Jun 7, 2021 - Rob Browning

Page Experience As a Ranking Factor: What You Need To Know

Cliffs notes:

  • Page Experience will become a major ranking factor in mid-June 2021.  
  • Page Experience ranking signals will consist of Core Web Vitals, Mobile Usability, Security Issues, HTTPS Usage, and sometimes Ad Experience to determine ranking signals.
  • Page Experience is determined by mobile-first indexing, evaluates the page experience through mobile browsers or for mobile users, and impacts mobile indexing, and is determined by mobile-first indexing.
  • Each Page Experience metric comes with consists of specific issues, factors, or areas to consider to help improve a URL’s ranking from using “Poor,” to “Needs Improvement,” and “Good.” 
  • Google Search Console will give an overall Page Experience score, which states the percentage of URLs with a “Good” status and the impressions those URLs generate.  The higher these two numbers, the better the ranking signal is for the site. 

Let’s get into it:

Beginning in mid-June 2021, a major shift in ranking signals will take the Search Engine Results page by storm. Google Search will begin to incorporate new “Page Experience” metrics as search ranking signals, which consists of four components:

  • Core Web Vitals
  • Mobile Usability
  • Security Issues
  • HTTPS Usage

Page Experience in Google Search is evaluated using these criteria in Organic Search. (If your site is running paid search ads through Google Ads, a fifth component, labeled Ad Experience, will also apply.)

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are a new set of metrics that were introduced with the update to Page Experience. These three metrics factor in a website’s ability to offer users the best browsing experience with optimal loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability across desktop and mobile devices. These metrics are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Measures when the main content is downloaded, visible, and useful to the site visitor.
  • First Input Delay (FIP) – Measures how long a user has to wait for the site to react when they interact with a web page element like a link.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – Measures how much time it takes for the content to stop shifting around and be stable enough for users to interact with it successfully.

The Core Web Vitals report scores pages as “Good,” “Needs Improvement,” or “Poor.” A page must have a Core Web Vitals rating of “Good” in order to qualify for an overall “Good” page experience status. Pages will be evaluated from a mobile standpoint and a desktop standpoint, so there will be a separate page score for mobile and desktop. Mobile should always be the priority when you are examining page issues with mobile-first indexing. 

Core Web Vitals have specific strengths and weaknesses for particular content management systems. If you are on Drupal or Shopify, read these articles for more information:

Core Web Vitals in Drupal
Core Web Vitals in Shopify

Core Web Vitals are a new set of metrics; however, the remaining components of Page Experience are already tracked and used for page rankings in Google search. These metrics are called Search Signals. Search Signals consist of Mobile Usability, Security Issues, and HTTPS Usage.  

Mobile Usability

Three errors typically spur Mobile Usability Issues: Viewport Definition, Click Text Size, and Clickable Element Proximity. You may be familiar with these errors from using Google Search Console, as the tool typically flags errors on indexed pages, especially on sites with heavy organic mobile traffic.

As the name suggests, these issues are exclusive to mobile features of the page. A URL must have no mobile usability errors in order to qualify for “Good” status in the Page Experience report.


Security Issues

Security Issues flags three specific things: Hacked Content, Malware, and Social Engineering. Security issues for a site disqualify all URLs on the site from a “Good” status in the Page Experience report.  


HTTPS Usage

A page must be served over HTTPS to be eligible for a “Good” page experience status. The Page Experience report doesn't consider HTTPS criteria when calculating URL status, only as a site-wide warning. If your site has a relatively high percentage of HTTP URLs, you will see a “Failing” warning in the Page Experience report. 


Putting Page Experience All Together

Page Experience is evaluated on a URL basis and only using a mobile browser. Currently, only searches from mobile devices are affected.  

While Google’s definition regarding the SEO value of “Good” and unique content hasn’t changed, and Page Experience provides a way to measure a website’s UX optimal browsing experience, it is important to remember that desktop is only part of the picture, and mobile page experience optimization should be the goal.  

More than ever, performing and ranking in Google Search is directly dependent on your site’s mobile experience quality. Even if mobile traffic does not make up a majority of a site’s traffic, optimizing the page experience will be key for lifting SERP visibility for any domain indexed by Google. 
 

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