Upcoming Google Search Page Experience and Core Web Vitals Updates

Search Page Experience Graphic

Google improves their search engine results page (SERP) by rolling out thousands of algorithm updates annually. Google announced in November last year that this years’ one of the most significant updates and will be focused on expanding page experience signals with Core Web Vitals. This update was initially planned to begin May 2021; however, Google announced that we would start to see the new experience update rollout in mid-June 2021 instead. This update can affect organic ranking positions for websites that do not meet Core Web Vitals criteria or other signals of the page experience. That’s why LOGIC1 will explain what the latest Google algorithm update will mean for your business and what you can do to ensure your website isn’t impacted negatively. This article will cover the changes released about the page experience update and how you can ensure your website benefits from these changes ahead.

Changes from 2021 Page Experience Update

The update will start rolling out during mid-June 2021, taking until the end of August 2021 for completion. The Google Search Central Blog stated that because this rollout is gentle over a period of weeks, “sites generally should not expect drastic changes”. This is an excellent move from Google to not roll this out with full impact at once. As reaching Core Web Vitals criteria are a relatively complex process, and is expected that the vast majority of websites won’t be ready for this.

What is Page Experience Signals?

As per Google’s official documentation:

“Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value. It includes Core Web Vitals, which is a set of metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of the page. It also includes existing Search signals: mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.” – Google Search Central

Search Page Experience Graphic
Search Page Experience signals

 

As we can see, the page experience signals contain several elements which are user experience-centric, from which most of those are relatively easy to achieve. However, this is not the case with Core Web Vitals, and that might be challenging for some websites. So our focus here is mainly on Core Web Vitals, which is the most complex part of this.

What is Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are three essential page loading time elements that mainly impact the overall user experience. These three elements are:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP):

Measures website’s loading performance. This is the time when your website visitors can see your’s website most of the content on their device screen. For a good user experience, your website’s LCP should occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.

First Input Delay (FID):

First Input Delay (FID) is a metric that measures the website response on users’ interactivity. In simple words, without going into very technical language, this is how long time it takes for a website to respond to users’ first actions on your website, i.e. click, tap, scroll, and similar. For a good user experience, your website’s FID should be less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS):

The CLS metric measures the website’s design visual stability. This is a crucial element from a user perspective. In other words, sometimes website ads or notifications popups are shown to delay website content to a different place, i.e. website images are loaded using lazyload feature or some javascript or CSS are loaded with delay. This can cause your website user to click on the wrong website button or elements. For example, when a website loads and the user clicks on the “Buy Now” button, a popup accrued, and the user may misclick on another element. For a good user experience, your website should have a CLS score of fewer than 100 milliseconds.

How can I test Core Web Vitals?

LOGIC1 highly recommends using the Google Page Speed Insight tool, which reflects the main site speed related issues that negatively affect user experience on your website. In this case, the main goal should be focusing on three main Core Web Vitals explained above. You may use other site speed tools. However, not all of them are measuring the new metrics correctly. If you decide to use different site speed testing tools, you must ensure that it measures site speed as per Google’s recommendations. Some of the alternative tools to consider are the GT Metrix performance report and WebPageTest tool by Catchpoint. These tools adapt Core Web Vitals elements in the respective reports to do more user experience-centric site speed testing.

What to Look for and What Matters?

When testing your website Core Web Vitals you should mainly focus on those three metrics explained above. However, there are two different ways how Google Page Speed Insight tools are reporting it.

When Doing Testing:

Your primary starting point should focus on Lab Data metrics, which are metrics based on the actual tool you are using to test it, i.e. Google Page Speed Insight. This is how fast your website works during that particular test. However, the Lab Data are only your guidance and not affecting your website in any way, at least not for now.

What Matters the Most:

The main factors that are affecting by this update are the Field Data. This data represents an aggregate view of all page loads over the previous 28-day collection period by your website’s real-world visitors, and data is updated daily for the trailing 28-day period. This is also the data that is reported on your website’s Google Search Console Page Experience Report. This is the metrics data that you should care about the most and keep an eye on it.

My Website Does Not Have Sufficient Real-World Speed Data. Why Is That?

This might happen more likely with a very niche and small websites as real-world visitors are not sufficient in the past 28-days to calculate the metrics. In this particular case, Google is not clearly defining the actual number of the sufficient number of samples (visits) and may vary as per website bases. You shouldn’t worry about this if this is the case with your website and this happens with not important pages. However, suppose the data is missing from your homepage or revenue-driven landing pages. In that case, you should think about overall quality traffic increase if the organic search is an important part of your business.

Page Experience Report in Google Search Console

A new report is added to Google Search Console named the Page Experience Report. This report combines an existing Core Web Vitals report with other relevant factors to page experience, such as mobile usability, ad experience, HTTPS usage and security issues. The Page Experience Report chart will show data about the number of “good URLs”, including their percentage of Good URLs, total impressions, and daily values. Specific components of this report can be investigated further, giving you additional insights into areas where there may be an opportunity for improvement.

Page Experience Report example
Page Experience report example

If you see any red flags on this report, it is vital that you do actions accordingly and fix them as much as possible to avoid any negative impact on your organic search traffic. Please feel free to contact LOGIC1 for help to resolve issues on your website.

Search Performance Report Update

The Search Performance Report in Search Console summarises how your site performs concerning search queries and results. This report will continue to track previous metrics such as average position in search results and click-through rate; however, you will now be able to filter your pages labelled as “good experience pages”.