User Experience (UX) is nothing new, but in 2021 it is becoming more critical than ever with the upcoming Google Page Experience Update.

When it comes to web browsing, it’s no secret that users prefer sites with a fast, intuitive page experience. 

Recognizing the growing value of user experience, Google announced an upcoming search ranking change incorporating page experience metrics like load time and interactivity in May this year.

The new page experience ranking signals are planned to deploy in 2021 and will add to recently updated user experience criteria for Google Search, such as mobile-friendliness. The signals will combine Google’s existing signals for page experience with its newly updated Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability.

The new updates can be alarming, but don’t worry – Google will be giving six months’ notice before launch, leaving us plenty of time to prepare and integrate it into our SEO strategy. The update is also the perfect excuse to finally ask your web or performance team to make these improvements.

What is Page Experience?

Page Experience measures aspects of how a user perceives the experience of interacting with a web page. Simply, it means that if Google thinks that the user experience is unsatisfactory on your pages, it may not rank those pages as high as now.

Here is an example that Google doesn’t want users to experience.

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In the above GIF shared by Google, the user was trying to click on “No, go back, “but because of an install bar pop up, it pushed the whole page down and led the user to click on “Yes, place my order” accidentally.

The purpose of this Google Page Experience update is to ensure that the sites that rank on top are not creating experiences that users hate. This shift is a step to a significant change in SEO.

Google has a detailed developer document on the page experience criteria. The new Page Experience update uses the existing Google ranking factors -page speed, mobile-friendly, safe browsing, HTTPS, presence of intrusive ads, and layout shifts. Google is refining metrics around speed and usability, and these refinements are under Core Web Vital.

What are the core web vital? 

They include real-world, user-centred metrics that give scores on aspects of pages such as load time, interactivity, and content stability as it loads.

The core web vitals and existing Google ranking factors make the new Page Experience algorithm.

Core Web Vitals explaining image

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LCP, FIC, CLS explaining image

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These are the core web vitals factors:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This is how long it takes for a page’s primary content to load. It means the time until most of the content is visible to the user, whether images, text, video etc. Measures the Loading performance and should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page starts loading.

  • First Input Delay (FID): This relates to the responsiveness and interactivity of the site. When a page is first loaded, you may click on a link or a drop-down menu, and there’s a delay before it actually executes the action. This metric measures the time taken from clicking to the time browser takes to respond. The page and pages should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This is all about visual stability and unexpected layout shifts. You load up a page and immediately click the link you want. Suddenly, the link moves down, and something else takes its place, perhaps an ad, and you find yourself being redirected to a completely unrelated page, thanks to this misclick. That frustration, which has always been challenging to quantify, is now a metric. The page should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

Additionally, a web page should not contain malicious or deceptive content, mobile-friendly content readily available to users, and should be servers over HTTPS.

What to expect?

Google is adapting its algorithm to closely align to show the sites first that the user likes. According to Google, changes will not happen before early next year, so no immediate action is needed. 

# Expect continuous changes

The announced Core Web Vitals are not permanently set in stone and are instead designed to change based on what users consider a good web experience. This means each year, Google has said they will be adding new page experience signals to align themselves with what users really want consistently.

# Good Content still rules

One thing hasn’t changed: useful, engaging content is still valued above all else. This is always going to be the factor you want to focus on. However, if you’re not pairing it with excellent user experience, you risk a fall in your rankings. Not as much as someone with poor content, but you may still notice a difference.

# AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

The mobile Top Stories feature in Google Search currently emphasizes AMP results, optimized for a fast, simple page experience. But that will change as the page experience update rolls out.

As part of the update, page experience metrics will factor into ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature on mobile. Meanwhile, Google will remove the AMP requirement for Top Storie’s eligibility to be open to any page.

All pages still must meet Google News content policies to be eligible. According to the search engine, site owners who already publish pages as AMP will see no change in behaviour.

Now that we understand what the new update is all about, getting ready for 2021 by focusing on revamping the SEO strategy is no more an option. It merely has to be done!

But wait, there is more!

Now you’re up to speed on what the Google Page Experience Update is, how do you get your website equally up to speed? 

Digital marketing guru Neil Patel states how one of the most important ways to succeed is to focus on your website section or page, rather than just on the website

Keep this in mind as you work out your next steps, using the following suggestions:

# Improve your page load speed

Slow pages mean a higher bounce rate, and users will look elsewhere. Consider using a design that loads quicker, optimize your images and keep your CSS, JavaScript and HTML minimal. You can run a speed test on Google Search Console to check your progress.

# Review how you use ads and images

Ads and images must add value to the page’s usefulness and not detract from the content users want to see. In general, people want fewer pop-ups and intrusive objects getting in their way.

# Optimise your site for mobile

Use Google’s mobile-friendliness test to see how your website is performing.

# Make your site more secure

Get your website an SSL certificate and switch to https for added trustworthiness and security.

# Check your site for security issues

Google Search Console allows you to generate a security report. The key things to avoid are malicious or deceptive content – that means clickbait titles too.

# Compare with competitors

Check out your competitors’ pages and see how their user experience compares to yours. Remember, you don’t just want to match their page experience; you want to beat it.