A Brief Overview of how Google Measures UX
On May 28th, 2020 Google announced that it will be focusing on user experience (UX) to determine page rankings for non-AMP pages starting 2021. Google has measured some UX factors like page speeds and mobile friendliness for years, but the May announcement marks an additional focus on core web vitals, including Largest Contentful Pain (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). These metrics measure loading times, interactivity, and visual stability respectively.
Core Web Vitals have been around for a while now, and we have had a report since November, 2019. Additionally, Google has updated their free tools to help developers measure and identify issues across the core web vitals, but it is still up to web developers to make the required changes to optimize existing pages for these metrics.
How will UX Affect Page Rankings?
Google will still prioritize content:
“While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn't override having great, relevant content.”
However, when it is difficult for Google’s AI to definitively rank a page by content, it will be user experience that decides the winner. And, as sites become increasingly optimized for UX, site owners can expect to see major shifts in their rankings if they fall behind the curve.
In addition to factoring UX into page rankings, Google will also remove the AMP requirement from their Top Stories feature. This will allow non-AMP pages with excellent user experiences to rank for the Top Stories feature. Arguably, this represents a shift in focus from AMP on Google’s part, but they did clarify in a subsequent blog post that AMP pages will still be cached and will continue to play an important role in search rankings due to the fact that they tend to have good user experiences.
How to optimize UX for SEO
It's important to optimize your UX now so that you don’t see previous search gains eroded when Google updates their algorithm. Changes to Google’s algorithm can have a massive impact on a site's ranking, and there’s no shortage of horror stories from site owners suddenly seeing organic traffic and search rankings take a nose dive when they are not prepared for a major update. If you are working with an SEO team, they should be monitoring for this and making updates as needed. Check in with your team and make sure they are monitoring and optimizing your core web vitals.
If you’re not working with a team, there are a few steps to take. First, use Google’s free tools to see how well your website is performing. We recommend generating a detailed Lighthouse report since it will be more comprehensive than the Page Speed Insights report. Use this report to identify technical issues and make changes as needed to optimize your site for user experience.
If you need a hand, please contact us! We will provide a comprehensive proposal that ensures your website is optimized for user experience and makes compounding organic gains moving forward.