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What to Expect from Google’s 2021 Page Experience Update

7 December 2020

Get ready. It’s time for another search algorithm update from Google. This one’s unique though, as Google is giving us advanced notice for their upcoming update.

It’s going to roll out in May 2021 and the key focus of the update is all about Page Experience. Due to the coronavirus they’ve notified us in advance about the update so we can make optimizations in advance of the change.

So, what is the new Page Experience update all about? There are two key factors that will influence Google’s page rankings in 2021. We’ll explain what they are and why they matter.


Page Experience

The new Google Page Experience Update revises Google’s search algorithm to prioritise a specific set of factors from a given website. These new factors appear to be mobile-friendliness, web safety, and a site’s UI/UX.

Notably, this is the first update to call out page experience as a ranking factor. It’s been in the background of their algorithm and site analysis for some time, but now it’s taking center stage. The constant movement towards mobile-first search results also continues, as is to be expected.

Google wants to prioritize site experiences that users love in their new update. Usability and user-friendliness are going to be key organic ranking factors for websites in 2021. Websites that don’t prioritize creating good quality page experiences for users will likely see a drop in both rankings and traffic when the new update rolls out.

As Neil Patel pointed out in his preview of the new Google update, building a strong brand is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t lose traffic. This might seem difficult for smaller businesses with weaker brand names, but you can still compete by creating an awesome experience for each page of your site.

Page Experience can be analyzed and measured in the study of UX (User Experience). UX is how users interact with and use your website. It’s much more than just a pretty site design, UX is how you bring users through your site journey. For e-commerce businesses, it’s how easily you bring customers through the journey of finding a product to checking out online.

Google has created a set of tools and metrics which can help you measure your Page Experience called Core Web Vitals. They will be the foundation of 2021’s update.


New Core Web Vitals

Google released a tool called Core Web Vitals in May, which is a set of metrics which can be used to measure website user experience. This tool launch was preparation for 2021’s update which will use these Web Vitals as a key ranking factor.

The current iteration of their evolving Core Web Vitals focuses on, in their own words, “loading, interactivity, and visual stability”. Here’s what these three metrics mean:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This is used to measure a site’s loading performance. It’s how long it takes to load the largest piece of content on a page. Google regards a good user experience as one where the LCP occurs within 2.5 seconds of loading the page.

First Input Delay (FID): FID measures a user’s interactivity. This is measuring how long it takes the site to respond to a user’s action. If they click a button or add something to their cart, how long does it take the browser to respond? Here Google recommends a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Less layout shifts result in better user experiences. A layout shift is when you’re browsing a site and the layout changes when you start scrolling. CLS measures these unexpected shifts. As you can imagine, the lower the number, the better. Google expects and rewards a CLS score of less than 0.1.

NitroSell e-commerce websites score well on the above metrics and we have plans to improve on these scores further in 2021 before the update is rolled out.


Existing Page Experience Signals

Apart from the Core Web Vitals, there are existing signals which indicate a good page and user experience that Google has told us about. Key amongst these are:

In 2021, all of the above will be combined with the New Core Web Vitals to determine where your site ranks for any given search term.


How to Get Ready for 2021’s Update

One of the main ways to get ready for the 2021 update is to use the tools that are available to you. Test your own site’s design and see how it stacks up against Google recommended levels and your competition.

We’ve combined Google’s list of recommended actions together with our own picks for how to ensure your site is ready for 2021:


Conclusion

User experience is the golden rule for websites in 2021. In their article from May 2020, Google talked at length about their focus on “page experience for a better web”. They’ve called out how quickly a page loads, mobile-friendliness, and the new Core Web Vitals as the focus for page evaluation.

User experience will continue to grow as a ranking factor and this is the first major step by Google. There will be revisions and tweaks to the algorithm as Google always does, but this is a major shift that’s here to stay.

Stay tuned to NitroSell for our full response to Google’s Page Experience Update.