Need to get up to speed fast? Jump to the bottom to view our Page Experience webinar or to download the checklist.
You’ve experienced it before: you’re trying to shop or read an article online and the site is jumping, loading slowly, and covered with interrupting ads.
As the user, this is incredibly frustrating and will lead you to click away to a better website. In fact, the average cart abandonment rate in 2021 is 68% according to Baymard Institute.
Website owners should be equally frustrated. Not only is an abandoned visitor a lost opportunity for engagement and revenue, a poor web experience will make the website more difficult to find in search results. Why?
In the midst of the pandemic, Google announced a rollout in spring/summer 2021 to put UX first: a poor website user experience (UX) is now a factor in search rankings.
That slow, jumpy, and ad-filled website is more likely to be relegated to page three or four of the search engine results pages (SERP), meaning, very few people will find and click on it.
This is a big miss. According to SearchEngine Journal, the first organic Google search result has a 28% click-through-rate (CTR). This percentage declines with the second and third rankings coming in at 15% and 11%, respectively.
These statistics drive home the importance of ranking at the top of the first page of a Google search and why marketers must protect their rankings during Google’s Page Experience update.
Let’s simplify the components of Google’s Page Experience update, brush up on existing UX-related search signals, and explain how marketers can improve their site to appease Google, while improving customers’ UX.
Google’s Page Experience Update 2021: The What, Why, and How:
Google makes thousands of updates each year to improve the search experience; the Page Experience update aims to help Google serve up the highest quality and most user-friendly sites in SERPs.
“Page experience is a set of signals (Core Web Vitals and existing search signals) that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page, beyond its pure information value.”
Though Google took many of these factors into account previously, their Core Web Vitals definition provides much-needed specifics, while giving marketers tools to measure and optimize these facets of their website.
(PSST: This update will affect mobile experiences first, then desktop. It’s important to note that these metrics will remain separate and will not roll up into one score.)
So, what are Core Web Vitals? Currently, the Core Web Vitals include Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift – let’s break each down.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Largest Contentful Paint is a long way of saying loading. It should be no surprise that website connectivity and loading time are important factors in UX – no one likes a slow website!
LCP measures how long it takes for the largest image or content block (within the screen) to download and be ready for interaction.
LCP looks at images, video poster images, background images, and block-level text elements, like paragraph tags. The ideal LCP loading time is 2.5 seconds or less, anything longer than that needs to be addressed to ensure your search ranking and UX isn’t suffering.
(Unsure of how your website speed measures up? Scroll down for tools to measure site speed and other Page Experience factors.)
A few ways to improve your site speed and LCP:
Compress and cache images and video – being sure not to reduce the quality.
Optimize mobile-first experiences to adjust to the rise of mobile browses over desktop.
Implement lazy loading for images and video, so the content appears as the user scrolls on the page.
Use Global Styles or web-hosted fonts, with no more than seven typefaces.
Ultimately, these best practices will speed up your webpages, while giving customers’ an improved experience.
First Input Delay (FID)
Next, Google focuses on interactivity – we all know how frustrating it is to click a button and see nothing happen!
First Input Delay measures the time it takes for your site to process a call-to-action (CTA) click (aka respond and return the desired outcome). FID analyzes inputs like taps, clicks, and keypresses, and Google recommends the interactivity response time should be 100 milliseconds or less.
A delayed response is frequently the result of a webpage loading something in the background. To improve your website’s FID score:
Use clear indicators to acknowledge input, such as loading icons or looping animation (remember the beachball of doom?). Clear and helpful visuals go a long way to reduce user frustration.
Create a clear layout with well-defined and unobstructed clickable elements.
Compress and cache content.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Cumulative Layout Shift addresses the visual stability of a website, which can be compromised by ads or other loading elements on the page.
Unexpected layout shifts and jumping CTAs can cause visitors to click on something they didn’t intend to, which can lead to frustration, accidental conversions, or abandonment.
An example of this is a user trying to click a button from a mobile device, but the content shifts to make room for a slow-loading ad to appear – pushing that button down, missing the click, and irritating the user.
Remedy your visual stability by:
Specify image width and height in the CSS – this may sound tedious, but you’ll thank us (and Google) later. (We frequently see jumpiness due to uneven image sizes in sliders).
Align elements and reserve space for potential layout shifts.
Eliminate or optimize ads for a fluid user experience.
Review and prioritize (or lazy load) scripts and plugins, like YouTube, to cut down on the work your page must do when users land on it.
Focus on Web Basics
Optimizing your webpage for Core Web Vitals is a combination of getting web fundamentals right (hello site speed!) and carefully considering how users’ will interact and experience the page to achieve desired goals.
Then, optimize all aspects of the page to make it easier and more enjoyable for users to complete those goals.
Reduce the friction, reap the benefits! Next, let’s brush up on the most critical search signal, and a few other signals impacting UX.
Why Content Remains the Critical Search Signal
It’s important to remember Google assesses website content to best match users’ search intent. Quality content still reigns supreme. Your goal is to write the most helpful and informative content on any topic.
Google’s Martin Splitt said it best:
“Bad content delivered faster is still bad content.”
Ensure the content published on your site is credible, authoritative, and relevant to the user’s search query. Your content should answer users’ questions, offer an alternative viewpoint, provide credible sourcing and links to research, and be easy to read.
Some things to keep in mind when writing copy or sourcing images and video for your site:
Create informative content, addressing customers’ top concerns and questions – ask yourself, does it E.A.T (invoking Expertise, Authority, and Trust)?
Add keywords to page titles, URLs, and descriptions for every page to ensure you’re maximizing SEO.
Add Alt Text to all your images. This will allow crawlers to index the images correctly and help with ADA compliance.
Remember, you’re writing for humans first, robots second. You want the language to be simple and straightforward to let your point of view shine. If appropriate, adding humor or unique opinion is a great way to stand out from the crowd.
What Else? A Few Other Search Signals
Although these search signals aren’t new, they’re critical to UX and protecting your search rankings.
Mobile-friendliness is a no-brainer. Over the years, many users have transitioned from desktop to mobile as their primary device for browsing. (You’re more than likely reading from a phone or tablet at this very moment.) If you don’t offer a mobile-friendly browsing experience, you risk turning off a huge volume of customers.
Safe browsing is a thoughtful security service Google put into place to proactively warn users and webmasters of unsafe sites. They also publish a convenient transparency report that you can view here.
HTTPS. Like safe browsing, HTTPS indicates to users that your website is credible and secure. Marketers can invest in a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate to put customers at ease and add an extra level of trust and security.
Intrusive interstitials (popovers), when executed poorly, are the bane of every user’s web experience. If your site employs a popover, make sure it doesn’t take up too much real estate, is easy to close (especially from mobile), and extends a valuable offer to your customers.
Looking for more? Check out our recent webinar, presented by Whereoware strategy and content experts, Anna Yunker and Rachel Meyer.
Webinar Recap: Google’s Page Experience Update
Watch our 30-minute webinar on Core Web Vitals and the importance of impactful and quality content on your site. Don’t forget to download the checklist to ensure you’re – quite literally – checking all the boxes to rank well under Google’s page experience update.
Helpful Tools & Resources to Measure Page Experience