Will the Google’s Summer page experience update be the death of desktop search?

Google’s diagram on the new additions to the algorithm come May with the page experience update.

If you stay up to date with the SEO industry at all, you should have heard about the new major algorithm update this year. Typically, core algorithm updates are a terrifying concept for any website owner; and especially dreadful for agencies who manage the digital marketing interest of more than one business.

Why are Google updates a concern for every website owner?

Usually Google make algorithm changes on their own timeline, with no warning or public announcement — they try to keep us guessing. We’ve all been informed about the page speed experience update for months — they’re making sure we’re all ready for it! It’s already showing page experience in Google’s Webmaster tools.

Will your website stay stable? Will it move up? Or will it disappear entirely from the rankings? Nobody can be fully sure how the update is going to affect your organic rankings — it’s safe to say not even Google doesn’t understand the far reaching consequences of their updates at this point!

So what do we know about the page experience update so far?

Here’s Googles developer page about the update, we recommend you read about it from Google themselves first.

The cliff notes of what we know so far are:

  • Update is set to roll out throughout May 2021.
  • Several new Google ranking factors are set to be introduced.
  • Primary goal of page experience is to provide website users with a better on page experience.
  • General changes relate to mobile friendliness and safe browsing, and loading speeds.

3 of the main considerations for webmasters looking to get ahead of page experience are LCP, FID, & CLS. We shall go into what these metrics are below:

Scale for LCP, FID & CLS metrics — what’s acceptable in Google’s eyes.

LCP — Largest Contentful Paint

Definition: LCP measures how long it takes for a loading page to be functional and interactive for the user. Technically this relates to the largest portion of content on the page, or the main body of content.

For a more detailed explanation of LCP, we’ve found Search Engine Journal’s article on the subject most illuminating.

FID — First Input Delay

Definition: The best way we can describe first input delay is the time it takes for your website to respond to a query.

Google’s anecdotal analogy of the subject is:

“It’s like measuring the time from ringing someone’s doorbell to them answering the door.”

If this explanation doesn’t make sense, here is a video example:

If you are actively trying to resolve FID issues on your website, Web Dev has an excellent write up to help you.

CLS — Culmulative Layout Shift

Definition: CLS is the term for when a web page shifts around whilst loading. Any layout shifts that aren’t caused by user interaction will contribute to this error.

This issue/error takes place on a large majority of sites on the internet to some extent. If our explanation doesn’t make sense, check this handy video out:

https://storage.googleapis.com/web-dev-assets/layout-instability-api/layout-instability2.webm

Sorry! Medium doesn’t allow us to embed the video so you will have to visit the link.

We personally think CLS is going to be the biggest impact issue to fix for user experience. If you’ve ever tried to tap a link on your phone, only for the layout to shift leading to you accidentally tapping the wrong link — you’ll understand why this is becoming a ranking factor.

Is page experience important for my website / business?

If you rely on your website or organic rankings to bring business to your company, we strongly advise you take some time to investigate how well prepared you currently are to weather this storm.

Since Google has given everyone a year warning and even gone as far to publish help articles on page experience, LCP, FID, and CLS — everyone has had plenty of time to prepare. There’s no legitimate excuse we can think of if you overlook this update.

Here’s an image showing what these errors look like in the Core Web Vitals section of Webmaster Tools if you’re planning to look for them.

What proactive actions should be undertaken to get in front of this update before it goes live?

Probability of bounce rate at increasing load times.

So, how can you get started? Here’s what we’ve been doing at Gorilla Marketing to batten down the hatches and keep our clients afloat come May:

  • Increasing page speed. This has been our first focus. Some of our clients were sitting on a fearfully low page speed of 20/100. We’ve spent time ensuring all of them are above 60/100 on both mobile & desktop.
  • LCP, FID & CLS. By using the Core Web Vitals in Google’s Webmaster tools, we have reduced the appearance of these errors significantly. This was a relatively difficult job for us — good luck if you’re attempting it!
  • SSL certificates. All of your domains should have HTTPS by now. If not, now is the time to get them all secured.
  • Mobile friendliness. Ever since the mobile first update we have put an emphasis on ensuring all sites run immaculately on mobile devices. Make sure you’ve crossed this bridge if you haven’t already!

These are our four main focuses to prepare for May’s update. As our base of clientele are currently in a very strong position (organically and profit wise), we thought it was incredibly important to ensure that they receive no loss of business due to the incoming page experience ranking factors.

Tell us about your page experience journey!

Has your team been tirelessly working to make sure this update doesn’t condemn you? Or are you confidently prepared to react to any loss of traffic/rankings during May?

Have you found dealing with LCP, FID, & CLS as frustrating as we have? Or was it an easy fix to implement?

Drop a comment, tell us about your page experience journey? It’s our first publication on Medium, give us a hand!

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Kyle Mitchell

Official Medium account of Gorilla Marketing. Be gentle, we're still new!