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Google’s 2021 Page Experience Update: What to Expect


Written by Rachel Green

Over the years Google has increased its efforts to encourage webmasters everywhere to improve user experience within their websites. For many of us, the indication of a great site is all in how responsive, interactive and fast it is to use. In early May (2020), Google announced that their Chrome team had released a set of three Core Web Vitals related to the speed of the site, responsiveness and visual stability. These Vitals are intended to better assist site owners with designing their sites to improve the user experience. At the end of May, Google then went on to announce that they would be releasing a brand new signal, the Page Experience Update. The update will use the 3 Core Web Vitals and blend them together with already established page experience signals.

laptop on desk with google on screen

Given the impact of the current global pandemic upon people’s ability to hit the high-street and shop at physical locations, many businesses have increased their online presence in order to reach their customers more safely. To alleviate concerns around the impact a new update could have on the SEO of many companies at such a challenging time, Google have very kindly proposed an adjustment period before the full update hits us in mid-2021. This will allow businesses to get their websites up to scratch in advance of the update, thereby avoiding any potential detriment that may have come as a result of being left behind.

So what will Google’s 2021 Page Experience Update involve?

Good question! Google has described the update as a ‘new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience’. Let’s begin by taking a quick dive into the 3 Core Web Vitals: loading, interactivity, and visual stability, as well as the existing page experience signals.

3 Core Web Vitals

Loading – Previously, this was measured by the time taken for the first element to load on screen, which was often a little unreliable. Google will now measure the time taken for the page’s largest element to load. This more closely mirrors the users actual experience when the site loads. Ideally, a site should aim to have the largest element load within the first 2.5 seconds of clicking onto the page, to have an optimal load speed.

Interactivity – A site that quickly responds to a user’s action, whether it be a button click here or a hover over graphic there, is much preferred to sites that respond very slowly. The interactivity Core Vital measures the time between a user’s initial action taken on a site, and the site’s response to that action. Aiming to maintain a first input delay score of less than 100 milliseconds is optimal.

Visual Stability– We’ve all at some point been on a website that displays ‘jumpy’ content. Imagine- you’re browsing bathroom essentials and then BAM! Suddenly everything shifts upward and you end up accidentally ordering 50 rubber ducks for your bathtub. It’s not only really annoying, but it can also lead to accidental purchases, or other unintentional actions. The aim of this Core Vital is to monitor the number of unexpected layout shifts that occur on a page. Sites are expected to maintain a CLS score of less than 0.1 to adhere to the standard and ensure their page is not causing issues with user experience.

The new update also combines these Core Web Vitals with already established page experience signals, including:

Mobile Optimization- As more and more of us take to the internet via a handheld device, the more imperative it has become to ensure that your website is accessible and usable on a mobile device. Websites that are not mobile responsive are likely to lose potential traffic, especially with Google having moved to a mobile-first indexing of their search results as of 2018.

Safe Browsing– Great site security is crucial. The more protection you can offer your site visitors the better, because we all know hackers could be lurking just around the corner. Deceptive sites and unwanted software can be a huge threat to user safety, so Google will take into account any measures you have in place to increase security.

HTTPS- Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is used for secure communications, and is now used by the majority of website owners. This protocol protects user connection to the site and ensures the data between the site and user remains confidential.

Intrusive Interstitials– A slightly overly complicated way of saying pop-ups! Pop-up ads that block most of a mobile landing page, are difficult to close, or that aren’t triggered by a user action, are classed as a nuisance by Google and can dramatically affect the user experience. Websites that include these types of pop-ups can be put at a disadvantage, often finding their content is demoted in the Google search results.

What will the Google Page Experience Update mean for me?

The update really focuses on making the user experience as pain-free and delightful as possible. With speed, security and accessibility taking precedence, the update will mean that site owners will need to work with a human-centric approach, making all decisions with regards to how it will affect their users’ experiences. Although this update could prove a substantial project for some, getting it right will go an awful long way to allowing users to engage more thoroughly with all aspects of your website. The early notification of this update by Google means that changes can be planned and implemented early to avoid a negative impact on ranking when the update comes into play.

Overall, the new Google update should not be expected with trepidation, but rather serve as a great excuse to implement changes that will overall elevate visitor experience of what you have to offer.

If you are looking for a helping hand to get your site ready for the new Google Page Experience Update, Framework Design is here to help.