Have you been affected by the Google Page Experience Update?

Google confirmed that the Page Experience Update started on 15th June. Have you checked Google Analytics and Google Search Console recently? You should. In case your traffic has taken a hit.

It’s time to see what else we’ve learned. It’s many months since I first wrote about the coming update and what I then knew about Core Web Vitals (CWV) (Are you ready for Google’s Page Experience Update?).

Page Experience Update: Google told us what to expect

In a blog post, Google told us what to expect:

“Gradual rollout starting in mid-June this year

“We’ll begin using page experience as part of our ranking systems beginning in mid-June 2021. However, page experience won’t play its full role as part of those systems until the end of August. You can think of it as if you’re adding a flavoring to a food you’re preparing. Rather than add the flavor all at once into the mix, we’ll be slowly adding it all over this time period”.

More time, tools, and details on the page experience update, Monday, April 19, 2021

That clearly suggests we should be keeping an eye on our stats for some time yet. It may take a month or two before website owners start to feel the Page Experience Update.

CWV aren’t the whole story

While Core Web Vitals are the new thing, Google’s first real shot at measuring user experience, four other factors contribute to (or reduce) your Page Experience assessment:

  • Mobile—there should be no mobile usability errors
  • Safe browsing—your site shouldn’t contain malware (it mustn’t have been hacked), contain deceptive content (Google cites Social Engineering (Phishing and Deceptive Sites)). You should also check the Security Issues report is not flagging problems
  • HTTPS—like mobile, this one has been around for years, but Google will be putting more weight on it, so if you’re not using HTTPS for your site, get on the case now
  • Ad Experience—user experience will suffer if you’re using distracting or interrupting ad techniques—such as popups (Google calls these intrusive interstitials). Or simply packing ads on your page.

They should all be factors you’ve already addressed. Still, if they’ve slipped through the net, there are all the signs that they will become more important within Google’s assessment of your website.

Aside from the factors that affect user experience directly, Google has announced another tweak:

  • AMP is no longer required for the Top Stories Carousel and News—this is good news to all of us who haven’t adopted AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Google will also start removing the AMP logo from some search results.

What does Google say about the Update and CWV

In Understanding Google Page Experience, published to coincide with the rollout, Google says:

“Once the changes mentioned in our roadmap are rolled out, page experience will join the hundreds of signals that Google considers when generating Search results.

“While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search”.

Understanding Google Page Experience

Google’s Martin Splitt put it in a slightly different way in an interview with Search Engine Journal Google’s Last-Minute Advice On The Page Experience Update:

“First things first, don’t panic… For some [the impact] will be quite substantial, for some it will not be very substantial, so you don’t know which bucket you’ll be in because that depends a lot on context and industry and niche…

“I think generally making your website faster for users should be an important goal…”.

Google’s Last-Minute Advice on the Google Page Experience Update, May 24, 2021

What should you do

  1. Most websites won’t be directly affected by the update because their CWV ratings will be at least adequate
  2. If you’re seeing tangible drops in traffic and business from your website since around 15th June, look for how your website measures up to the factors in the Page Experience update. If you’re unsure, get in touch with a professional who understands the update and how it could apply to your website
  3. Focus on creating great content—remember, Google says, “Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar”
  4. Don’t ignore CWV if you’re in a highly competitive online marketplace or want to rank for competitive terms. Having poor user experience may only make ranking satisfactorily even more difficult.

How to measure your Core Web Vitals

If you’re concerned by drops in traffic, there are quite a few ways to check if you may have been affected by the Page Experience Update. I’m going to point you in the direction of the two I turn to first:

  • Google Search Console—there’s the Core Web Vitals report to give you an instant view of how your website is measuring up. You’ll see a report like this:
Google Search Console Core Web Vitals Report.
  • Semrush’s CWV Report is more useful, showing more information, more clearly:
Semrush Core Web Vitals Report.

My view on the update

If you’ve taken a hit, take action. Otherwise, since some CWV factors are difficult to change without substantial development time, you should wait until you do your next redesign and thoroughly test your theme (or front end) for page experience ratings before signing off.

But continue checking your analytics and GSC regularly, at least until August, in case Google’s ‘slowly adding’ CWV over this period catches you out. 

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Photo by v2osk on Unsplash.

David Rosam has been working online for more than 25 years, after a career in direct marketing copywriting for the tech and financial services industries.

Today, he specialises in Content-Leveraged Search Engine Optimisation—from audits, through research and strategy to implementation.

He was probably the UK’s first SEO Copywriter.