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Google Page Experience Update 2021: What You Need to Know

Elliott Hasiuk
Elliott Hasiuk

An upcoming change at Google could affect your website’s ranking in search results. With some help from our growth marketing team and resident search experts, I’ve broken it down in plain English. Spoiler alert: If you share our customer-first POV, you’re already ahead of the game!

What’s happening, and should I freak out?

Google is making a subtle but important update to the way it ranks web pages in search. There are hundreds of factors—or signals—that Google’s search algorithm takes into consideration when delivering results. With the coming update, a set of metrics known as page experience will be added to those signals. You should not freak out. You should, however, take this opportunity to think about page experience.

OK, what is page experience?

At the simplest level, it’s exactly what it says: a measure of how people experience your website (beyond whatever information it provides). A bad experience might include images that load slowly, forms that don’t submit, banners that float over content, and buttons that don’t respond on first click. A good experience is… not that.

In technical terms, page experience combines five metrics: mobile friendliness, safe browsing, site security (HTTPS), no intrusive interstitials/pop-ups, and Core Web Vitals. This last metric, Core Web Vitals, is made up of three very specific user experience measurements. They are: how quickly the biggest image or text block on a page loads (Largest Contentful Paint); how well the page responds to user actions, like clicking buttons or filling out a form (First Input Delay); and how often page elements drift or move in ways that interfere with reading or interaction (Cumulative Layout Shift).

The metrics themselves aren’t new. What is new is the fact that page experience will now be included in search ranking.

When does this change go into effect?

The update was originally scheduled for this month, but Google just announced that it’s been delayed until mid-June. The rollout should be complete by the end of August.

In order to get a good page experience ranking, should I think about content, site UX, or both?

The Part and Sum philosophy is that content and UX go together like pb&j—they’re designed to work in harmony to make a delightful website, or a delicious sandwich. Although this particular update is focused on UX, Google has made it clear that content is still important:

Great page experience doesn't override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search. (source: Google)

In other words, a strong page experience ranking may give you an edge over competitors with similar content.


How do I know if my page experience needs work?

Good news: There’s a report for that. Google is adding a report in Search Console that shows you, at a glance, what percentage of your site’s URLs have good page experience. You can also drill down into individual metrics that make up the page experience rank to see where you should improve. Here’s what it will look like:

Image source: Google

Currently, this report has several limitations—most notably, it’s only set up to evaluate mobile URLs—but as the page experience update rolls out, we expect this will change.

My website doesn’t get a ton of traffic from search referrals. Do I really need to think about this?

Yes. All good marketing starts by taking a customer-first perspective, and that’s exactly what this Google update is designed to make you do. Rooting out frustration and friction from your website will create a better, more satisfying experience for the humans who visit your site—and they’re even more important than the algorithm.