The Page Experience Algorithm – What is it, and What it Means for You

It’s quite unlike Google to give us even a few days’ notice about what their new algorithms will include – so its amazing to have a few months. Mainly due to the ongoing impacts of Covid-19, Google has decided to share its intentions for the next major algorithm update (coming in May 2021) so that we can adjust our websites in advance and make sure our rankings don’t tank. So today, I’m sharing the update, and some tips on how to prepare for it, with you.

Page Experience

No one could explain the update better than Google, so here’s what the update will entail, in their own words:

The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

Basically, in order to understand how a user will perceive and experience a certain web page, Google will evaluate a set of signals. This includes how quickly the page loads, if it’s mobile friendly, runs on HTTPS, has intrusive interstitials (adverts that appear while the page is loading), and whether the content jumps around as the page loads. The purpose of this update is to make sure that the websites ranking at the top of Google aren’t delivering an experience that users hate. After all, Google wants users to enjoy the experience of using the search engine, and that means recommending websites that won’t irritate the users.

This might sound like a small change, but it signals the start of a big shift in the world of SEO.

How can you Prepare?

A lot of the time the Google algorithm focuses on the website as a whole, before delving down further into the details. But in this case, Google has been keen to emphasise page experience above whole website experience. Now, that doesn’t mean that your whole website shouldn’t have a good user experience, but most experts guess that Google are going to focus on their algorithm from a page-level basis. After all, if you have a few pages on your website that have a bad experience, but the rest are good, then it wouldn’t make sense for Google to reduce the rankings for your whole site. So your best bet is to focus on improving one page at a time, looking at these factors:

Optimise Your Speed: The faster your website loads, the better experience you’ll have. Google has expressed the importance of load speeds before, but in terms of user experience it’s one of the most important things to get right. Get your website load time for both desktop and mobile under 3 seconds – or 1 second if possible.

Reduce 400 Errors: A 400 error is one of the HTTP response status codes, and it indicates that something went wrong on the site. You’re probably most familiar with the 404 error – which means the page you’re looking for can’t be found. A 400 error means that the server was unable to process the request sent by the client due to invalid syntax. It’s essentially a broken page, and broken pages create bad experiences.

Compare Your Experience to Your Competitors: You might think you have an amazing user experience – but in reality you might be further down the ladder than you think. The best way to figure out how good your user experience really is, is to compare it to your competition. Find out who your main competitors on Google are, and then go through and look at the user experience of their top 10-50 pages. Ask yourself what it is they’re doing, how their content quality compares to yours, and what the differences are between your website and theirs. Be really honest – and then use that information to improve your own user experience.

Analyse Your Design: Design is a big part of user experience on websites. Where is your users attention going first? Where does it need to go? And how are they directed through the website? If the experience is well designed, then you will get a nice easy flow through, with a clear map of an average user journey. But if it’s not well designed, you’ll get a lot of spots and patches of attention in odd places. The best way to see this is in a heatmap, and there are services out there that can show you your website heatmap for free – and show you how you can improve it.

Of course, those are just a few suggestions for easy-win improvements you can make. But the wonderful thing about having so much notice of the change is that you can make these adjustments slowly, learning more about user experience as you go and ultimately providing a much better service to your customers as a result. If you’d like to know more about the Page Experience Algorithm, or what you can do to prepare for it, just get in touch with me today.