Desktop Page Experience Update - What does it mean for you & why should you care?
It was recently announced that Google is bringing page experience ranking to desktops, building on the previous mobile page experience update that was released between June and August this year. Beginning in February 2022, they will use page experience as part of Google’s desktop ranking systems, with the rollout expected to be completed by the end of March 2022.
Using the same signals that were released earlier in 2021 for mobile, (outside of mobile friendliness), this upcoming Google Desktop Page Experience launch will place a much greater emphasis on the user experience and take this into account when ranking in search results.
It is without question that every website owner should strive to provide a good user experience (UX). The importance of having a strong SEO strategy to optimise your website cannot be overstated either, however, if your users are dissatisfied with the overall experience of your site, it will negatively affect your conversions and the possibility that they will return.
Desktop ranking will use the same three Core Web Vitals metrics as mobile ranking: LCP, FID, and CLS, and there will be no change in terms of other aspects of page experience signals, including HTTPS security or absence of intrusive interstitials. Whilst mobile-friendliness will continue to influence mobile search only, it won’t affect desktop rankings.
In cases where there are separate desktop and mobile URLs configured appropriately, the desktop signal is determined according to the URLs that desktop users see.
The following chart shows how these factors compare side-by-side with desktop and mobile:
Screenshot from developers.google.com/search/blog – November 2021.
For the desktop page experience update, this includes:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- HTTPS Security
- No intrusive interstitials
This blog post is intended to provide you with some more detailed information on the impending update, what it means for you & your business, and ways that you can prepare for it so that you are able to implement any necessary adjustments on your desktop version of your website. This will, in turn, help you provide a great page experience for your website users & see minimal impacts once February 2022 comes around.
What do I need to consider with Google’s Desktop Page Experience Update roll-out?
The goal of Google is to help users find the most relevant and highest quality sites on the web and to offer the best search results experience to match the user’s specific query. Several factors will be taken into account by Google when deciding which results are returned for a search query, and page experience is yet another measure they are using to measure the overall quality of a page.
As its name implies, the Page Experience update will provide a more holistic view of user experience on a web page. The page experience signals can adversely affect your search rankings or be a deciding factor in outranking your competitors. It is possible for a competitor with similar content and backlink profile to outperform your site in search results if they have better page experience signals.
Google’s Desktop Page Experience update is primarily broken down into three main criteria which combines existing signals with the new ‘Core Web Vitals’.
- Core Web Vitals
- Interstitial use
Introducing Core Web Vitals
It was announced in May 2020 that Google would introduce a new ranking signal – Core Web Vitals – which focuses on speed, responsiveness, and a website’s visual stability when users access the page. There are three new metrics associated with these focal points: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long it takes to load the largest image, video, or text above the fold. Google recommends that the LCP occurs within the first 2.5 seconds of the page being loaded in order to provide the best user experience
You can use PageSpeed Insights to determine the LCP of a page by showing the largest element.
So, what causes poor LCP & how can we improve it?
- Slow server response times – When content is downloaded from the server, it takes longer to render it on the screen. Optimize your server, make use of a CDN, and preload key requests to help browsers prioritise critical resources.
- Slow resource loading – A page that contains a lot of elements, such as images and videos, increases the size of your page, making it harder and longer to download the content. To decrease load times for your users, it is advisable to compress and optimise images and text files, preload important resources, and cache assets.
First Input Delay (FID)
When a user interacts with your site for the first time (e.g. clicks a button), the time that it takes the browser to respond to that interaction is measured as the first input delay or FID. According to Google, you should aim for a FID <100 milliseconds in order to provide a good user experience.
Due to its nature as a real-time user metric, FID cannot be simulated in a ‘lab test’. However, you can gather the data you need with tools such as Google Search Console or PageSpeed Insights and Google Search Console. The Total Blocking Time (TBT) metric can also be used to capture any issues that affect interactivity on your site.
What causes poor FID and how can we improve?
- Code-Splitting – This technique lets you control what resources are loaded on a page by splitting code into smaller bundles.
