Google updates its search algorithms thousands of times each year. But we aren’t always told when one has occurred — and it’s rare that we’re able to prepare in advance.

However, Google has announced that its Page Experience algorithm update will be rolled out sometime during 2021. In order to maintain or even improve your site’s rankings after that rollout takes place, it’s important you do everything possible to ready your website. Here’s what you should know about page experience and how to improve it ahead of the update.

Understanding the Importance of Page Experience

Page experience refers to how positive (or negative) a user encounter is within a specific page of a website. In other words, it reflects how easy and enjoyable it is for a web visitor to interact on a given page. Google places quite a bit of emphasis on the importance of page experience and will continue to do so with this impending update. After all, if a web visitor isn’t able to accomplish their goals due to the shortcomings of a website, that won’t result in satisfaction. And ultimately, that’s what Google cares about most.

That said, page experience isn’t everything. We do know directly from Google that page experience will never replace the need for superior content. What’s more, sites that provide a poor page experience can still theoretically rank well even after the update is rolled out. However, page experience can make all the difference when Google has to rank two different websites that provide an equal value of information. If you’re trying to compete with another business that offers great site content alongside some technical issues, improving your page experience could nudge your site ahead of your competitor’s rankings. So while it’s not the only ranking factor to be worried about, it’s definitely one on which you need to focus. 

How Page Experience is Determined and Improved

With that in mind, let’s talk about how page experience is determined and how it can be improved. As any digital marketing agency will tell you, Google considers a number of metrics when calculating page experience. In May 2020, Google also revealed its Core Web Vitals, which measure loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability. Although Google hasn’t explicitly stated how each aspect is weighed, it’s likely that its Core Web Vitals play an important role — and when combined with other page experience metrics, these calculations give us a pretty good idea of where a page stands.

So how can you improve your page experience? Here are a few important factors you’ll want to keep in mind when preparing for this algorithm update.

  • Loading Performance: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is one of the three Core Web Vitals and focuses on loading speed. You’ll want to make sure that the time needed to load the largest visual element on a given page is less than 2.5 seconds from the first click.
  • Page Errors: In addition to improving loading speed, you should eliminate broken pages and navigation errors. After all, no one wants to click on a link only to find that the page is unavailable.
  • Visual Stability: A loading page should not experience layout shifts that are disruptive to the eye. Work on getting your Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) score below 0.1 to meet the recommendations for this Core Web Vital.
  • Interactivity Delays: The elements on a given page should load quickly and completely to eliminate delays pertaining to clickability and user interaction. Your page’s First Input Delay (FID) score should be less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Mobile-Friendliness: With an increased emphasis on mobile search, it’s no surprise that your site should be responsive and totally accessible on mobile devices. Be sure to eliminate intrusive interstitials to improve mobile experience, as well.
  • Site Security: Your pages should all offer HTTPS secure connections and be free of any browsing issues that could result in malicious or deceptive content. While this is nothing new, it will continue to play a role in the page experience algorithm.

We don’t yet know everything about Google’s impending algorithm update. But we know enough about page experience ranking signals to prepare for this rollout. By using this information to guide your web improvements, you can set yourself up for success in 2021.