Google’s Page Experience 2021 Update


Google has always placed an extremely high emphasis on user experience and delivering relevant search results from user-friendly websites. We can look to their mobile-first indexing and site speed updates, or the BERT update in 2019, which places a greater emphasis on interpreting natural language, as just a few examples of this. User experience and interpreting user behavior always has, and always will be, a heavily weighted ranking factor in both organic search results and Google Ads.

So, it comes as no surprise that in May 2021 Google continued this trend by launching their Page Experience Update. Google’s Page Experience update looks at a whole set of signals and includes visual indicators, to evaluate the quality of your page/website and validate the user will have an exceptional experience there.

Here, we’re going to explain what these signals are so that you can better prepare your website in response to Google’s 2021 update.

Page Experience Indicators

For a long time, Google has looked at page speed, mobile-friendliness, whether your site is HTTPS, and intrusive interstitials (i.e. popups that disrupt content) to determine the quality of user experience on your site. If you need a quick refresh on what those mean and how to comply, now is a good time to catch up to speed!

In addition to these indicators, Google’s Page Experience update also refines what it calls “Core Website Vitals” to specific metrics that should be followed. These core vitals are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Display (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Here’s what that means:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Refers to load time of a page, specifically when the main content is likely to have loaded. This should happen in the first 2.5 seconds.

First Input Display (FID) – Indicates interactivity, or how long after someone takes their first action (click, tap, etc.) to the time the browser processes that interaction. Google recommends sites have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – Measures visual stability and has to do with any unexpected/moving page content. CLS should be less than 0.1.

Google’s Page Speed Insights is an easy and free tool you can use to review how you stack up by providing these measurements when you plug in a page URL. Make sure you test a few pages out, as you may see different results between your homepage and other pages.

Example of Largest Contentful

Visual Indicators

The last part of this update is including “visual indicators” on the search results page. Now, Google hasn’t been quite as clear on what that means, but here’s what they included in their statement:

“We believe that providing information about the quality of a web page’s experience can be helpful to users in choosing the search result that they want to visit…On results, the snippet or image preview helps provide topical context for users to know what information a page can provide. Visual indicators on the results are another way to do the same, and we are working on one that identifies pages that have met all of the page experience criteria.”

Google will be testing these visual indicators in the search results very soon, and if they see it as a successful measure will be rolling out these visual indicators/labels in the May 2021 launch. In the past, Google has shown visual indicators such as AMP icons or mobile-friendly labels.

Boost Your Page Experience

So, what can you do in response to this update?

  • Ensure your website is mobile-responsive. You can test the mobile-friendliness of your website here.
  • Improve page speeds by familiarizing yourself with LCP, FID, and CLS and reducing code that disrupts page load time.
  • Add or Improve your CTAs to help improve user flow and increase interaction with your website.
  • Make an effort to improve accessibility by adding image alt text (used for screen readers), clear links/buttons, easy-to-use forms, and clear navigations.
  • Content is still king! Amazing content that delivers on user’s search intent is critical. Don’t just focus on the technical stuff, and make sure you’re meeting the needs of your audience by being a subject matter expert. 

You can learn more about accessibility and user-experience from our webinar recording, Beyond Design: Website Accessibility, Integrations & User Experience.

If that was a lot to take in, we get it and are here to help! Get in touch with Top Floor and request a free website audit. We’ll help you identify anything that may hold you back in meeting Google’s standards and hammer out your next steps.