April 23, 2021
Reading time - 22 minutes
In this article, we will talk about the different ways to prepare your website for the new Page Experience update that Google is releasing in May. We have loaded up this piece with both general and technical SEO knowledge that can be used to better your site for more than just the new update.
It’s no secret that the upcoming Page Experience Google algorithm update that is set to be released in May is going to impact websites across the globe both positively and negatively.
This is one of the largest updates that Google has put together in the past few years, and luckily for us, they gave us ample amount of time to prepare for it.
Google is making changes to give users the most useful and usable results on the internet.
It’s pivotal for both large brands and small businesses to start preparing and making adjustments to their sites to make sure they are in line with the new standards being put in place.
But for some, the question still remains… What are some of the ways that I can improve my website’s page experience in preparation for the update?
That’s what this article is all about. We will help guide you through some of the key aspects that Google will be looking into from May onwards into the future.
Some of the new aspects Google will be putting more weight on include page speed, data encryption, non-intrusive interstitials, and safe browsing features. Let’s get started on how to prepare your site for the new Google algorithm update.
One of the most important features of a website is its ability to serve mobile users. This has been a large factor on Google for quite some time now. But even more emphasis is being put on this in the next update.
Most sites nowadays are built to be responsive to nearly any size of device. But what’s important to note here is the experience that you are serving to the user.e
85% of adults think a company’s mobile website should be as good or better than their desktop website. And 39% of users will stop engaging with content when the images on the page won’t load.
Is the site truly optimized for mobile? Making sure that each element on your site looks neat and tidy, and is loading properly is imperative to a successful mobile site.
Are you making sure that the elements of your site are designed to be visually appealing, functional, and easy to navigate? Mobile users are 5 times more likely to abandon a task on a website that isn’t properly optimized for mobile.
Each section of your site should look great, have a specific function or use, and the user should have no problem traversing through your site to their destination.
And of course… How fast does your website load on a mobile device? We will dive deeper into page speed later on in this article, but do everything in your power to increase the speed of your site. This is an essential part of web development and UX that cannot be overlooked.
These are all questions you should ask yourself and begin testing as soon as possible to make sure you can make the necessary changes before the update gets released.
AMP pages were all the craze a few years ago when they were released. They are built from Google’s HTML framework to create near-instantaneous loading speeds for news and blog articles.
They even created a carousel that highlights articles created with the AMP framework.
However, AMP pages are going to be put second to pages with a high mobile usability UX after this update. This means that you can get your article featured on the carousel without using the AMP framework.
This is a huge change and will likely help sites with extremely fast loading speeds greatly.
If you are running a news or blog website, now is the time more than ever to start thinking about raising your page load speeds, your mobile usability, and make your user’s experience much more enjoyable and valuable.
Google has been putting more weight on a website’s loading speed over the past few years.
However, with the release of this new update, expect even more scrutiny for sites that load slow.
This goes hand in hand with what we mentioned in the previous section of this article.
In order for a site to be useful, it first needs to be accessible.
Being accessible means that anyone can access the site from any device and connection (within reason).
If your site takes even a few seconds to load on mobile, you risk losing a large portion of your traffic. Here are some important statistics to keep in mind about page speed:
A one-second delay can reduce page views by 11%, decrease customer satisfaction by 16%, and reduce your conversions by 7%.
Page speed also has a large impact on your customer’s loyalty and the chance of returning to the website. 79% of online shoppers stated that having a dissatisfying experience makes them less likely to buy from the same site in the future.
If a website takes more than 3 seconds to load, 40% of people will leave the website. This is the big kahuna of page load speed stats. Our society and digital landscapes are extremely fast-paced. Nobody wants to sit around waiting for a website to load, it just wastes time.
PageSpeed insights results
So how do I make my website’s page loading speeds faster?
Well, we first need to look at few important factors that are given to us by the Google PageSpeed Insights tool.
This tool can help you gauge how fast your website is loading, and identify problem areas that need to be fixed.
Here is a breakdown of some of the metrics the tool takes into account when creating your page’s load speed score and how to improve them:
First contentful paint measures how fast your browser renders the initial information on your webpage. Your text, images, non-white canvas, and your scalable vector graphics (SVG) all fall under this category.
Make sure your images are properly optimized and sized correctly. This means that all images should be below 500 KB as a rule of thumb.
I, personally, try to keep my image sizes below 100 KB especially if I am using more than one image on a webpage.
Google has created this experience metric to measure the amount of time it takes for the largest piece of information to load on your webpage and be interacted with. This a ranking factor and should be looked at with the utmost importance.
This could be the largest image or block of context that is loading within the user’s viewport. Any additional content further down on the page isn’t counted.
Some of the tips given for FCP fall under this category as well. Make sure that all images, video poster images, and background images above the fold are properly optimized to get the best LCP results.
First input delay measures the response time of a website when a user first interacts with an element. A good example of this is when a user hits play on a video. The time it takes to start the video is tracked by your FID.
You want to keep your FID under 100ms to give the impression that the system is reacting instantaneously.
