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8 Jun 2021

Google’s Page Experience Update

Ian Lockwood

Digital Growth Programme consultant Ian Lockwood explains the latest Google update, and how to ensure your website is ‘up to speed’, providing advice on ways to improve your quality scoring in Google’s Algorithms ahead of the rollout.

In mid-June, Google begins its rollout of their Page Experience Update, with the full effects in place by the end of August (full details: http://bit.ly/emc-pe). This change to their organic ranking algorithm rolls up a number of existing ranking factors and introduces some changes to the way they measure page load speed. Google first announced this last November, so the change is likely to be noticeable although Google are clear that the quality of information on a page is their priority even if the page experience is sub-par. You can already find a new Page Experience report in Google Search Console to show you if your site has any issues.

Specifically, Google’s page experience signals are:

  • Core Web Vitals (three measurements of page load speed: Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay & Cumulative Layout Shift)
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Safe-browsing (website is not hacked)
  • HTTPS (site serves over a secure connection)
  • No intrusive interstitials (large overlays covering the page on mobile)

These are all used in Google’s algorithm already, although Core Web Vitals changes the metrics measuring page load speed. Core Web Vitals probably presents the biggest challenge for websites, as the vast majority should already be compliant with the other criteria (but do make sure your website serves over HTTPS, passes Google’s mobile-friendly test and doesn’t have intrusive interstitials!)

Let’s look at Core Web Vitals.

  • Firstly, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This measures how long the main content area of the page (without scrolling down) takes to appear. The target is under 2.5 seconds. Whilst the quality of hosting can affect speed, most issues stem from how long it takes the visitor’s browser to download, process and render (visually display) the files that make up the page.

    Common issues include render-blocking (JavaScript and CSS files that have to be processed but aren’t used in the initially-visible page), unused resources (CSS and JavaScript included but not actually used) and images with unnecessarily large files. Images are relatively easy to fix (e.g. replacing existing images with correctly-sized and better-compressed ones), but other issues can be tricky. Plugins/modules to help might be available (e.g. WP Super Cache and Autoptimize for WordPress), but often only hand-editing the code can fully fix LCP issues.
  • First Input Delay (FID) measures the time before a user can interact with the page, e.g. click a link. The target is under 100 milliseconds. FID is caused by the browser being tied up by JavaScript and CSS, preventing it reacting to the user’s input. This requires optimisation of code to lower the impact on processing time.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how much parts of a page move around as it loads, scored 0 to 1 with a target of below 0.1. Solutions include setting the size for anything loaded separately, such as images, videos and other elements (e.g. cookie notices). Loading fonts can also cause CLS: the text is initially displayed in the default browser font, then the “proper” font loads and text shifts.

If you want to know how your website and page load speed are performing, test your site here: 
Search Console Page Experience report (https://bit.ly/emc-gsc) 
Google PageSpeed Insights (https://bit.ly/emc-psi)

If you want to hear more updates like these, join Ian at our next Digital Growth Programme webinar. To see the latest dates visit our events page

The Digital Growth Programme is managed by East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire). It is a programme part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Chamber and Leicestershire County Council designed to help SMEs located in Leicester and Leicestershire embrace new digital technology to improve productivity to aid growth.