Page Experience: Google’s New User Experience Algorithm Update

User experience has always been at the heart of good SEO. But on May 28, 2020, Google announced a new page experience algorithm update that would be rolled out in 2021. This article kicks off our page experience series with an overview of the update and how to help your website qualify for the new ranking factors.

Google rolled out the page experience update from June to August 2021, so it’s live! Read on to understand what it means for your website and rankings.

It’s New But Not New

Google is packaging many of the criteria that the ranking algorithm already used with some new page experience signals.

How does that change SEO? Not much. A website that runs well technically and offers a good user experience has always been a best practice. So this new update is not new news, per se.

Google clarified:

We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.

The ranking signals are*:

  • Page load performance
  • Responsiveness
  • Visual stability
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • No intrusive interstitials

*Note: Safe browsing was originally included in this list, but Google decided to remove it as a page experience ranking signal in August 2021.

Updated diagram of Google's page experience update.
“Evaluating page experience for a better web,” Google Webmaster Central Blog

If you have great content but not-so-great page experience factors, then you may still rank well. Google clarified:

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, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.

Simply put, ranking ties in terms of content will go to the best page experience score. However, Google rep John Mueller clarified in August 2021 that the page experience algorithm update is “more than a tie breaker ranking signal.”

The AMP Advantage Is Going Away (Finally)

In 2017 and then again in 2018, I predicted AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) would have diminishing value in the future. Overall, it has been a hassle for sites to put in place. Back in 2017, Google’s Gary Illyes said that if a site was fast enough, then AMP wouldn’t be necessary anyway.

Well, the time has come to say goodbye to AMP. With the new page experience ranking signal, news websites won’t be required to implement AMP to show up in the Top Stories carousel.

Top Stories in Google Search for mobile.

But Top Stories articles are required to meet page experience standards:

As part of this update, we’ll also incorporate the page experience metrics into our ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature in Search on mobile, and remove the AMP requirement from Top Stories eligibility. Google continues to support AMP, and will continue to link to AMP pages when available. …

When we roll out the page experience ranking update, we will also update the eligibility criteria for the Top Stories experience. AMP will no longer be necessary for stories to be featured in Top Stories on mobile; it will be open to any page.

Alongside this change, page experience will become a ranking factor in Top Stories, in addition to the many factors assessed. As before, pages must meet the Google News content policies to be eligible. Site owners who currently publish pages as AMP, or with an AMP version, will see no change in behavior – the AMP version will be what’s linked from Top Stories.

The bottom line here is if you can make your pages fast and offer a good user experience, you probably don’t need AMP. As a note, in a 5G nation, it isn’t needed, but some countries are still 2G, and AMP is useful as a solution.

If you cannot focus on page experience factors, then you will want to stick with good content and, reluctantly, AMP implementation for better mobile speed.

You will likely base your decision on how much effort you’ve already put into AMP, how much effort it will be to optimize page experience factors, what the Top Stories results actually look like after the new ranking signal, and other reasons.

Of course, the ultimate decision isn’t really about page experience versus AMP. It’s about improving your website in a way that’s good for SEO in general. So yes, everyone should look at how to improve their page experience.

Overview of the Page Experience Ranking Update

As mentioned, the new page experience ranking algorithm looks at a combination of page experience factors (which are already part of the ranking algorithm) with what Google is calling “core web vitals” (which will be new factors).

Page Experience Factors

These are:

  • Mobile-friendliness: Can mobile users easily use your site?
  • HTTPS: Is your site’s connection secure?
  • No intrusive interstitials: Can mobile users access a webpage’s main content easily when they click through from the search results?

Core Web Vitals

These new ranking factors are:

  • Largest contentful paint: Is your webpage load time optimal?
  • First input delay: Can users easily interact with the page?
  • Cumulative layout shift: Are the elements on your webpage stable so that it doesn’t cause a bad user experience?

We explore all of these factors in our series on page experience:

  1. What’s the Page Experience Update?
  2. How to Make a Mobile-Friendly Site
  3. Intrusive Interstitials & Why They’re Bad for SEO
  4. HTTPS for Users and Ranking
  5. Core Web Vitals Overview
  6. Core Web Vitals: LCP (Largest Contentful Paint)
  7. Core Web Vitals: FID (First Input Delay)
  8. Core Web Vitals: CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)
Google's Page Experience Update: A Complete Guide from Bruce Clay Inc.
Click to download this entire series as a printable e-book.

Also see our high-level Page Experience overview for CMOs.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (10)
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10 Replies to “Page Experience: Google’s New User Experience Algorithm Update”

I’m curious what, if any, changes are on the way… The algorithms are certainly always changing. Is there any recent rumor on where Google intends to upgrade next?

Robert Stefanski

Hi waffle game,

Thanks for your question! We haven’t heard any rumors what Google intends to update next. Google typically doesn’t announce future updates unless they are planning large core updates. You may find this page helpful, it explains how Google makes updates:

Crazy update, we have 70%+ websites have fallen in CBD industry, and from our clients – correlation 100% between pages in green zone search console and growth \ drop reasons. Very useful content. Keeping educating our clients

Great explanation about the components and factors of page experience. Although It was a bit contradicting to learn that AMP is losing its value.

I liked the way you explained the factors of core web vitals in a short and simple way. I always felt that things like FID and Cumulative layout shifts are a bit technical to understand. But your content has made it much easier to understand those concepts.

I wonder what changes are coming up next if any… The algorithms are obviously ever-evolving. Is there any current speculation on where Google plans to update next?

I think Google still counting AMP as on-page SEO factor for search engine rankings.

Paula Allen

According to Google, AMP has never been a ranking factor. Page-load speed, however, is. AMP is one way to speed up mobile page loading.

Now there will be a problem with how to keep the user on the page as long as possible :)) movies? better graphics? hmm

It will be interesting to see how this impacts all the websites on poor shared hosting environments like GoDaddy etc.

Thank you for being ahead of the game on this important topic. I can’t wait for the details to be published.


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