Google is a powerhouse search engine that has reportedly over 1 billion people actively using both the platform and its products. To provide a better experience to their users, Google regularly releases algorithm updates from Google Hummingbird way back in 2013 to BERT in 2019, to Page Experience algorithm update to be rolled out gradually starting mid-June this year
Most recently, Google has launched a Page Experience Signal Tool that prioritizes UX (user experience). This tool uses a set of metrics known as Core Web vitals to determine the overall user experience of the website. If Google determines that website users will have a poor user experience, the website will not rank as highly on the Google search page.
To have a better understanding of why Google has prioritized ‘ page experience’ in their search engine, it’s important to understand the history of Google algorithm updates as well as the concept of user experience.
History of Google Algorithm Updates
Google makes Google Algorithm updates not because they are trying to mess with the rankings of a particular website or ruin a business, they make these changes because they want to provide users with a good experience on the platform.
Below is a snapshot of some of the Google Algorithm updates and as seen from the list below, Google has been consistently making updates that help to provide users with the most relevant information and the best overall experience.
- Google Panda (2011) – The update targeted sites that had low-quality content with a focus on optimizing unique and compelling content.
- Google Hummingbird (2013) – This update focused on semantic search and creating and optimizing content that audiences would look for and find to be useful.
- E-A-T (2014) – This Google Algorithm update was to ensure that websites were offering expert and authoritative content that can be trusted.
- Mobile Update (2015) – Google adapted to the times by focusing on mobile content and the overall mobile site experience.
- Google Mobile-First Indexing (2018) – A focus on mobile optimization, content, speed and overall mobile site performance.
- BERT (2019) – Understanding consumer intent and improving it through conversational type search themes.
- Page Experience Update and Core Web Vitals (CWV) – Using Core Web Vitals metric to both measure and improve on-page experiences.
What is UX?
So, what exactly is UX and why is Google focusing on it as part of their new update?
UX refers to the overall experience of the user while they’re on the website. Some factors that can impact a user’s overall UX include:
- How engaging the website is (interactivity)
- How quickly the website loads (loading performance)
- Whether or not the page jumps around when it’s loading (visual stability)
- How secure the website is (Is it running on HTTPS?)
- Whether or not the website is mobile-friendly
With a good user experience, website visitors will be able to scroll through the website seamlessly. On the other hand, if website visitors have a poor user experience, they’re more likely to leave the website without taking any action. With more website visitors leaving your website, you run the risk of having fewer purchases, fewer sign-ups, and fewer leads and conversions.
With 88% of users less likely to return to a website after a bad user experience, it is evident that users expect websites to have good UX. Google has taken that into account and now looks at the user experience element when ranking websites in search results.
UX vs. UI
UX and UI are often confused. As mentioned earlier, UX refers to the overall experience of the user. UI on the other hand consists of elements that an individual interacts with when looking at a website. Some of these components include:
In a nutshell, UI is the elements of the website that an individual interacts with while UX is the experience that the user takes away from interacting with the website.
UX is incredibly important to Google and as mentioned earlier, there have already been several Google algorithm updates pertaining to UX. For example, having pages that are mobile-friendly for their users and improving the overall mobile site experience.
Page Experience Signal Components
There are currently five signals that are a part of the new Page Experience Signal update. They are:
- Core Web Vitals
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) that measures the loading performance of the site.
- First Input Delay (FID) that focuses on interactivity.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) that measures visual stability
- Mobile-friendly (already running)
- Safe Browsing (already running)
- HTTPS (already running)
- Mobile popup algorithm (already running)
With Google prioritizing UX and the overall page experience, it’s important to always remember to put your audience first. That means you should ensure that the content and user experience for your website is catered to both user preferences and accessibility.
Using Google Lighthouse
If you’re looking to improve your website based on Google’s new search engine algorithm, Google Lighthouse is a great start. This free tool will provide you with powerful insights to help improve your website. You can generate a Lighthouse report that will assess any web page’s overall page experience and it will also provide valuable tips.
As Google Lighthouse is a Google application, there’s no better way for you to assess your website. After all, the recommendations are coming directly from the search engine giant itself.
The Future Of UX
Through the addition of this page experience algorithm, Google is aiming to help individuals access information easily, find the web pages they’re looking for and enjoy browsing through them.
User experience is an integral component that will only continue to evolve. It’s important to ensure your current website has effective UX to engage website visitors, have a higher ranking in Google, and ensure that your users keep coming back.