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Understanding Page Experience & Core Web Vitals

Michael Lykins

As an SEO Coach at Pathfinder SEO, I have the opportunity to bring my prior SEO, eCommerce, and freelance experience to the table. My aim is to help site owners, freelancers, and agencies grow their businesses with SEO. My SEO strengths lie in keyword research, content planning, on-site optimization, and finding off-site SEO opportunities."

Page Experience is a set of signals that Google uses to measure how users interact with a web page. These signals go beyond the information value of the page and measure how well a page delights users. 

Page Experience is increasingly important in 2021 as Google will release algorithm updates which factor these signals more prominently. The rollout begins in mid-June of 2021 and will be fully integrated by the end of August 2021. Think of it like adding seasoning to a recipe, adding it a little bit at a time until things seem just right. 

The good news for marketers is that we don’t have to anticipate an overnight change or drastic swings in traffic. Instead, we have time to get ready for the Page Experience algorithm updates and can navigate through the change gradually. 

In this post, we’ll share insights into each of the signals within Page Experience and will help you get ready.

What is Page Experience?

Page Experience is a combination of several factors — site security, mobile-usability, HTTPS, Core Web Vitals, and no intrusive interstitials. Let’s look at each in more detail.

Site Security — This signal measures how safe your site is to browse. Google does not want any pages to have malicious or deceptive content on them. This would include things like malware or social engineering content. You can find out if your site has any security issues with the Security Issues Report.

Mobile Usability — This is how well your site works for people that browse it on a mobile device. As time passes more and more people are visiting sites via mobile devices. According to Statista, in Q1 of 2021 54.8% of website visits were from mobile devices. To check if your site is mobile-friendly Google has a Mobile-Friendly Test that you can run your site through. 

HTTPS — Back in 2014 Google started using HTTPS as a ranking factor for websites. This just means that there is a secure connection when accessing the site. Most sites will have this by default, but if you happen to be missing HTTPS you can see how to secure your site here. If you are not sure how to tell if your site connection is secure or not check out this article.

Core Web Vitals — These are a big part of page experience and include 3 different aspects that focus on the aspects of loading, interactivity, and visual stability. Let’s dive into each of these. 

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - This is how long it takes for the biggest pieces of content to load on your page. Google says that sites should aim to have this completed within 2.5 seconds for a “good” score. You can read more about LCP over at Web.dev
  • First Input Delay (FID) - This web vital is measuring how long it takes for your page to be interactive for a user. Google says that a user should be able to interact with your page within 100 milliseconds of it actually loading up. Web.dev has a write-up about this also.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) - The last of the three Core Web Vital is all about how much the elements of your site move around while loading. The bar Google has set for this one is .1. For more information about CLS check out what Web.dev has to say here
  • No Intrusive Interstitials — What is more annoying than landing on a page to only have a massive banner blocking the content before you even get started checking it out? This is called an Intrusive Interstitial. As of January 2017, Google started using this as a ranking factor. Not every pop-up is considered intrusive (such as Age Confirmations, Cookie Policies, or smaller banners), but if you have a large Newsletter Signup or Ad taking up the full screen when someone visits Google will use this against you in your rankings. Ideally, we want pages to be easily accessible to visitors. To read more about Intrusive Interstitials check out what Google has to say about it here.

Now that you understand each of these signals, let’s look at how to measure how your site stacks up.

How to Use the Page Experience Report in the Google Search Console

Google released a great tool within the Google Search Console to help you measure your website’s Page Experience. Let’s see what Coach Erik has to share about it in this short video.

If you haven’t already, verify your website with the Google Search Console. Then, navigate to the Page Experience report to explore your site’s current performance. Where do you currently stand with Page Experience? Is this an area of strength or weakness for your website?

How to Measure Page Experience if GSC Lacks Data?

Depending on how long your site has been around and connected to Google Search Console, you may or may not have Page Experience data available. 

If you have data, great! Dive in and start to see what could be improved on your website. 

If not though, what can we still do? Well, we’ve got a few options.

There are three major tools I would recommend if you are wanting to get your Page Experience dialed in. 

PageSpeed Insight, Mobile-Friendly Test, and Web.Dev are all great ways to get data from Google about how to improve the Page Experience of your website.

Now Check out the Competition

After establishing where you stand it’s time to see how your competition is doing. Grab the links to a couple of your top competitors and pop those into PageSpeed Insight, Mobile-Friendly Test, and Web.Dev

How does your site compare? Are you already ahead of the game or do you have some catching up to do? 

You’ll likely find that the playing field is currently pretty even. Most sites have met the bar for mobile-friendliness, security, and HTTPS for some time now. It’s within the Core Web Vitals that we see variation. 

In a study by Searchmetrics, they found that only 10% of websites tested received a “good” rating from Google for their Core Web Vitals. That means that most pages have room to grow here and that you can be ahead of the herd if you get your Core Web Vital in line before it goes live as a ranking factor.

Take Action

SEO is a series of small, incremental steps that accumulate to drive growth. Page Experience is no different. The challenge is that much of Google’s feedback is technical in nature. You may not know how to address the feedback given in a tool like PageSpeed Insights.

This is where your developer comes in. You can reach out to your developer to review the Page Experience report in the Google Search Console and discuss action items that will help your site improve.

If you are a subscriber of Pathfinder SEO, then let’s talk more about your Page Experience statistics during your next coaching session. Your SEO coach can help you make sense of the reports and prioritize action items.

Monitor the Impact of Page Experience

Keep an eye on your website’s organic search traffic, rankings and monitor the Page Experience report over the next few months. We’ll be sure to share updates as Google rolls out changes. 

Google Analytics and the Google Search Console are great places to monitor this performance. You’ll also want to have rank tracking set up in an SEO software such as Pathfinder SEO.

Key Takeaway

We’re excited about the Page Experience updates as Google is rewarding those websites that have secure, speedy, and mobile-friendly content.

We see this as an opportunity to stand out from the competition. Most sites aren’t ready for Page Experience. Getting your site ready ensures that you’ll delight both users and the search engines — a winning combination in SEO.

Michael Lykins

As an SEO Coach at Pathfinder SEO, I have the opportunity to bring my prior SEO, eCommerce, and freelance experience to the table. My aim is to help site owners, freelancers, and agencies grow their businesses with SEO. My SEO strengths lie in keyword research, content planning, on-site optimization, and finding off-site SEO opportunities."
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