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Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent
In May 2021, Google will issue a huge algorithm update, ‘Page Experience’ which is all based around not interrupting the website visitor from browsing and interfering with their intended customer journey. It could be said that page experience is subjective, what may be a perfect customer journey for one visitor could be completely different to someone else. Therefore, Google are using masses of technology to evaluate the user experience.
This latest update is wildly different to any previous updates that has happened before. Typically, Google places more emphasis on the ‘behind the scenes’ of the website, giving domain authority to those with high quality & quantity backlinks, strong SEO practices with frequently updated and relevant content. Hence, Page Experience is a refreshing, welcomed change, especially for the website users, putting themselves in the view of a website visitor.
What is Google classifying as Page Experience?
These factors are exactly what Google will be analysing when indexing a web page.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP is the largest single piece of content on a web page within the initial viewport above the fold. Typically, on a car dealer website homepage, this will be the main banner. Google will measure the lag between the time it takes for this to become visible after the website loads. Aa a rule of thumb, a good score is anything under 2.5 seconds.
First Input Delay (FID)
FID is the time taken between the user clicking on a button to when the website responds to that action. For example, a user clicking ‘enquire now’ on a used car, this is the length of time it takes to execute that request, which could be to generate an enquiry form or whatever the next step of your website may be. A good score here is anything under 100 milliseconds. Obviously, a long response time can deter the visitor from going forward with their journey and you may end up losing that lead.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS is the metric used to explore how much the website content can shift, even fractionally, that can affect the visitor’s customer journey, it is generally unintentional. For example, a visitor might be trying to click cancel, but the page shifts to position the users’ mouse over the buy now button instead. CLS can lead the user to go forward with unintended actions, which can obviously be frustrating for the user. A good score is under 0.1.
There are several factors in ensuring that your website is safe & secure. These include having a valid SSL HTTPS, clean of malware and no deceptive content. If all of these procedures are in place you will see the padlock just before the URL on the top search bar of your browser. The smallest things can invalidate an SSL – for example using poor tracking plug-ins, using images, scripts, libraries & resources from any sites with no SSL, not deriving from a HTTPS URL, just to name a few.
In 2021 it would be surprising to come across a website that is not responsive, since mobile is continuously overtaking desktop in terms of preferred device. Having a website sized appropriately for mobile devices is super important for users, even before this algorithm update.
We have all seen these before and probably all agree that they are irritating to say the least. An intrusive interstitial is a popup that prevents the visitor from doing anything else on that page for a period of time. Examples of these are newsletter sign ups, offers, customer feedback survey, advertising etc – clearly contributing to a poor page experience. However, this does not include pop ups like live chat, age verification, cookie consent.
How big will the penalties be?
As seen in previous google updates, as soon as they are released, they can cause an immediate hit on website rankings, and we know how long it can take to work your way back up to the top of search engines.
In a worst-case scenario, websites could completely disappear from Googles search results however it will likely be more gradual because of the way Google indexes sites – indexing is not real time. Bots continuously crawl websites and send information back to data centres and it’s these data centres that drive search results. The important point of this is, scoring is aggregated, so realistically, you must maintain a score over 28 days, otherwise recovery is going to be tough.
It’s not all negative! Google algorithm updates can sometimes be beneficial. Websites can be rewarded for good content and good scores for each of the above points, by being bumped up the rankings on Google. Also, it should be acknowledged that backlinks, SEO and particularly content are all still very important.
What we recommend
Assess your current website performance and roll out your fixes as soon as possible. This update will be rolled out in May 2021 so there is plenty of warning to realise and implement anything that needs addressing. There are many free online tools that can help you do this.
Unfortunately, we are unable to know the weight of each of these factors – as to whether you should prioritise one over another. So presently we are regarding each component equally important in considering Page Experience.
Some points you should be exploring involve cleansing the nature of plugins used, make sure your website is mobile friendly, remove any unnecessary popups etc. which will all optimise the page experience.
There are lots of methods to fix any worries you may have about the speed and security of your website; however, this is heavy technical talk. We can run an audit on your website and see if anything, what you will be penalised for. As it is said by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!