Spring is usually thought of as a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. This is also where we get the notion of spring cleaning, where we do away with the negative energy of the old year, or at least some of the dust and dirt.
Spring cleaning doesn’t just apply to our homes and personal lives, however. Spring is also a great time to clean up your website. In fact, right now is the perfect time, as Google is preparing to make some changes that will come into effect in May 2021.
What are Google’s Planned Changes?
Originally announced by Google last summer, they will be doing an algorithm update to add a new factor called Page Experience, which will be one more way of measuring your website, along with existing signals. Other metrics continue to be important as well, and it is vital for site owners to understand Google Search signals and make any necessary changes such as improving speed, optimizing for mobile, and including calls to action (CTA) and alt text for images.
Google’s primary focus is on user satisfaction. Google strives to offer the most relevant and useful information on the most user-friendly sites. The new page experience signals measure the experience of users as they interact with a web page and will be another factor in determining how sites rank.
What is Page Experience?
In essence, page experience refers to every aspect related to how users interact with a page, such as HTTPS, safe browsing, mobile-friendliness, and more. It also includes metrics in Google’s Web Vitals. Currently, the three facets being focused upon are:
- This refers to the perceived page load speed, or how quickly the page’s main content loads.
- This is a browser’s response to a user, measured as the time between the user interacting with a page (such as a tap or click) and when the browser starts to process that interaction.
- Visual Stability. As the name implies, this focuses on preventing content on a page from moving unexpectedly.
You have hopefully already addressed a variety of points that Google measures. Page speed, for example, is known to be incredibly important, especially for mobile users. The longer a page takes to load, the more likely the user is to bounce, or click away. The average user is only willing to give a few seconds before bouncing. Moving from 1 to 5 seconds increases the likelihood of user bounce by 90%. By the time you reach 10 seconds, it has increased 123%.
Another important measure to be aware of is the number of elements on a page. As they increase from 400 to 6,000, conversion may drop as much as 95%.
If you are unsure of where your site stands performance wise, a free SEO report can give you a better Idea.
New Visual Indicators
As they have done in the past with labels denoting sites as slow or mobile friendly, Google will be adding visual indicators to highlight the search results that successfully meet all their page experience specifications.
Having your site display such an indicator in the search results will undoubtedly bring you more attention, and as users come to associate these indicators with high-quality sites, they will likely attract more clicks. Google has yet to announce the form that these indicators will take, how large they will be, or where they will be positioned, but the fact that they have been announced is an indication that they are putting serious thought into page experience and the results they will provide.
All this means that site owners also need to take these changes seriously and start planning for their implementation.
One thing not mentioned yet, however, is still of primary importance: content. You can have a fast, responsive site that is beautiful to look at, but if you don’t have the content that a user is searching for, or if that content is low quality, they will not linger on your site very long.
What is a Bad Page Experience?
It is probably true that there is no such thing as a perfect site. You will need to monitor, adjust, and improve your website on a continual basis. That said, there are certain things that need to be avoided:
- Slow Loading. Already mentioned above, this is worth reiterating. If your site is slow, users won’t stick around.
- Bad Design. If your page is confusing to the user, it becomes difficult to use, which leads to frustration. It may be that there are too many pop-ups, or perhaps the content is poorly presented and lacking structure. Whatever the case may be, a site that is unpleasant to use will drive users away.
- No Engagement. Clients want more than just your attempts to sell to them. They want engagement and to know that you understand them and their needs.
What You Should Be Doing
You should be sure that you understand the metrics that Google will be using. Google has been clear about the standards they will be using. As for specific points to focus on, consider the following:
- Optimize for Mobile Search. Mobile use has been a focus for some time now, so this should be no surprise. Roughly 50% of global website traffic has been from mobile devices ever since 2017. This is not something to ignore. Your site should be responsive and attractive on mobile. If you are still not mobile-ready, you can consider reducing code, reducing redirects, and leveraging browser caching.
- The Need for Speed. Google maintains a goal of 3 seconds or less for load time. Every second past that mark increases the likelihood of bounce. So how can you increase speed? Some ways include asynchronous loading files and combining files to minimize HTTP requests. You should also examine compression, caching, and image file sizes.
- Separate CTAs. Virtually every site has, or should have, CTAs (calls to action) to help guide users toward the next step upon visiting your site, whether you want them to subscribe, contact you, or make a purchase. Your CTAs should be bright and visible, clear, and to the point. They should also offer a benefit to the user to encourage interaction.
- Alt Text for Images. Alt text for your images describe their function and appearance and will be displayed if the image file does not load. This helps the user but is also used by Google and other search engines for the purpose of indexing, which in turn affects ranking. Keep the alt text descriptions short and specific. Work in a keyword whenever possible to help with organic search.
- Long has it been said that content is king. This continues to be true. Yes, your metrics are important, but your content will always be critical to your success. Once you have great content, properly optimized, you will see the results you desire.
An important part of getting your site in shape is performing an audit to discover where you need to focus your attention. Site audits are essential to improving the efficiency of your site and improving your ranking. A free report will help you get on track so that you can bring your site to the top of Google’s ranking.
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