Sunday, May 26, 2024

How to Optimize Your Website for Google’s Page Experience Update

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This is, of course, a concern for website owners. The term algorithm, or for the update is tracked as a signal set, becomes a reference where site owners can adjust. It can be a positive signal because it can make the website better, or vice versa, it could be a call for change if the website is considered to be bad when searched. And an update like this can certainly have a direct impact on search results. Take, for example, the Mobile Friendly update, which serves as a signal that gives good ratings to websites that are mobile-friendly. They will reward websites with a label “Mobile Friendly” as shown in the example below. This can increase the number of visitors from mobile users for mobile-friendly sites.

In a simple concept, the better the experience when a user visits a website, the better. Google became the measuring agent. As the owner of the site, we are surely doing everything to make visitors feel comfortable when visiting our website. Choosing a template that suits your needs, making it easy to navigate, removing unimportant widgets, and carefully selecting images are all good things to do. Most of the sites are already doing it, but sometimes it has an impact on other things such as page load speed, mobile friendliness, or the utilization of HTTPS. What Google wants is for the comfort of visitors to remain number one without ignoring other aspects related to the site.

Google has been introducing updates to its search algorithms since the beginning until now. Every update has made webmasters and digital marketing agencies concerned since it can interfere with their website. On May 28th this year, Google officially announced the latest update to the search algorithm they called the Google Page Experience Update. This update is very much focused on the user experience when they perform a search on the Google search engine. The update will begin to have an impact on the search results starting at the end of August 2023. Now website owners or digital marketing agencies must start preparing changes to their website in order to maintain the position of the SERP.

Understanding Google’s Page Experience Update

Google announced the Page Experience update in May 2020 and is set to launch in May 2021. It basically outlines a mixture of several user experience signals intended to help Google quantify the experience of interacting with a web page. The Page Experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction. The Page Experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces. It also helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction. Some of you might be thinking my SEO is doing well and I’m ranking fine, will this impact my traffic? Google has reiterated that, while this is a new signal, they will aim to introduce it slowly. Some aspects of page experience are already taken into account for ranking, so it won’t be a huge overnight change. All said and done, given the SEO community was blindsided by the mobilegeddon update, we hope this time you’ll take Google’s advice a little more seriously!

Importance of Optimizing Your Website

Here we have a concrete example of how Google’s basic objective is to replicate our experience in the real world with using the internet. Imagine visiting a friend who opens the door immediately (quick server response time) and whose house doesn’t take 5 minutes to load room contents as you move around (quick page load time). Now take imagine the painfully slow experience you’ve had at the house of an elderly relative. Without implying Google’s aim is to alienate the elderly or slow internet users, it is apparent Google will aim to favour pages which compare closely to the ‘ideal’ real-life situation, and over time will further refine methods of measurement for this. All future studies into Google’s page rank algorithms will likely reveal further ‘tips’ for incremental improvements of page quality in a certain direction, the direction Google is trying to move web development in. Without being mindful of these changes and ready to enact them, your site will be left behind.

There are multiple reasons to optimize your website. The first and most important is developing a habit around this. It’s no secret the web is largely turning into a system for exchanging information where the finite resource is human attention. Anything superfluous to this objective will eventually be phased out. For example, Google says, “There are now over 150 signals that Google uses to rank pages. The most famous of these is PageRank, which measures the ‘importance’ of pages.” One of the Page Experience signals measures “How quickly the page is displayed relative to other pages” using the “page loading time” as a factor of weighting, and sub-factors such as “latency between a user click and a response from the server” and “how quickly the elements of the page are displayed”.

Key Factors to Consider

Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness, and visual stability. They are designed to measure the user experience on a website. The metrics that make up Core Web Vitals are largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. The largest contentful paint (LCP) metric reports the render time of the largest content element visible within the viewport. This could be an image or even a block of text. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of the page first starting to load. First input delay (FID) measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page (i.e. when they click a link or button) to the time when the browser is actually able to respond to that interaction. To provide a good user experience, pages should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds. The final metric, cumulative layout shift (CLS), is a measure of visual stability. It reports the sum total of all individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs during the entire lifespan of the page. Pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1. If a page meets these guidelines, Google claims it will be providing a good user experience. Mobile friendliness has been a ranking factor since 2015 when mobile searches overtook desktop searches. It’s simple really, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you can expect to see a decrease in both traffic and conversions. To check whether your website is mobile-friendly, you can use the mobile-friendly test tool within Google Search Console. This will report on any issues or errors with a page and will advise on how to fix them. Mobile friendliness is also a page experience factor, so whether a page is mobile-friendly can have an effect on its ranking in both mobile and desktop searches. For these reasons, mobile friendliness is a vital factor to consider when looking to optimize a website for the page experience update.

