May 2021: The date is set for Google Page Experience Update

The end of spring 2021 will see the brand new, much vaunted Google Page Experience Update. This will manifest in Google highlighting search results that prioritise and perfect page experience. The update will be rolled out around one year after the initial announcement and from the launch date reveal in early November, SEOs will have had 6 months to fully prepare.

The announcement of a ‘visual indicator’

Alongside the update Google confirmed that they will also introduce a trial run of showing “visual indicator in search results that highlights pages that have great page experience.” This visual indicator in the search results will serve to highlight pages that are supposed to benefit from strong ‘page experience.’ It will likely follow suit from previous visual indicators such as AMP icons and mobile-friendly labels.

Google explained its rationale for the visual indicator. “We believe that providing information about the quality of a web page’s experience can be helpful to users in choosing the search result that they want to visit. On results, the snippet or image preview helps provide topical context for users to know what information a page can provide. Visual indicators on the results are another way to do the same, and we are working on one that identifies pages that have met all of the page experience criteria.”

The indicators will begin the testing phase soon, Google confirmed, and if testing proves successful the indicators will launch concurrently with the Page Experience Update in May 2021.

Page Experience – an overview

Google will be using an array of signals to understand how users will experience a specific web page, including page load time, mobile friendliness, whether it runs on HTTPS, has intrusive interstitials and whether content jumps about during page loading. The overall page experience quality of a web page will also involve the refinement of metrics based on speed and usability, which fall under the umbrella of Google’s so-called ‘Core Web Vitals.’

How best to prepare for the update

The question on the lips of many in the SEO industry is: how do we prepare for the Google Page Experience Update? Well, there is no time like the present and there are some very quantifiable ways to boost user experience. The Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console will offer excellent insight in which areas you can improve for your site.

This little checklist should serve as a strong aid as to the areas you should look to optimise in preparation for the update.

  • Is my Website Mobile-Friendly?
  • Is my site secure?
  • Is my content on point and a primary focus?
  • Is my site as fast as it can be?
  • Have I used heatmaps to highlight usability problems?
  • Are bounce rates as low as they should be?
  • Have intrusive interstitials been removed?

In terms of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), they will not be a mandatory requirement to show in the “top stories” carousel in Google search after the update. AMP will continue to be supported by Google, however.

How big an impact will the update have?

The general consensus among SEOs is that while it will not be seismic, the update along with the later announcement of the visual indicator will mean more emphasis should be placed on Core Web Vitals and other experience signals, which should give SEOs more clout to push for further investment in web performance.