When it comes to SEO web design best practices, you can’t overlook the relevance of page experience.
According to Google’s own guide, page experience is a set of signals measuring how users perceive the experience they have when interacting with a web page, beyond its ability to provide information. Page experience includes Core Web Vitals, which are a set of metrics that measure experience for real-world users in terms specifically of loading performance, visual stability, and interactivity.
Page experience also includes existing search signals such as mobile-friendliness and HTTPS.
Below, we go into more detail about what you should know about page experience.
Page Experience Update
In 2021, Google announced it was going to make a Page Experience algorithm update.
In many cases, Google doesn’t provide advanced notice of algorithm updates, but they did in this case.
According to Google, when they made the announcement last year, they focused on optimizing the factors that make the internet more “delightful” for users across all devices and web browsers.
The company went on to say they are focusing on how sites can move toward users’ evolving mobile expectations. They said they want to contribute to business success as users can become more engaged and transact with fewer instances of friction impeding their experience.
The page experience ranking signal officially went into effect for mobile devices in August of last year.
Then in February of 2022, Google says it’s going to be using page experience as part of desktop rankings. They expect the rollout will be complete by the end of March 2022.
Google does point out that while they’re emphasizing page experience, they still also want to rank the pages that have the best overall information. A great page experience isn’t going to be enough to overcome not having high-quality, valuable content.
In instances where there are a lot of pages that are similar in their provision of great content, then page experience may become especially relevant for search visibility.
Going Beyond Speed
For a long time, when you mentioned optimizing website performance, the only thing anyone thought about was speed. Loading times are just one part of the equation now.
You have to delve into how a user is truly experiencing optimizations. For example, maybe your site is technically loading fast, but does it feel that way?
Core Web Vitals
As part of their move toward the provision of the best possible user experience in spring 2020, Google announced Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals is a set of metrics that that according to Google, are user-centric and real-world components of user experience.
There are three areas of focus within Core Web Vitals.
The first is the Largest Contentful Paint or LCP. LCP is a metric of how long it takes for the largest element on a page above the fold to load.
For a good user experience, your LCP should be within 2.5 seconds of the time when the page first starts to load.
First Input Delay or FID assesses how long it takes a browser to respond to an interaction triggered by a user, such as clicking a button.
You should aim to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
Then, there’s Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS, which measures the percentage of the screen affected by movement—basically, are there things jumping around on the screen and potentially leading to user frustration?
Your CLS should be less than 0.1.
These metrics are looking at how long it takes elements not to load but become ready to use.
Cumulative Layout Shift has in reality nothing to do with the speed at all. Instead, it’s about the steps you’re taking in your site design to prevent a negative user experience. For example, what if users are hitting the wrong button because of how an ad loads?
How mobile-friendly your website remains a key ranking factor. If your site is built with a responsive and modern design, then it’s probably going to meet all the necessary criteria for being mobile-friendly.
Google will be looking at things that could have a potentially negative effect on the experience for mobile users, like text that’s too small to read on a mobile screen or links that are very small and can’t be tapped easily.
There are relatively easy adjustments you can make here, including ensuring your content scales to the right size, and you can set a minimum width and height for tappable elements on a page.
You might also go through and remove any outdated plugins.
Intrusive interstitials are a fancy way of saying popups that are annoying to users. Try to avoid covering the entire page with a popup that’s irrelevant to what’s on it. You shouldn’t require users to dismiss an interstitial before they’re able to interact with a page, and it shouldn’t disrupt what a user is hoping to accomplish.
These guidelines don’t apply to interstitials used for cookies, for legal reasons, or user logins.
They also don’t apply to subscription paywalls.
In these situations, the popups should be recognized as acceptable by Googlebot.
Optimizing Page Experience
Google offers resources that can help with measuring, monitoring, and optimizing page experience.
For example, they have a Mobile-Friendly Test that you can use to figure out if your site is mobile-friendly.
You can also access different tools to help you measure and report Core Web Vitals.
Overall, there are some good things that have come out of the page experience changes happening in the past couple of years. Previously, understanding user experience wasn’t standardized at all, and you were just guessing.
Now, there are a lot of insights, and Google provides specific metrics as far as what needs to be there for a safe, fast, and engaging site. The announcement of metrics and their relevance as ranking factors gives you what you need to make improvements or work with developers who can do it for you. They tell you in no uncertain terms what they’re measuring.
You can integrate these insights with other known best practices for SEO, like link building for results.