Make sure that your CSS files are minified and compressed. They should also be free of any bugs in the code that could be slowing down your site.
This will help your user’s input be processed while other tasks are finishing be processed. Large task blocks will prevent the user’s input from being processed initially, slowing down your FID.
Another great tip is to make sure that you are generating as much content as you can statically on the server-side, not client-side. This will lessen the amount of data that needs to be post-processed client-side and reduces the amount of work a user’s browser needs to do.
Third-party codes that are being used on your site can affect your FID as well. These codes can block the main thread from being processed, increasing your page speeds and FID.
You can improve this by prioritizing your third-party code loading times. Whatever gives the best value for your user should be loading first and foremost.
There are even more ways to improve your FID, but it’s time to move on and start discussing the rest of the metrics involved with page speed. You can check out this guide on how to improve your FID if you are still having trouble.
CLS measures unexpected shifts and jumps around your web pages due to different elements being loaded onto the screen.
These elements include images, videos, advertisements, forms, and large fonts. This is an indicator of poor coding and is a ranking factor that Google takes into consideration.
Some common issues for poor CLS ratings include images, ads, iframes, and embeds without predetermined dimensions. This can be a relatively easy fix.
Other problems that affect CLS are dynamically injected content, actions waiting for a network response, or web fonts causing FOIT/FOUT (Flash of Invisible Text / Flash of Unstyled Text).
For dimension issues, make sure these elements always have proper width and height size attributes. You can utilize CSS aspect ratio boxes to help browsers determine the allocated space required for information to load into while the page is loading.
Dynamic content shifts are caused by interstitials like pop-ups and other elements appearing at the top of a page over existing content. Make sure that the user has to interact with an element to cause this to happen to avoid unwanted layer shifts, and create non-intrusive interstitials.
Speed Index is used to measure the average amount of time that it takes for every element on the page to become visible for the user. It is measured in milliseconds and only measures the amount of time it takes for elements to load in above the fold.
SI can be used to grade several aspects of a webpage. You can optimize your content efficiency and critical rendering paths, and overall just gives you a general overview of your website’s performance.
If you are looking for ways to improve your SI, you can utilize lazy loading images, add placeholders for images, and you can even look into progressive images.
Progressive images help a website load faster by loading low-resolution images while it progresses to load the original image.
This can take a little bit to set up, so feel free to check out this guide on progressive images with JPGs.
Time to Interactive measures how long the interactive elements of your webpage take to become fully functional and usable.
Some websites can get a lot of value out of this metric, as some web pages prioritize content visibility over interactivity.
If your website relies primarily on interactive content, then you should be trying different methods to prioritize loading this content quickly instead.
Total Blocking Time is similar to the above metrics. It measures the amount of time between the First Contentful Paint and Time to Interactive. Basically, if the main thread of the browser doesn’t encounter a long task for 5 seconds, TTI comes into play.
Both of these metrics are intrinsically related, you can’t have one without the other. This metric is what allows TTI to give the correct UX situation solely.
Ways to improve TBT include reducing the request count and size of third-party scripts and minimizing the amount of work a browser needs to on the main thread.
By analyzing the metrics given to us by the PageSpeed Insights tool, we can identify problem areas and make the necessary changes to improve our page speed performance. Each metric has its own set of changes that you can make, but many work off of each other as well.
So by improving one metric, you will most likely begin to improve the other sets as well. This isn’t always the case, but it still helps the overall process and you will make better websites because of it.
Remember, the goal here is to provide the best possible user experience we can for our visitors. Once our website loads fast, we need to start providing good quality content to them to truly benefit from these changes.
That brings us to our next section… Content
I’m sure you’ve been at a meeting with Steve the SEO guy just to have him say… “listen, content is king” for the hundredth time.
Yes, Steve is one of THOSE guys that swing this saying around like the dead horse it was beaten with.
That doesn’t mean content is any less important.
Most webmasters, business owners, and writers know that fantastic content is one of the major building blocks for a quality website.
What gets lost in translation is the actual execution of this content.
When we look at some of the largest brands on the internet today and how they deal with content, it can look pretty similar to how the everyday blogger goes about their content creation.
The content they present has a few key pillars that all of their articles and pages are built off of. These pillars are:
Creating incredible content is not easy. It takes a good amount of effort and time. But it’s totally worthwhile if done correctly.
Let’s break down these concepts further to help you create awesome content that will be loved by your visitors.
When you are thinking about creating content for your website, you need to look at what people are currently interested in and what topics are trending around the web.
You can use a tool like Google Trends to see how much a topic is being talked about or searched around the web.
This is a valuable content creation tool as you can spot different areas to start creating content for before it hits its peak. This gives you ample time to rank your content for the topic and secure a top ranking.
We can see here that the social media app “TikTok” has been on a slight upward trend over the past year. We now know that people are interested in the app and searching for topics related to it.
Now, we can take a look at some of the top related queries that people are searching for on Google.
We can see that many people are searching with queries related to when the app might be banned.
You can use this information to talk about the different policies that could be put in place to get rid of TikTok or why the app is under scrutiny.
