In case you were waiting for a sign to invest in UX (user experience), this is it.
Google just announced that UX is about to become an important ranking factor for all websites. Another way to think about this is, having an intuitive and user-friendly page design is about to become *even* more important for SEO and it could be the defining factor for making sure you rank #1 on the SERP!
This announcement should come as no shock. Deep down, improving user experience has always been at the very soul of search engine optimization. Satisfying user expectations (by providing high-quality results for their queries) has always been Google’s primary mission after all. Nothing says “high-quality” better than amazing content presented in a well-built, responsive and aesthetically pleasing website (yes, web design also impacts online visibility!)
Yet, this is big news. It essentially means that once these changes roll out, those who have good UX are likely to rank better in search results than those who have poor UX. Wanna know what that means for your website, and what to do now? Read on and we’ll provide you with the complete know-how.
UX Can Make or Break Engagement
Accessing a website that doesn’t work in the way you’d expect it to can be quite frustrating. Slow page speed and poor design can make it difficult to get to the information the user is looking for.
Poor UX is often the reason for visitors to lose patience and abandon a website to make business with the competition. On another hand, when done right it can also be an important factor for inspiring brand loyalty and continuously attracting those unique visitors.
While it is true that great content still occupies a higher position as a ranking factor, according to Google “in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in search”. In other words, once the new ranking factor is implemented, user experience will act as the tiebreaker between sites with similar content.
How Will UX Be Measured by Google?
The concept of user experience might sound general at first. So, if you’re asking yourself “how will this be quantified and measured?”, well, that’s a great question.
Google’s new ranking factor will combine metrics related to key aspects of UX. According to the company, these include site speed, responsiveness and content visual stability (so you don’t accidentally click on a tab as it suddenly shifts under your finger – how annoying!). In a nutshell, they entail the following page experience signals, also known as Core Web Vitals:
- Largest Content Paint (LCP): this metric measures the perceived load speed. It marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded. The ideal loading speed shouldn’t exceed 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay (FID): this metric measures responsiveness and quantifies the experience users feel when trying to first interact with the page. Ideally, the first interaction should happen within 100 microseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability and quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift of visible page content.
According to Google, this set of metrics is critical to all web experiences. In addition to the Core Web Vitals, other aspects such as mobile-friendliness, safe browsing (make sure the page doesn’t contain malicious content), and intrusive interstitials will also play an important role in user experience optimization.
“So… What Should I Do Now?”
It is important to note that these ranking changes won’t happen right away. Citing COVID-19, Google has communicated that they will not be implemented before next year, and a six months notice will be given before they are officially rolled out.
That being said, now is the time to get started on assessing what needs fixing, testing, and launching the necessary updates. By getting a deeper understanding of what Google’s page experience signals are, the journey of optimizing for them should also become clearer.
For some developers, understanding how their sites measure the Core Web Vitals might require some work. Fortunately, all of Google’s popular tools for web developers now also support measurement of these metrics. A couple of these include Lighthouse, PageSpeed, and Google Search Console. These tools offer dedicated reports which should help site owners quickly identify opportunities for improvement.
Getting the Google Check for UX
A responsive and user-friendly page experience goes a long way in delivering compelling content successfully. By measuring and optimizing the key aspects of good UX, you’ll be helping your site to succeed on the web.
Watch users grow more engaged with your content and perform transactions without friction. By adding page experience to the numerous existing ranking factors, you’ll be setting your business apart from the competition and strengthening your online presence.