Google’s Latest Algorithm Update And How It Impacts Organic Visibility
By Alex Whalley, SEO Director
In the first few weeks of March 2022, Google began officially rolling out the desktop version of their page experience update – an algorithm change that puts more focus on how an end-user experiences your website.
The mobile version of this update was rolled out in May last year and this latest version for Desktop simply underlines the importance of ensuring that your website is optimised for the end-user across all devices.
What is the page experience update and how will it impact you?
Page experience was previously based on four signals which indicate to Google how good the user experience is on your website. The original three measures were:
- Mobile-friendliness – how easy your website is to view on a phone or other mobile device.
- HTTPS – how secure your website is for your users.
- Intrusive interstitials – avoid excessive overlays and dialogs which obstruct your users from seeing your website.
The new page experience update for desktop adds three more signals to this list. These three terms may also be referred to as Core Web Vitals:
- Visual Stability
In other words, Google will be deepening how it assesses your site.
As published on the Google Search Central blog,
“We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.”
The new signals are designed to measure the user experience of interacting with a website. “Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
So what exactly are Core Web Vitals anyway?
Google has always looked at metrics like how long your web page takes to load. The new Core Web Vitals (the three new signals added to the page experience update) are an attempt to bring factors that impact user experience into the equation so that they can reward sites that are pleasurable to use.
This refers to how fast your site loads. If it takes too long, that’s a sign of poor user experience and is likely to frustrate a visitor to your site. This is a common issue with the websites we see. Poor design and lack of file compression are often the culprits.
This measures how responsive interactive site elements like buttons or links are. It looks at how long it takes before a site visitor can start to interact with those buttons or links and use the site as it was intended.
If you’ve ever had a button shift under your pointer after the page had loaded, you’ve experienced a visual stability issue and, for obvious reasons, chasing a moving button around a page is usually not the ideal page experience.
What impact does Core Web Vitals and Page Experience have on ranking?
What Google tell us and what we at Tug have seen over the last 6 months, working with clients across a range of industries, is somewhat conflicting. Google tells us that the impact on rank is not that significant but we here at Tug believe that the impact is actually greater than they are implying – especially when you consider the intrinsic link between ‘page experience’ and ‘user engagement’.
To better understand what we have experienced (excuse the pun) let’s first look at what Google had to say about the impact of page experience on rank:
‘While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.’
However, here at Tug we took the mobile page experience update very seriously and started analysing core metrics relating to page load and site speed, and provided initial core web vitals recommendations for our clients within the first few weeks of the mobile page experience update being rolled out. Clients that implemented these recommendations quickly saw a boost in their rankings and overall user engagement stats whilst other clients who were unable to implement our recommendations in a timely manner saw their organic visibility decline in cases where competitors were optimising their own Core Web Vitals.
So whilst Google says the new page experience updates will not have too great an impact on ranking (because of all the other signals that exist) we have seen first hand how failing to optimise your site for the core metrics relating to ‘page experience’ can result in a loss in visibility.
But how does user engagement relate to page experience and the recent desktop and mobile algorithm update?
Whilst the mobile experience update and more recent desktop experience update are focused on Core Web Vitals, the relationship between ‘experience’ as Google views it and the ‘experience’ an end user has when interacting with your website are essentially one in the same. Google themselves provided clues as to the importance of engagement and the experience of site visitors when they said “the quality of a user’s experience on a web page” in relation to the Core Web Vitals update and the impact this is designed to have on indexed content.
“Optimise for users first and search engines second”
It is fair to say that user engagement is the new SEO – one only needs to look at how Google has changed the search landscape over the years to provide a more enriching user experience (think Featured Snippets, local pack results, and knowledge boxes) and as such, optimising your site and content for the end user is always the priority. After all, Google isn’t the one who’s going to buy your products.
As a global SEO Agency, we love this sort of update as it puts greater focus on providing good experiences for our users. And truth be told – you should love these changes too.
Why the Page Experience Update is Great for Business
According to smallbizgenius, 53% of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load and a full 88% of online shoppers say they wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience.
The number of users being turned off by bad user experience and slow loading pages adds up to significant amounts of lost sales and leads. Forbes reports that better UX could raise your website’s conversion rate by 200%, and better UX design could yield conversion rates of up to 400%.
If you’ve got a more user-friendly page, the Page Experience update will rank your site higher, which is a win for your site visitors, and your bottom line.
Tug’s Message to All Webmasters
Our message to all webmasters (regardless of the vertical you are in) is that it’s now even more important for you to take a serious look at your Core Web Vitals
Clients currently working with Tug can rest easy knowing that we have either implemented or are in the process of implementing/recommending changes to ensure the best possible Core Web Vitals scores. We will continue to use the page experience update to bolster organic visibility and keyword rankings whilst ensuring that users have the best possible experience when interacting with your brand online.