Google’s page experience ranking algorithm update

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On 28th May 2020, Google announced that the Google Page Experience update will become a ranking factor in May 2021.

The new algorithm will combine several signals that measure how well or badly users experience a web page. Google will combine these amongst other ranking factors to determine whether to rank a web page.

The Page Experience Update is another step forward in Google’s algorithm using real user signals to rank web pages.


What is the Page Experience update?

The Page Experience algorithm evaluates a user’s real experience on a webpage based on the following set of signals:

  • Core Web Vitals (site speed factors)
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Safe browsing
  • HTTPS security
  • Presence of intrusive interstitial (a type of full-screen pop-up)

These user-centred metrics are not new and have been search ranking factors for some time. The new Page Experience Update brings existing search signals together to provide a holistic view of how a user experiences a webpage. It reiterates the importance of delivering a good user experience, along with great page content.


Will page experience be a big ranking factor?

Most of the signals in the Page Experience Update are already small ranking factors. Website owners who follow SEO best practice shouldn’t expect to see a huge change when this algorithm goes live in May.

That said, Google has given us a heads-up in stating they will continue to add metrics to the page experience algorithm over time. With a combination of small ranking factors and incremental additions, page experience may become a bigger ranking factor in the future.If you know your site has intrusive ads or a slow loading speed, you may want to refocus your efforts for this year.

If you’re confident your site meets page experience best practice, you could predict the next signal to be added to the update. If you measure and test signals that show how people interact with your site, you will find there’s always room for improvement.

To reiterate Google, while page experience will be important, it does not override having great page content. Page experience will be a more influential ranking factor when there are several relevant, high-quality pages, and Google needs to pick which one to rank. This is where page experience is likely to be the differentiating ranking factor.


How to optimise for page experience

To optimise page experience, you need to focus on delivering a fast, secure, and easy experience for your users. Here we explore how to do this.


1. Improve site speed aka Core Web Vitals

Site speed has been a mobile ranking factor since July 2018, so you should already be optimising for it.

On 5th May 2020, Google released the Web Vitals initiative to help simplify the landscape and guide site owners about which quality signals are crucial to delivering good user experience.

Following this, Google updated the Search Console speed report to “Core Web Vitals”, representing the primary speed metrics that site owners should monitor and improve.

These core metrics are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
First Input Delay (FID)
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

2. Performance budgeting

To assist with the 2021 Page Experience Update, you could consider implementing performance budgeting at your organisation. Introduced by Google, performance budgeting aims to enforce certain standards and limits on your site that everyone adheres to. This could be maintaining your Core Web Vitals scores or limiting page size.

Performance budgeting needs to be a culture shift within the organisation. Everyone needs to be introduced to the concept fully so they can understand the commercial benefits; only this way can it be implemented successfully.


3. Tools to monitor Core Web Vitals

You can easily see Core Web Vitals data in Google Search Console or by using Page Speed Insights.

Alternatively, a good way to analyse and keep track of the Core Web Vitals metrics is to set-up a Chrome Experience Report.


4. Mobile-friendliness

Since July 2019, Google started using the quality of mobile sites as a ranking factor, known as the mobile-first index. Today, Google has combined this with Core Web Vitals and other existing ranking factors to create the Page Experience Update.

Mobile-friendliness is simply about making your website easy to use for people accessing it on a mobile device. There are two main differences for users who are on a mobile vs. a desktop.

Firstly, you take your mobile on-the-go so you won’t always have a high-speed wi-fi connection. If a user is on a 3G or 4G connection then having a website that loads fast is important Secondly, the screen size on a mobile device is much smaller than a desktop screen, but you still need to give users the same experience, functionality and required information.

Speed has already been discussed in detail earlier in this article, so let’s explore how you can optimise the usability of your site on a smaller-screen mobile device.



Before doing anything, test the mobile-friendliness of your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and the Mobile Usability report in Search Console.

Both these tools will report if you have any issues impacting how mobile-friendly your site is. Common issues include clickable buttons being too close together, your site’s content being wider than a mobile screen, and text being too small to read.

You should resolve these issues as a priority because as well as being a ranking factor, they’ll likely be impacting engagement and conversions as well.

Use a responsive website design
Design mobile-first
Eliminate steps and make forms easy

5. Safe browsing

Google wants to make sure its users have a safe and secure browsing experience. For this reason, Google has created a security team who manage a safe browsing service to identify:

  • Malicious websites
  • Phishing websites
  • Attack sites
  • Compromised sites

All these sites are usually designed to hack computers, steal private/personal information and money.

To help users browse securely, Google very clearly warns people to avoid dangerous websites.




Google also reports security issues to website owners to let them know their site has been hacked or exhibits behaviour that is unsafe for users.

Google reports the security issues to you, identifying the problem, and providing information on how to fix it. The Google developers help site also details the steps to recover if your site has been hacked.

One way to avoid your site getting hacked is to use a secure HTTPS connection.




HTTPS is basically a secure version of HTTP. It means that personal details, payment information, and passwords are encrypted and therefore secure when entered into an HTTPS site. Hackers are less likely to get hold of and use information from a secured site.

To have an HTTPS site, you need to buy secure hosting from your domain provider. This will involve purchasing an SSL and TLS security certificate. This will ensure that communications between the browsers and your website are encrypted to allow for sensitive information to be transmitted securely.

It’s easy to find out if a website is secure. All you need to do is enter a web URL in Google Chrome and you’ll see one of three following security symbols:

  • A padlock – the site is secure (HTTPS)
  • An information icon with a circle – the site isn’t secure and is using an HTTP connection
  • An exclamation mark inside a red triangle – the site is not secure or dangerous

If a site is secure but you want to see the SSL certificate, just click on the padlock icon, then click the certificate. Here you can see information about the certificate, including when it was issued and how long it is valid for.

When purchased, most security certificates last for years but be sure to renew your certificate before it runs out so your site doesn’t become insecure.

Having a secure site has been a ranking factor since 2014, but has now just been added to the Google Page Experience Update. HTTPS websites also load much faster than HTTP, so it’s also beneficial from a site speed perspective – also a page experience ranking factor.


7. Intrusive interstitials

The final factor in the Page Experience Update is “intrusive interstitials”. An interstitial is an advertisement that pop-ups up on a site, obstructing users’ views of the main content on the site.

Since January 2017, Google started to penalise the ranking ability of sites with intrusive interstitials. It’s also included in the Quality Rater Guidelines under the “Distracting Ads/SC” section.

Google’s quality raters would give a site a low rating if it had an interstitial that is difficult to close and distracts or obstructs users from reading the site’s main content.

Not all interstitials are considered intrusive by Google. For example, cookie content notifications, age verification, and reasonably sized banner interstitials are acceptable to Google.

While intrusive interstitials are a ranking signal, unless used extensively they are unlikely to hugely impact your ability to rank well. The priority here is to ensure that an interstitial on your site doesn’t result in an extremely poor user experience.




Final thoughts

  • The Google Page Experience Update will come into effect in 2021 so you have plenty of time to prepare your site.
  • None of the factors in this update are new so you should already be optimising your site for page experience.
  • We don’t know how big this update will be but don’t forget that quality content and meeting user intent are the most important ranking factors.

Now we’ve given you the low down on the Page Experience Update, why not explore our SEO hub for more helpful optimisation tips.

If you need help getting ready for this update, get in touch with the team at upUgo and we’ll let you know what you need to do.


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