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Stay in the Know About SEO: Upcoming Changes That Will Affect Your Ranking

April 1, 2021

Last November, Google gave us a heads up that they would be adding to Google Search’s ranking criteria. Even if you’re not an SEO geek, you know that searches are an essential factor in your visibility to consumers. The changes, set to start in May, focus on including the page experience in a website’s ranking. These signals include whether a website is mobile-friendly, safe to browse, and secured with HTTPS. We’re here to break down these changes, and how Google’s new page experience tools can help you keep your ranking!

What Is Page Experience, And Why Should I Care?

Before we get into the details, let’s talk about Google’s definition of page experience. Overall, it’s pretty much what it sounds like – the ease, security, and overall experience that someone has while visiting a website. That’s difficult to automatically measure, so Google has designated certain signals that are linked to the page experience.

These signals are tidy numbers and yes/no indicators that will be incorporated into your website’s search ranking. Google has been kind enough to offer up tools for seeing where your website stands on these signals. SEO aside, some of these are quick fixes that will improve your user experience, so we recommend taking some time to check them out!

Don’t fret too much about your website falling off the map: Google is reassuring website owners that its algorithm will still value information over page experience. However, when multiple pages provide the same information, the one with the best page experience will appear first. 

Website Check-Up: Measuring Your Core Web Vitals

The first three page experience signals are grouped into Core Web Vitals. These focus on the loading time, visual stability, and ability to interact with a page. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) indicates the load time of a page, specifically the point when the main content has loaded. Google recommends that websites strive for LCP within the first 2.5 seconds. 

First Input Delay (FID) measures the responsiveness of the website when a user interacts with it – basically the time between the user’s click and when the website starts to respond. A good FID of less than 100 milliseconds indicates a highly responsive website. Finally, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) looks at whether, and how much, the website’s layout is changing without the user’s input. You’re looking for a  CLS score of less than 0.1 – otherwise, your users might be frustrated by shifting links and unexpected changes.

There are a variety of tools that you can use to measure these three values for your website. PageSpeed Insights is one that’s pretty straightforward. Just type in your URL, wait for the results to come back, and see how your website stacks up with recommendations for how to improve! If you see yourself checking multiple websites, you may want to try out the Web Vitals Chrome extension for one-click evaluations.

Other Experience Factors: User Friendliness and Safety

The final four signals each measure their own area, with less of a metric you can work on and more of a yes/no checkbox. The first of these is whether your website is mobile-friendly. Google has provided an easy test to evaluate your website. Just enter your URL! Another consideration is safe browsing, which boils down to whether your website contains malicious, deceptive, or otherwise harmful content. To learn more about what could prevent your website from being considered safe, check out Google’s Security Issues report – it also provides guidance on how to resolve these issues.

The next signal, HTTPS, is the most cut and dry. This is whether your website is secure and using HTTPS or not. You can see this pretty easily when you view the entire URL of your website – does it start with “HTTP” or “HTTPS”? Your Google Chrome browser will also let you know whether your connection is secure with the icon in front of the URL you’re on. A padlock means you’re on a secure site, while a circle or triangle indicates your information might be at risk. If you’re not using HTTPS, learn how to here.

Finally, Google is looking for whether your site includes intrusive interstitials. If you’re using pop-ups that cover a large portion of the page or interrupt the mobile experience by filling the entire screen, these may negatively impact this signal. However, large interstitials that are legally necessary (such as an age confirmation for age-restricted content) or allow the viewer to log in to a website won’t be factored in. Other pop-ups should allow a reasonable amount of screen space showing the website. For some examples of what this looks like on mobile, check out Google’s visual examples here.

Ok, now what?

So you know the acronyms and you’ve plugged your URL into these tools. How else can you maximize your search ranking and start fixing the issues you’ve found on your website? We can help! Liquid Creative is a full-service marketing agency ready to guide you to your best website. Contact us today to get started!