The page experience algorithm update that Google unleashed on mobile search sessions between June and August 2021 will be coming to search sessions on desktop devices in February of 2022. That gives you between two and three months to prepare your sites.
What Is Page Experience?
Over the years, Google has been focusing more and more on the user experience that searchers have on the sites they click to from Google search results. The experience people have on these destination sites reflects on user satisfaction with Google’s search results, leading Google to reward sites that provide a better, faster, smoother experience.
Page experience is expressed in six ways:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): The time it takes for the main visual of your page to appear is referred to as the largest contentful paint. This can be text orimages, whatever reassures the visitor that the page is, in fact, loading as planned. Google looks for LCP to occur within the first 2.5 seconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): As the page loads, CLS measures the amount the layout jumps around. If you’ve ever been on a site where the layout of the page jerks up and down as the page loads — usually due to ads loading — you’ve experienced layout shift. Google looks for a measurement less than 0.1 CLS.
- First Input Delay (FID): You visit a page to take some action, in theory. The time you have to wait before you can click a link or perform other actions is called FID. Google looks for an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- HTTPS Security: Most business sites have switched over to the secure HTTPS protocol, but those who haven’t are missing out on a rankings boost.
- Absence of intrusive interstitials: When you land on a page, and the first thing you see is a huge ad pop up, that experience is intrusive to your goals for visiting the site. Google has been using this as a ranking signal for mobile devices for years because the screen is so much smaller and the tap targets you have to click are so small.
- Mobile friendliness: As the name implies, this factor applies to the friendliness of the mobile experience on a site only. It encompasses things like an adequate tap target size for interactive elements and whether the content remains readable within a mobile screen size. Mobile friendliness is not relevant to the upcoming desktop page experience update.
The first three of these — LCP, CLS, and FID — are collectively referred to as the Core Web Vitals.
How Can I Prepare for the Desktop Page Experience Update?
The first step to improving something is measuring it. That’s easy for some — you’re either on the HTTPS protocol or not; and you have intrusive interstitials on your desktop experience, or you don’t. Again, mobile-friendliness doesn’t come into play on desktop.
The three Core Web Vitals are trickier for the average marketer to measure, though, because they involve data that’s difficult to collect or understand with everyday tools. Consequently, Google Search Console has incorporated a Page Experience report and a Core Web Vitals report.
The Page Experience report shows you the number of your URLs that Google deems as having a poor or good page experience, as shown below.
It’s really a high-level visual that requires digging into to gain any actionable data. The Core Web Vitals report, however, is full of actionable data, as shown below.
You’ll learn the pages that result in a poor experience or that need improvement for all three of the Core Web Vital categories — LCP, CLS, and FID. Clicking on each row opens a list of URLs that need help to reach the goals that Google has set so that they can be investigated to understand why they’re violating the Core Web Vitals guidelines. Developers can find a wealth of additional tools to help analyze Core Web Vitals on the Google Developer site.
Two to three months isn’t much time. Start analyzing the Core Web Vitals report for your desktop experience now to avoid rankings issues in February 2022.