Google’s latest update is called page experience. Should site owners be worried?
The basis of this update is that websites that interact more successfully with the user will rank higher than those websites that don’t. (Update details here). The update is due to be run out in 2021 second-quarter.
However, how a successful user journey is measured is up for debate.
What Google is saying is that speed is king. Although they go on to reiterate that of course none of these updates are more important than the content on the page, sometimes this is a little hard to believe.
Sundar is a businessman. One of Google’s biggest overheads is its data storage centres. For Google to work as a search engine, it needs to store endless versions of every website on the Internet. Storing websites, images and videos extremely expensive. Have a look at the video below to see the scope of this operation. Bear in mind this is one data centre, Google has hundreds across the world.
After pumping $13bn (£10.5bn )into offices and data centres in 2019, it plans to spend another $10bn across the US this year. Read More.
Old page speed ideas
So Google has been introducing a whole host of changes to encourage (and reward) webmasters who reduce the size overhead of their code. AMP being one that was incredibly important supposedly and now seems to fallen by the wayside. From experience, AMP was a pain and meant we had to look after two websites!
Surely in an era of fast broadband and 4 and 5G, a fast website can sort of be assumed. However, these type of updates can be seen as a cynical attempt by Google to cut costs.
If it can convince every single Webmaster, web developer and web designer to radically overhaul the size of their code, image and videos then surely their storage costs at a data centre level will reduce (or stop growing at such an alarming rate for the shareholders and Mr Pichai.)
Site speed has been a constant part of Google updates.
However, it is relatively hard these days to create a very slow website. Have another circus we have the advantage that we publish a number of websites for testing purposes.
Many of these websites were designed in 2013 and use an optimised code and optimise images. The rankings with these websites have not changed dramatically.
After site speed one of the changes that the new update is championing is clear navigation
Whilst we agree with this and see clear navigation in the user journey as an integral part not only of SEO but of having a website in the first place I cannot always see why this should be a ranking metric. What about all the websites run by people who are not user optimisation and journey experts. To them the website may indeed be non-commercial, the initials UI may well be meaningless. Just because these website owners do not understand or see the need for clear navigation should these websites be penalised.
If clear navigation is a ranking metric then what is clear navigation. Here a vanilla circus we’re great fans of minimal menus with links for separate sections being within the content of the parent page. Perhaps the best example of this sort of linking is of course Wikipedia. Wikipedia does not have a menu.
Does the new page experience Google update spell the end for Wikipedia? No, I didn’t think so. I think what you’ll find is that clear navigation is not really restricted to menus. Whilst a large part of the work we do on websites is UI optimisation if I randomly selected 20 websites on the Internet I could write pages and pages on what needs to be changed and improved so that the user journey becomes seamless and is not confusing.
Google also talks about lack of engagement
If the user cannot engage the website then surely this is a website that shouldn’t rank highly within Google. It is unclear how Google is going to know how your user rates a visit to your website. Without installing Google analytics this would seem very difficult.
So Google in its wisdom has brought up a list of things that it believes would make a user journey poorer
Pop-ups that cover the screen would be a good example of this.
They use the wonderful words standalone interstitial to basically explain other screen intrusions ( read pop-ups) that might have to be clicked on before entering the website.
Other design elements (think mobile screen) where the actual design of the website above the fold, i.e. all that you can see on your smartphone screen resembles something like a pop-up or perhaps the look does not correlate with what a user would expect a website to look like.
I’m being overly cynical. Google is an amazing software company. It works with what it can. It cannot see or measure user engagement on a website without Google analytics. What the update tries to do, is create a framework that anticipates a poor user experience and incorporating that into ranking signals.
Google among all things is ruthlessly fair.
Just because an e-commerce website believes that the pop up offering you 10% off if you sign up immediately is likely to always be part of that website and the Internet. Does that mean Google down-scores your website?
Alternatively, this website for example (apart from during COVID 19) has never had a pop-up, does this mean this site will appear higher in the rankings? and if so how high.
With all of these updates, Google is only interested in creating a better search experience
With all of these updates, Google is only interested in creating a better search experience where not only can we find the right information we can find it on the right websites which are presented in the best possible way so the user can find the information as simply as possible.
And that we wholeheartedly agree with Google and have been making changes similar to those recommended within the page experience update for the last five years. To us, they are an important part of optimisation.
What is good for the user is good for SEO.
Should you lose sleep about this update?
No, not really.
Last fact checked and updated on May 19, 2021