Site experience matters — especially to Google

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First impressions matter. Be it in your personal or professional life, this old adage rings true also as it relates to your website.

For many, websites are the opportunity to make a first impression on someone seeking out your company and its services, so of course you want to provide them with a positive experience. This becomes even more important as it relates to your company’s website and to the many updates Google has waiting in the wings.

Google’s page experience update

The latest update pending at Google is centered around page experience, or the perception that a user might have of your site and how they see it and interact with core functionality of each page.

Google will place weight on the actual human experience of your site and how a user physically interacts with its various pages. The search giant is and has been gathering much of this information using its Chrome web browser as feedback to what is known as Chrome User Experience (Google CrUX).

Key elements that Google is looking at fall into what are known as Core Web Vitals, or signals that help them determine how positive or negative a site’s user experience really is, ultimately factoring into how a site might rank in search results.

Major elements of core web vitals

Page experience and the core web vitals measured within the overarching update can be placed in a similar bucket that might as well be dubbed as site performance. Elements that have already been in play for some time now are those stemming from whether or not your site is mobile friendly, it is secure (HTTPS) and doesn’t include any intrusive or disruptive pop-ups known as interstitials.

The latest areas of concern focus on the following three core elements:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), a measurement, or the time it takes for the largest visible element (text or images) on a page to appear. Google’s rule of thumb for “good” LCP is 2.5 seconds or less. Anything with an LCP of 4 seconds or more is deemed “poor.”
  • First Input Delay (FID), is the amount of time between the user’s first interaction with a page. This can be anything from clicking a link, a button or some other interaction on the page itself. Measured in milliseconds, a “good” FID is 100 milliseconds or less, whereas 300-plus milliseconds is “poor.”
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), is in place to quantify the user experience when something unexpected happens. An example would be when you click on something within the page and the layout changes or an element moves unexpectedly.

Preparing your site for page experience update

Given that this is an update coming directly from Google, they have been somewhat open about the potential changes and impact that it could have on sites. That said, some of the best tools available to the public come from the search engine itself.

Google Search Console is a free tool from Google that you or your marketing teams should be using to gauge the overall health of your site. The newest version of Search Console even includes a Core Web Vitals report that can garner some keen insights on which pages could be performing poorly and what action you might need to take to improve them.

Google PageSpeed Insights is another free tool from Google that allows you to hone in on page-level issues. Note: This will not run your entire site through the process, only individual pages you drop in for a crawl and analysis. The great thing about PageSpeed Insights is that this information can quickly be shared with your marketing and web development teams.

Common items that plague many sites come from the overuse of large image file sizes that take too long to load and render in your typical web browser. In addition, we often see unused code snippets that can be removed and optimized. Much like placing items into a container, the more you have to load up, the longer it takes. Reduce the number of elements that you’re requiring the browser to load up, create a more efficient path, ultimately impacting the user experience as well.

We know the bulk of these updates will roll out throughout the summer, as such, we recommend monitoring your site for changes. Some sites might improve, whereas others could lose traction or not experience much of a change whatsoever. Google has stated it anticipates Page Experience Signals to evolve and continue to be optimized in the coming months and years, meaning this is a segment of search that is here to stay and something you and your marketing team should be aware of as the world of digital and search continues to evolve.

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