What Can You Do To Improve Your Page Experience?

Ross Brown

Ross Brown

SEO Consultant

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At the end of 2021 Google started to roll out page experience as a ranking signal.  The page experience signals include a new set of measures to help Google determine where your website will rank using their search algorithm.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at page experience signals and what you can do to optimise your website for interaction with your web pages.

What is a good page experience?

A good page experience is a measure of how easy and how enjoyable it is for a user to interact with your site. Think of it as a first impression – you only get one and if the user is not impressed the first time, they are unlikely to return.

If your website provides a safe and seamless intuitive experience, loads quickly, avoids intrusive pop-up adverts, and works across numerous types of devices – your visitors will be able to easily consume the content provided. To help categorise your users’ page experience, Google has split their measures into 4 areas: core web vitals, mobile friendliness, security or HTTPS, and intrusive interstitials.

Core web vitals (CWV)

Core web vitals, similar to a person’s vital signs, are an essential set of user experience metrics that measure a page’s technical health, interactivity, loading speed, and visual stability. Google provides a handy tool known as ‘PageSpeed Insights’ that allows you to measure your CWV score and identify where the issues lie.

Loading Speed

The time it takes from the moment your user tries to access your site to the moment it is fully loaded is increasingly important. Research shows that approximately 40% of users will abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Google understands that a slow loading speed negatively impacts the user experience and will penalise rankings in favour of pages that load quickly.

The core web vitals metrics for load speed are as follows:

  • First Contentful Paint (FCP) measures the time taken for the page to render any part of the content on the screen from when it starts loading. A good FCP score is 1.8 seconds or less.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the time taken for the page to render the largest visible element on the screen from when it starts loading. A good LCP score is 2.5 seconds or less.

The most common causes of a poor load speed include:

  • Unoptimised images
  • JavaScript issues
  • Slow server response times
  • Render-blocking JavaScript and CSS
  • Slow resource load times
  • Client-side rendering

 

Interactivity

When a user interacts with your page it should feel responsive, and they should get feedback that everything is working as it should. This is key for providing a positive user experience.

  • First Input Delay (FID) is the time it takes from the user’s first interaction with a page (i.e., clicking a link or pressing a button), to the time when the browser starts processing that interaction. A good FID score is 100ms or less.

The most common causes of a poor FID include:

  • Heavy Javascript execution
  • Long tasks that have not been broken up
  • Unoptimised pages for interaction readiness
  • No web worker
  • JavaScript execution time

 

Visual Stability

When a user is interacting with your site it is important that the page behaves, visually, the way a user expects. Visual elements should not move around or otherwise change unexpectedly.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how often visual elements unexpectedly move around the page. Unexpected movement can cause a negative user experience and unintended interactions such as clicking the wrong link as the page suddenly changes. A good CLS score is 0.1 or less.

The most common causes of a poor CLS include:

  • Images without dimensions
  • Ads, embeds, and iframes without dimensions
  • Dynamically injected content
  • Web Fonts causing FOIT/FOUT
  • Actions waiting for a network response before updating DOM

 

Mobile Friendliness

Up to 64% of all searches are done via a mobile device*, if you ignore mobile optimisation then you are ignoring the majority of your userbase. Ensuring that your site is optimised for mobile devices is crucial for ranking well in the mobile SERPs.

Luckily, Google provides its own mobile friendliness tool that can be used to highlight any problems with mobile optimisation.

Common issues include:

  • Content wider than screen – This issue occurs when horizontal scrolling is necessary to see text and images on the page. To fix this issue ensure that CSS elements use relative widths and position, and that images are scalable as well.
  • Clickable elements too close together – Most mobile devices use a touch screen, so it is important that the user is able to easily tap a clickable element, such as a navigation link, without also tapping another element at the same time. This can be achieved using a mobile responsive theme or manually updating the CSS files to increase their sizes.
  • Text too small to read – This issue occurs when the text needs to be magnified in order to be legible. The user will typically use the ‘pinch to zoom’ method to correct this. In order to fix this issue, specify your viewport then set your font sizes to scale properly within that viewport. Use %, EM or REM instead of pixels for font size to scale correctly.
  • Viewport not set to “device width” – This error occurs when the page defines a fixed-width viewport which means it can’t adjust for different screen sizes. To fix this, set the viewport to match the device’s width and scale.

 

Security & HTTPS

Having a secure site is extremely important in a data-driven world, so having HTTPS in place is a vital step in protecting both your site and your users’ data. Not only is it important for security purposes but it’s also important for the perception of your site. Having that small lock symbol in the left corner of the address bar reinforces to the user that your site is safe to use.

Check your SSL certificate expiration dates, automate the renewal process if you can, and update your plugins and applications as vulnerabilities in old versions can be exploited.

Intrusive interstitials

An intrusive interstitial sounds extremely complicated but it is essentially a pop-up that blocks or partially covers the main content of the page. These can take the form of an ad, signup form, login box, etc. Google views these as visual blockers to the main content that users came on to the page to see and, as such, is seen as a negative factor towards the overall user experience. It’s important to remove all pop-ups that block the main content from the user.

Avoid intrusive interstitials and dialog pop-ups if you can and look to use banners instead. Encourage your web developers to avoid overlays on your page or pop-ups that obscure the underlying content.

If you do legally have to use a pop-up (for instance age verification) use standard plugins from your Content Management System (CMS) and select a pop-up that only obscures a fraction of the screen to grab your users’ attention.  Avoid redirecting the user to a different page for collecting consent or providing data and ensure that content is overlaid to the search engine.

Should you be worried if your site doesn’t meet all page experience standards?

As a site owner, your main priority should be to produce great content that is useful and interesting and that other sites will want to link back to – a fast-loading user-friendly site without good content still won’t rank well and won’t attract backlinks. User metrics are, however, making up more of the overall ranking picture, so it is becoming increasingly important to have a user-friendly site.

The importance of your overall technical optimisation contributes approximately 16% to your web page rankings and this includes page experience, alongside on-page content and optimisation (30%) and quality links (54%). This means that ignoring technical SEO is no longer an option if you want to be competitive in the search ranks.

If you need anymore information on Page Experience and would like to speak to a member of the SEO Team today, email info@mediaworks.co.uk or call +44 (0) 330 108 6522.

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