New ranking factor at Google: Page Experience focuses on users

In the future, Google will combine UX-based signals and Core Web Vitals to measure the ranking based on the page experience.

The key message from Google’s latest announcement on the Webmasters Central Blog is not surprising: users prefer websites with a strong experience. However, it could be surprising for SEOs that Google initiates a change in the ranking of the search engine. A new ranking signal will be introduced, which combines the recently published metrics on Core Web Vitals with known signals for page experience – such as page speed or mobile friendliness. The Page Experience signal determines how positively the interaction with pages is perceived by users. However, the innovation will not be rolled out before 2021.

A new ranking factor from next year

Google’s search engine and the rankings of the websites in their search are subject to constant change. Last but not least, this can be seen again and again when core updates are rolled out , as recently in May . Webmasters can then observe ranking losses, gains or strong fluctuations. An immediate reaction to such updates is hardly possible – it is important to optimize the pages in advance and continuously .

Pages have to be optimized for the search engine; However, since this is based on the interests of the users, an improvement towards the best possible user experience and answering search queries is the big goal. In the course of this, Google recently introduced so-called Web Vitals and Core Web Vitals . The Web Vitals initiative is designed to support webmasters to check quality ranking signals, quantify the UX on their own pages and identify potential for improvement. For this purpose, the webmasters can use the Core Web Vitals. These are central and scalable signals that are very important for the web experience. This includes loading time, page interactivity and the stability and quality of visuals.

Sample display for the metrics of the Core Web Vitals, © Google
Sample display for the metrics of the Core Web Vitals, © Google

Site operators can track the Core Web Vitals in the Chrome User Experience Report . GitHub also has an open source library for the Core Web Vitals and also a Core Web Vitals Extension for developers .

The Core Web Vitals will play an important role in the ranking in future because they form the basis for the new Signal Page Experience.

The composition for the new Page Experience ranking signal

The page experience will count as a ranking factor for Google from 2021. The company states that webmasters will be informed at least six months before the rollout. After all, many site operators are currently busy reacting to the corona crisis. Accordingly, there is no immediate need to change anything.

However, from next year on, Google will increasingly focus on the experience factors when it comes to ranking. This should also have an impact on the top stories in mobile search. For the Signal Page Experience, the core web vitals are then combined with existing ranking factors, including: mobile friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS security and the guidelines for intrusive interstitials.

In this way, Google wants to enable a holistic representation of the page experience and thus optimize the user experience. The webmasters have to adjust to this. For example, if a form “slips” for the user when loading, so that he or she may click the wrong button, this could soon have a negative impact on the ranking.

Google also plans to annually determine new signals based on user experience for the ranking and to make them relevant for SEO.

A diagram illustrating the components of Search's signal for page experience.
Current signals for the Page Experience, © Google

Page experience will only be one of many ranking factors

Although the experience of a user on a page is extremely relevant for the search engine and for the users themselves, the page experience factor will only be one of many that count for Google when ranking. In order to stay up to date in this context, Google has updated tools such as Lighthouse or Page Speed ​​Insights for the Core Web Vitals . In addition, a corresponding Core Veb Vitals Report can now be found in the Search Console .

Google states that the ranking always prefers sites that provide the best and most appropriate information overall. However, if pages have qualitatively and contextually comparable content , the page experience can be the deciding factor for a better ranking. This will also be relevant for mobile search, because the page experience will count as a factor for the top stories. What is even more interesting for publishers in this context is that in order to land in the top stories in mobile searches, stories no longer have to be published as AMP.

Google will inform the webmasters in due time when the official rollout actually takes place. In the meantime, they can already adjust to the page experience factor by designing the UX of their pages as best as possible. This should be the goal of good and continuous SEO anyway. After all, the user ultimately decides on the traffic; and Google also responds to this as a search engine for users.