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Monitoring your page experience to improve your search engine traffic

Google has announced that they will evaluate page experience in their algorithm to determine search ranking, and they will be giving site owners the tools they need to monitor these metrics. Reporting is available immediately via your Google Search Console, but don’t be alarmed if you don’t have time to implement changes immediately. Google also shared they plan to roll out these changes no sooner than next year (2021) and they will give at least a 6-month notice before they start rolling out ranking changes. As Google’s algorithms become more intuitive in ranking content that deserves to be seen, your website has to adapt to the expectations of the users you’re attracting and that means great UX.

Search and user experience both thrive on satisfying user intent

SEO is a way of optimizing content for search engines, UX is how we optimize our websites for people; search engines (mostly) want to rank the best content available for their users, so as SEOs we should be optimized with the end-user in mind.

This hasn’t always been the case. In the past, very poor content could rank high on the SERP with unsavory SEO techniques that are increasingly dangerous to your site’s credibility and ranking. And although it makes sense to want the best content to appear at the top of the results page, there was very little the Google algorithm was capable of doing to rank for page quality in terms of user interaction.

How Google Search Console measures page experience

Page experience is informed by Google’s Core Web Vitals, metrics that focus on three aspects of user experience – loading, interactivity, and visual stability. These technical aspects are measurable, and Google uses them to determine how an end-user experiences your page.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – This loading metric reports the render time for the largest content element in your viewport. For a good user experience, aim for under 2.5 seconds.

First Input Delay (FID) – This interactivity metric quantifies the responsiveness of your website by measuring the time from when a user first interacts with a page to when the browser can respond to that interaction. Aim for under 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – This visual stability metric measures the sum total of times in which a layout shift is reported. Have you ever been on a page where you’re about to click on something and then the text moves so you click on the wrong thing? That’s what this measures, and is undesirable in terms of user experience. Aim for a score under 0.1.

Tips to improve page experience scores in Google Search Console

Page Speed Insights gives you insight into the LCP, FID and CLS data that Google has pulled on your site using anonymized, real-user data. This should be your web development teams starting point to improving your content. At the very least, you should optimize your media file sizes and enable browser caching, this allows web page elements to be stored on your users’ browsers for faster loading times on subsequent pages. And you should definitely upgrade your hosting; move away from budget hosting sites that have overcrowded their servers. A good rule of thumb is, if it’s cheap it’s probably not fast enough.

Your efforts to improve UX should go beyond the single page

Make sure your site architecture makes sense. This benefits your SEO efforts twofold because your website will be easier to crawl with search engine spiders, and it improves user experience on your website when they can easily navigate through the content on your site. It’s not enough to have the appearance of simple and sensible site architecture on the frontend but have bigger issues on the backend. Your architecture is only as good as its foundations; be disciplined and audit your sitemap often to find the cracks – then fix them.

Ensure your website has a responsive design that will work perfectly for users across different devices and browsers. Users might start their interaction with your business on their phone and convert on their laptop; make sure you provide a consistent user experience to meet your users where they are at. Side note: It’s easier to track this if you have cross-device tracking setup via Google Analytics

There are things we can do to make the content on our websites more digestible and appealing to search engines but when it comes to UX, having quality content is a huge piece of the puzzle. You should be working hard to make high-quality content that deserves to be seen by a wider audience, and it should be presented on a well-designed website that puts the user experience first. Equally important is your focus on the technical aspects of SEO. Make sure that your site is fast and easily accessible by search engine crawlers, and check your page experience scores often to be aware of any dips in your website’s user experience.