Google will change the way its algorithms rank websites in search results, the company announced earlier this week. From the beginning of next year, if your website has a bad “page experience”, it might appear lower in the search results.
Google uses it as an abbreviation for a set of metrics that the company is developing that go beyond page load speed. Many aggravating things on the Web are not necessarily captured by a simple speed test, such as pop-ups, delays in the appearance of certain content, page breaks in content, and other annoyances. Google won’t be able to accurately measure all of these, but it is trying to quantify some of them.
Changes are also being made to the “Headlines” feature, which displays news articles at the top of certain searches. Google will drop the requirement that articles be developed in the AMP format that the company has been promoting for some time. Instead, any article that meets these page experience criteria may be included.
Last month, the Chrome team unveiled a project that attempts to quantify some of the common annoyances of the web: Web Vitals. The first three that she follows – and that Google’s search team will use in her ranking – seem more technical than they really are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the speed at which the “main content” of the page loads – most of the text or image that the page serves
- First Input Delay (FID) measures the speed of reaction of the page when you click on an element of the page for the first time
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures page breaks – for example, if the advertisements rearrange the text you are trying to read
A risk ?
They are measurable in a way that would not be measurable for other page experiences, although Google says it could add more measures to this list over time. In particular, they don’t refer to ad tracking, although the Chrome team recently stepped up their campaign against ads that could impact your battery. Improving the “page experience” on the web using the Google search ranking carrot / stick seems like a good thing, but there are possible risks, including coding a website just for Google … and Chrome.
The measures will also be important for publishers. The “In the News” section is a highly coveted news site. Up to now, it has been relatively easy to find your way around by offering content in Google’s AMP format and by adhering to Google’s rules for published topical content. From now on, mobile eligibility will be determined by whether a given page scores enough according to Google’s experience criteria.
At work the developers
For web developers, the most pressing concern is to make sure their site is up to par. Google already offers a few tools to achieve this and will update them with more features. Google’s engineers have said they don’t expect the developer to rush to make changes to their site; it will take wait 6 months before Google starts deploying these new measures on Google Search.