shifts and we’ve lost where we are! This is effected by elements on your website such as particular fonts, widgets, images without determined dimensions that move around the page when people scroll. Scoring for cumulative layout shift considerations mean that anything under .1 is a good score, while anything above a score of .25 is poor and must improve if you don’t want to risk your rankings.

You can grab more information on these core vitals from Google themselves, as they explain more in-depth guidance on how to optimise fully. To conform to these new changes, you should conduct a site audit to identify where any errors or issues may be. Be sure to focus on loading times, user experience and mobile-friendliness – you’re likely to already have a secure HTTPS website, but double check or have your developers double check that too. You can even check if your site is mobile friendly with this handy test by Google.

If you follow these three core vitals when optimising your websites (or your clients’ websites), you’ll be on top of the new updates ready for the next thing Google decides to throw at us.

The Impact of Google’s Pagespeed Update

Obviously, every time Google releases one of these major changes, websites suffer in terms of their positions and rankings on results pages.

Ultimately, web developers and SEO managers need to restructure the priority within which they lay out their strategies for optimising websites, based on these essential updates.

Websites may suffer ‘penalties’ dealt out by Google if they fail to keep on top of their site speed optimisations. They’ll lower or completely remove rankings if user experience considerations are deemed insufficient. This reduces visibility, which reduces traffic, which reduces sales in the long run. Ignoring these major changes can lead to a huge knock-on effect for websites and businesses.

What’s Next for Google’s SEO Algorithm Updates?

Keeping informed regarding news on Google’s continuously evolving algorithm changes is just a vital part of being in the digital marketing industry. If you’re one of us, you already know this! If you’re reading this because you’re intrigued about the industry and perhaps want to get involved, this is your sign you’ll need to read up on all things digital marketing based – almost every day.

Why not sign up to our newsletter updates, as we release the latest information on topics including business, SEO, digital marketing, creative branding, finance and more?

As Innovationly grows, we hope to be the go-to hub of information and news for those within the digital marketing industry and beyond. Thank you for reading our insights on Google’s latest pagespeed update. Stay tuned for more…

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