As with everything in business and life, the one constant is change—and Google’s search algorithm is no exception.
With the upcoming rollout of Google's “Page Experience” algorithm update in mid-June this year, marketers and agencies should all be aware of the core changes taking place and how to prepare for them.
In this guide, we’ll discuss key details of the new core web vitals introduced, review the new Page Experience report in Google Search Console, and explain how to prepare for the update, including:
Let’s get started.
What is the Page Experience update?
Google announced last November that it would be releasing an algorithm change called the “Page Experience" update. In their latest blog post in April, it was announced that this update will gradually start to be rolled in mid-June this year with a full rollout by the end of August.
In Google’s own words, here’s a technical overview of the update:
The page experience update will consider several page experience signals, including the three Core Web Vitals metrics: LCP, FID, and CLS.
Don’t worry, we’ll go over what that actually means in plain English below, but to put it simply, the goal of the Page Experience signal is to determine the quality of a site’s user experience and rank it in search results accordingly.
In addition to these new web signals, another change is that the Top Stories feature at the top of Google no longer requires you to use AMP format to be included, although unless you're running a news site this shouldn't affect you.
Now let’s look at exactly what these Page Experience signals are and the three new Core Web Vitals metrics.
Core Web Vitals and the Page Experience Signal
In terms of the sub-signals that go into organic rankings and the Page Experience update, some of them are already taken into account by Google, while others are completely new.
The existing sub-signals that are being combined into the broader Page Experience signal include:
Mobile Usability: This measures how well the desktop version of the site translates to mobile devices.
HTTPS Usage: This checks whether the site is server over the more secure encrypted network protocol, HTTPS.
Ad Experience: This signal ensures that there are no intrusive or disruptive ads or interstitials that create a negative user experience.
Security Issues: This signal ensures there are no security issues such as malware or other malicious content on the site.
The new sub-signals that are part of the update are referred to as "Core Web Vitals", which Google describes as:
The page provides a good user experience, focusing on the aspects of loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
There are three new core Core Web Vitals signals in the update include:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This signal measures a page’s loading performance. In simple terms, the LCP is the time it takes for the largest image or content block to fully load, and Google suggests that sites should have an LCP of 2.5 seconds or less to ensure a good user experience.
First Input Delay (FID): This user-centric metric measures responsiveness and interactivity of the page. In other words, it quantifies the positive or negative experience that users feel when trying to interact with unresponsive pages. Google recommends an FID of 100 milliseconds or less.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Finally, this new metric measures “visual stability”—in other words, it quantifies how unexpected page layout shifts can result in a negative user experience. Google suggests a CLS score of 0.1 or less.
Now that we’ve discussed the new and existing sub-signals that go into the Page Experience update, let’s look at how you can track these metrics with the new report provided in Google Search Console.
GSC Page Experience Report
The new Page Experience report in Google Search Console provides an overview of each of these new metrics, each of which is evaluated on an individual URL basis. As of the time of this writing, the Page Experience report is only limited to mobile URLs, although that is likely to expand to desktop soon.
You can find Google's complete support article on the Page Experience report here and open it in Google Search Console here.
As you can see below, for each of the metrics you can click through to see any issues that may be affecting performance, the number of affected URLs, and examples of the impacted URLs. In terms of the Core Web Vitals, each URL is broken into Poor, Needs Improvement, and Good.
How to Prepare for the Page Experience Update
The first step to prepare for this update is to familiarize yourself with the new Core Web Vitals and review the GSC report to see if there are any major issues that may affect the site's performance.
With this GSC report, you can then identify which pages need improvement and prioritize them based on severity. From there, below are several useful tools that may help improve your page and user experience:
After inputting your website URL, PageSpeed Insights provides a score for the sub-signals that go into Page Experience update, including First Input Delay (FID), First Contentful Paint (FCP), Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), and Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). This tool doesn't provide an exact Page Experience score, although it does provide some actionable insights that can help you improve your overall site.
If you want to learn more about how to improve your PageSpeed Insights score, check out this best practices article from the Digital Agency Network.
AgencyAnalytics Site Auditor
Another useful tool to identify issues is our SEO site tool, which helps you quickly discover and resolve common website issues that impact SERP ranking results. In particular, the tool checks for over 40 technical on-site issues that may impact SEO. These audits can be performed on a one-off basis or scheduled periodically so that you stay on top of your client’s SEO.
AgencyAnalytics Rank Tracker
Finally, our Rank Tracker is another tool that can alert you to any major changes in SERP results. Since this Google algorithm update will be rolled out slowly over the summer, it’ll be important to monitor ranking changes during this time. If you notice any drastic changes in SEO performance, it’s likely that your Core Web Vitals need improvement.
Summary: Page Experience Update
Although this Google Algorithm update is introducing three new variables, keep in mind that there are dozens of other signals that contribute to a page and site’s ranking. That said, while it’s important for content marketers to be aware of these new signals and resolve any on-site issues, the focus should always be on consistently creating high-quality content and letting the algorithm work its magic over time.
Another key part of any SEO strategy is monitoring ranking fluctuations to ensure your strategy is playing out as expected. Additionally, marketers should be monitoring the site for common on-site issues with a periodically scheduled site audit to ensure you don’t miss any important site changes.
If you’re interested in automating your keyword rank tracking and site audits, check out our prebuilt SEO dashboard that includes both of these factors in a single, unified platform.