Core Web Vitals

The ultimate goal of Core Web Vitals is to promote and maintain a healthy and functional web ecosystem. Core Web Vitals are made up from a combination of existing Google search signals metrics with the addition of three main factors, which are loading, interactivity, and visual stability. According to Google, the reason they have chosen this route is simply because they believe that by focusing on these three factors, this encapsulates the key points which contribute to a user’s experience when visiting a web page.

Core Web Vitals are a new set of factors designed by Google which are fundamentally important in order to deliver a solid website user experience. The focus of Core Web Vitals is to understand and measure aspects of web performance, which in turn can be then used by site owners to further improve and understand the experience that they are delivering to their users.

Mobile Friendliness

The main characteristics of a mobile-friendly page, as defined by Google, is one where the text can be read without zooming, the size of content fits the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom. It also states that tappable items should be spaced enough so that the correct one can be easily tapped. The recommended way to create a mobile-friendly page is with responsive web design, meaning that the URL for the page is the same regardless of the device, but the HTML adjusts the display for the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration for creating mobile-optimized content, and it has stated that it may be easier for webmasters using responsive web design to maintain and monitor the site. Alternative methods include dynamic serving and creating a separate mobile site with different HTML. However, in Google’s eyes, all these methods have the same goal, so you can choose the method which best fits your company’s goals. Step one for creating a mobile-friendly page is to go to the Mobile-Friendly Test and analyze the results. According to the size of the site, this can take a few days at most to update. Note that the mobile-friendly test is page-based, so it is best to start with your most important pages first.

Google introduced mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in April 2015. This change had a significant impact on the search results, so much so that it was dubbed “Mobilegeddon”. With this in mind, it’s clear to see that mobile-friendliness is here to stay, and what’s more, the Page Experience Update places a further emphasis on it. To ensure that your site meets the required standards, you should consider the following:

Safe Browsing

The third component in considering whether or not to display non-mobile friendly URLs in mobile search results is in determining the safety of the page. Web pages that fall under any of the following categories are considered unsafe in the context of displaying in mobile search results: 1. Malware and Unwanted Software: This is a site that might download software onto a visitor’s computer that causes unexpected ads. It could also be software that can cause an unexpected change to a computer’s operation. 2. Phishing: Defined as a site that pretends to be a trustworthy site such as a bank or online store, with the intent to steal the user’s login credentials or other personal information. 3. Hacked content: This includes a site that has been compromised and serves any kind of spam in search results. To test whether your webpages have these problems that might affect the safety of users, the Security Issues report can be used within Google’s search console. This report will help to identify and provide solutions to any problems with malware or spam that have been found on your pages. Note that only sites verified within search console will be shown any existing security issues.

Optimizing Your Website

Page optimization is imperative to increase the loading speed, improving the website’s usability and user experience, and increasing the revenue likely to be generated through the website. Skipping this step would be detrimental to any website and could mean the difference between becoming a successful and ranking well and getting lost in the sea of the internet. Speeding up your web page will benefit you in almost all areas whether it be an increased user experience, safety, indirectly providing Google a reason to rank your page higher or financial gains through your website. Page speed is the time a visitor has to wait until your page is completely rendered on their screen. It is best measured in the time it takes for a page to be completely displayed, this is also known as the ‘page load time’. At the end of 2009, an average time of 4.9 seconds was recorded. In the summer of 2010, the average page load time for the Alexa top 1000 list was about 2.3 seconds. Nowadays, Google recommends webmasters to have a page load time of 3 seconds or less. This just shows the standard at which web pages are expected to perform. Having a faster page will make it easier to crawl and index and this in turn can increase the chances of a better page rank. Google has also said that page speed is a factor in the reliability of a web page and this could mean your web page will have higher rates of being indexed. This is beneficial if more of your pages are deep in your website and are not linked to from the home page. If a user has come to your page from a search engine and they find that the current page they are on is no use to them, they may decide to visit the home page and then navigate through the site from there. The faster the page the less likely they will be deterred. Additionally, experiments have proved that changes which speed up a web page can lead to increases in conversions and page views. This is because users have an improved impression of the site and are more likely to return then recommend the site to others.

Improving Page Speed

Improving page speed is a complex topic. Really, it could be a book in its own. But here are a few things you can do. Firstly, remove anything that’s slowing you down. This may sound obvious, but you might not be entirely sure what that is. It’s difficult to recommend a specific tool for this as you’ll generally need to know a bit about web development, but here are two things to get you started. Make sure your images aren’t too big, and try to use fewer widgets. Both of these are common problems and can slow a site down significantly. You can get more details about this from the PageSpeed score provided in the Google Webmaster Tools. This has a more detailed list but actual real-world speed effects (don’t spend ages boosting a score that’s already perfect!). Combine this with the use of browser-based performance testing tools such as dynaTrace, and you have a pretty powerful manual toolkit for finding what is slow on your site. Once you know what’s slow, you’ll likely need to look deeper into web development documentation to understand how to fix it. There’s a whole section of the PageSpeed rules devoted to specific content types and technologies! This might be too technical for many. You need to assess whether the potential site speed gain is worth the time investment. Another good tool is YSlow, which provides a performance report and gives fairly specific detail on ways to improve. Lastly, be very mindful about adding anything to your website in the future. It’s easy to fall into the trap of adding new features without much thought to their site speed implications.

