5 mins


Three things you need to know from Google’s new Page Experience update

Date 18.06.2021

When I attended Brighton SEO back in March (digitally, of course), there was a topic many speakers were covering: the Google Page Experience update.

Back in November 2020, Google announced that page experience signals – that is, the signals that someone is having a positive experience on a page – would become a ranking factor, rolling out in May 2021. The update was delayed until June 2021, but this isn’t a completely new update.

Google has been using experience signals to better understand what users perceive as a positive page experience for some time now, including:

  • HTTPS security
  • Mobile optimisation efforts
  • Safe browsing standards
  • Intrusive interstitial guideline adherence

The new signals on the block are the Core Web Vitals. These are made up of 3 items:

  • Largest Contentful Paint
  • First Input Delay
  • Cumulative Layout Shift.

If you’re feeling baffled by this update and what it might mean for you, don’t worry, here’s the jargon-busted version:

Google Page update 1: Largest Contentful Paint

This part of the Core Web Vitals measures loading performance, and the “largest contentful paint” refers to when the biggest content element on the page becomes available for the user to see. According to Google, this is essentially about “how fast your site can paint pixels to the screen.”

Google will use this to determine when the page content has completed rendering on screen. They believe this should not take longer than 2.5 seconds. There’s a sliding scale in terms of how seriously they’ll treat slower loading, with under 4 seconds falling into the ‘needs improvement’ category and anything over 4 seconds being labelled as ‘poor’.

Google Page update 2: First Input Delay

This element measures the time between a user interacting with the site (e.g. clicking a link) and the browser beginning to process the response to that interaction. It is only measuring the actual delay in processing and not the full time it takes to then load the page or complete the action. So, what’s a good time to aim for?

Google suggests under 100 milliseconds is good, any time between 100 and 300ms needs improvement, and over 300ms is poor. The main culprit for causing delay is lack of optimised JavaScript. In a nutshell, this is about interactions on your website which cause JavaScript to be executed when it’s unnecessary, so talk to your developer about ways to streamline your JavaScript performance if you’re seeing poor performance in this area.

Google Page update 3: Cumulative Layout Shift

This part of the Core Web Vitals is a crucial metric, used to monitor the stability of the visuals on your site. Put simply, if you’re on a website and you find the text moves without warning and you lose your place or accidentally click a link you didn’t mean to, that’s annoying, isn’t it?

Well, Google agrees, and it’s taking these unruly movements on websites seriously, forming the final part of the Core Web Vitals.

In terms of measurement, Google states maintaining a CLS of less than 0.1. Again, there’s a sliding scale, with 0.1 deemed ‘good’, 0.25 or below as ‘poor’ and anything in between is classified as ‘needs improvement’.

In truth, nobody outside of Google knows exactly how this is going to affect websites. One thing we do know (this was something mentioned by a couple of speakers at Brighton SEO) is that currently very few websites are getting top marks across the 3 areas.

Head to Google Search Console or grab this Chrome Extension to see how your site is doing versus your competitors, and if you’re worried about the results, why not get in touch with us so we can help you get back to your digital best?

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