- Preload and Prefetch – You can direct the browser to fetch scripts that you know are needed to make your browser interactive sooner, so they can be prioritised.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Cumulative layout shift (CLS) occurs when web page elements move unexpectedly while the page is still loading, which does not result from the user’s interaction. In order to provide the best user experience, Google recommends a score of 0.1 or lower.
To identify the elements that are causing CLS, we can again use PageSpeed Insights.
What causes CLS and how can we improve?
- Images without dimensions – Include width and height attributes on image and video elements, or make use of CSS aspect ratio boxes to help the browser determine the layout.
- Web fonts causing FOUT/FOIT – Your fonts may become vulnerable to ‘flash of invisible text’ or ‘flash of unstyled text’ if they are hosted online. You can avoid this problem by using CSS font:display values such as auto, swap, block, fallback, and optional. We recommend that you use on key web fonts to achieve the best results.
- Ads, embeds and iframes without dimensions – Place ads in static ad slots of the same size as the ad tag library and avoid placing them in iframes.
- Dynamically injected content – Avoid injecting new content above existing content unless it is in response to a user interaction.
In order to provide your users with the best possible experience, it is important to protect them from malware, hacked content, and unwanted software. Since its launch in 2007, Google’s Safe Browsing initiative has evolved from protecting users against phishing attacks to protecting them against a variety of web-based threats.
You can monitor your site for security issues using Google Search Console, and it will flag any issues that are detected, with a link to the Security Issues report.
The HTTPS protocol helps protect sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, and health information, from being stolen or compromised online. An encryption protocol such as HTTPS provides a strong trust signal for users, especially on e-commerce websites.
It is easy to check if your website is using HTTPS as most modern browsers will mark a website as “not secure” or a lock with a line through it, next to the URL in the address bar.
You should get an SSL certificate installed on your hosting environment as soon as possible if your website does not currently use HTTPS.
No Intrusive Interstitials
An intrusive interstitial is a pop-up that covers the entire screen and is difficult to dismiss. Google announced in 2017 that it would penalize pages that use interstitials and it would have a negative impact on rankings. A user’s experience is negatively affected by interstitials since they prevent them from accessing the content they were expecting when they arrived at the website.
Manually reviewing your pages or using Google Search Console’s URL Inspection tool, which displays how Google renders your page, are the best ways to determine whether or not your website contains intrusive interstitials.
Desktop Page Experience - Be one step ahead!
As Google has previously stated, this update is designed to enhance the overall user experience so because of this, sites shouldn’t expect to see any significant changes. Google will also be able to monitor for any unexpected or unintended problems that arise, since the implementation will be carried out gradually.
Although it is unclear how much of an impact the Desktop Page Experience update will have on rankings in 2022, it is clear that Google places a strong emphasis on user experience, and the role of UX in search will only continue to grow over time.
Why We Care...
Although we don’t believe that Google’s Desktop Page Experience Algorithm Update will have a major impact, where many sites will see their rankings drastically change, we know that those working on improving the page experience have primarily been focusing on the mobile versions of their site. Since your mobile pages are now ready for this update, it is the perfect time to shift your focus on your desktop pages moving forward.
Great content will always triumph, but making sure that it is easily accessible and the overall user experience is excellent will only benefit your SEO efforts in the long run. With Google’s Algorithm Desktop Page Experience Update, the focus is now heavily on brands and businesses that provide the best possible UX. When competitors who have implemented changes begin to rank higher as time goes on, those who don’t take action will unfortunately see the impacts filtering through to their website.
Contact us today and find out how to improve your website’s user experience with a complimentary iOnline website audit. This audit will ensure your website complies with the updated algorithm changes by presenting any areas that need work, and will also help you discover ways to improve your customer experience & engagement with your brand.
If you need any other help designing and developing your new website, optimising your existing site for the upcoming Desktop Page Experience update, or require assistance with Digital Marketing such as SEO or Lead Generation, then get in touch with iOnline today – we’d love to help you!