Enhancing Mobile Responsiveness

Mobile devices account for more than half of the internet traffic, making them the primary way that most people access the web. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that Google has taken an interest in how well a website’s mobile version performs. It is essential that your website is navigable and doesn’t make use of software that is unable to function on a mobile device. You want to avoid using Flash, as it is known to not work well on many mobile devices. Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Farr went as far as to recommend that a site that has a non-mobile friendly page should just 404 when viewed by a mobile user. Mobile redirect errors should also be avoided. Google stated that it is best to use responsive web design over a separate mobile site. This is because it is less error-prone, more efficient in terms of crawling, indexing, and organizing content, and more cost effective to maintain. When a site is designed with the same content and the same URLs for both mobile and desktop users, it is much easier for Google to crawl and index the content. This avoids errors and makes for a much smoother process in general. Using the same URLs will also make it easier for users to share and interact with the content, as opposed to having a mobile site on a different URL. It is important to ensure that the visual content is still at a high quality for mobile users. Using the different robots meta tags on the mobile and desktop pages and the Vary HTTP header can be used to serve the Googlebot user agent different content depending on the user-agent. This is to ensure that your site does not get dinged for serving Googlebot-mobile different content than what a visitor would see. In terms of visual content, having a high ratio of content to adverts is important. Although mobile screens are often smaller than that of a desktop, it is still important to give the user a good amount of visible content, rather than filling half the screen with adverts. This was highlighted by Google’s John Mueller when he said that “interstitials can be problematic on a mobile site”.

Ensuring Safe Browsing Experience

Understanding what threats your site is facing and preventing them is the best way to ensure a safe browsing experience. Do regular checks on your site for malware and for any harmful downloads. The Marine Digital Penetration Tests are a great tool for understanding what vulnerabilities your site has. This test helps you to understand how an attacker could gain access to your site and what damage could be caused. Once threats are understood, it is essential to know where to find help to remove them. If your site is using Google Webmaster Tools, you will be notified if your site is infected with malware. You will be alerted on the specific URLs that are infected and will be given tips for how to remove the malware. This is an extremely effective way to ensure the safety of your site. Failure to remove malware will result in your site being flagged by Google SafeBrowsing as a potential threat to users. You will be notified of this in Webmaster Tools and will also be given tips for how to resolve the issue. Take notice of these issues and resolve them immediately. Regular checks should also be done on your URLs against the SafeBrowsing list via the SafeBrowsing API. This will ensure that there are no instances of your site being a potential threat to users.

Key to providing a satisfactory browsing experience is the very safety of the experience. Users of your website need to feel safe from threats. Safe browsing is an expected standard for users. Browsers are now alerting users when they are about to access a site that could be a potential threat. This is a heavy blow to businesses, since users will be deterred from accessing the site. It will be a bigger blow if your site is infected and you are unaware of it. This issue can cause serious damage, but it can be resolved by making sure that you are informed when your site runs into safety issues.

Optimizing User Experience

One way to optimize user experience is to ensure that your website is easy to use. This means that visitors should be able to find what they are looking for quickly and without getting frustrated. A tool like Crazy Egg can be very helpful for discovering how visitors are navigating your site. It’s also often helpful to have someone who is not familiar with your site try to find something and then watch what they do. Often times you will be surprised by how difficult it is for others to use your site. If it is difficult to find something, change the location of it on the page or try adding it to your navigation bar. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to find anything on your site with the fewest number of clicks. Another important factor is your site layout/color scheme. A cluttered, disorganized layout will often lead to higher bounce rates. Visitors will often make a quick judgment on how professional your site is simply by its layout. A clean, uncluttered design can lead to higher perceived credibility and higher visitor satisfaction. Color can also affect how a person feels about your site. It’s often helpful to research color psychology and consider what emotions you would like your visitors to feel. Always keep your target audience in mind. A site selling children’s toys would want to use a much different color scheme than one selling funeral caskets. Lastly, think about the visual media on your site. Does it add to the content or is it just filler? Well thought out images or videos can be very effective for enhancing the user experience and attention span. A wall of text can be intimidating and often goes unread. A few images or videos can be very effective for summarizing the content of a page. Always make sure that visual media is related to the content and is not distracting. If your site is loading a lot of images, consider using the lazy load technique so that the page only loads the images above the fold, thus reducing load time for other content.

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