Or you could start creating a recipe article to pair with a video on the app, the choice is yours!
At the end of the day, Google Trends is a powerful tool to analyze different topics and their popularity on the internet.
Sourcing statistics on the internet for your content is not new or exciting. But it’s still crucial to the creation of your content.
Make sure you are finding industry-related stats for your articles to back up your claims and opinions.
You should always use the latest version of a statistic as well. Stats from 2016 hold less weight on a viewer’s opinion of your work than a statistic from 2020 or 2021.
And remember, the bigger the authority, the better. When a large website commits itself to a research study, they typically bring some amazing statistics for us to use.
Carefully look into the different studies you want to use in your article, and investigate the methods used to determine the results.
This is very important if you are looking at a study by a smaller agency or website. You don’t want to craft this incredible piece of content just to have it be full of non-conducive data that is inherently wrong.
Do your due diligence, and question the stats you want to use in your articles. This will help with your research process and allow you to find better sources for your information.
Creating your own research studies can go a long way both from a content perspective and an SEO perspective.
Well-researched studies are an amazing way to get links back to your website, raising your authority and expertise in your industry.
They also provide interesting bits of information that people will want to read, learn about, and include in their own articles.
The issue with research studies is the time and effort it takes to produce worthwhile results.
Some studies take years to complete while others can be done in a month or two.
From surveys, customer feedback, outreach, to data analytics, all of these methods take time and effort to create a research study. Make sure you have the proper amount of time to dedicate to the task and use the correct methods to extract information for your report.
When you have large sets of data that you have accumulated over time, it needs to be presented in a way that is unique, understandable, and accessible.
Some of the best ways you can present this information on your website are through tables.
Say you are creating a DIY article for a home improvement project. You can use a table to list out all of the tools you need for the project, including information on the tool, the pricing, and even a place to buy the tool.
This presents a good amount of information to the user and they can digest it quickly and efficiently. Right away they know exactly what they need, the costs, and potential places to buy the items for the project.
Example of how tables can be used within your content
Tables are just one facet that you can utilize to help display information to a user in an effective way.
Another good strategy is to create infographics. Most people have seen at least one infographic in their lifetime.
They are used to display large amounts of information using imagery and graphics to showcase the statistics.
We have created several infographics at Top Shelf to help our visitors see important bits of information quickly. You can also build your articles around them as well, and segment the graphics into different sections.
Check out our latest infographic on the State of Google My Business and Search in 2021 for a good example.
It’s very important that you aren’t writing content just for the sake of raising your word counts. Something many content marketers are guilty of is fluffing up their content to create longer articles in hopes that Google will receive them better.
That isn’t always the case, although longer word counts have been associated with higher-ranking pieces of content in the past (like this Backlino study). But this is a commonality and doesn’t necessarily mean causation.
To combat the new Page Experience update, it’s just as important to provide valuable content that satisfies the search intent of the user.
Each section should provide a new way to help combat the user’s problem and help them solve it.
Just like this article you are currently reading. Each individual section has tactics to help improve your SEO strategy. A user can gain value from each section in the article.
The content within your website should be simple enough for the everyday user to read and skim through to find the information they need.
This means you should be breaking apart the content so that it is laid out in small paragraphs.
You should also utilize a table of contents to help users jump through your article to the part that they are interested in (like the one at the top of this page).
This will help make your content more accessible and useful to the user. Remember what we mentioned at the beginning of this article? We want all of our content to be this way.
User Experience is a hard metric to gauge, as it’s done through the cumulative efforts of every element on your site. We can start to see the effects of our UX when we utilize simple steps to make our user’s life easier for them.
This brings us to our next section— Site Navigation.
One of the best ways to help improve your visitor’s experience on your site is through a keen use of site navigation elements and architecture.
How visitors will traverse your site is a very important aspect that many people tend to overlook, especially on ecommerce sites.
Some people like to browse through lots of different products and categories while searching for something to buy, and the same goes for news or blog sites.
By having a firm sense of site architecture, you can make browsing fun and easy for your visitor, rather than troublesome and frustrating.
They should be able to get around the website with ease without getting confused. This can make the user feel inadequate and can lead to them leaving the website for good.
Navigation elements already affect your traffic you get from search and your conversions. Expect to have even more weight be put on your site architecture in the Page Experience update.
Some tips and tricks for making a useful and accessible navigation include:
People have seen the same old labels across thousands of websites. Some simple changes that can make your site stand out from the rest include descriptive navigation labels.
Just think about it for a sec. Let’s say you manage and operate an ecommerce site that sells makeup and other beauty products.
Instead of using a label in your navigation that says “products”, why not try something like “beauty supplies” that opens up into a mega menu with subcategories like “makeup”, “lipstick”, etc.
This gives a ton of value for your visitors right away and quickly directs them to the products they are looking for, rather than clicking on “products” and being taken to a generic landing page where they then have to sift through your categories from there.
Descriptive labels give your site more style and finesse which can excite visitors and make them feel curious or inclined to browse through your pages.
If you were thinking about redoing your navigation labels, nows the time to do it!
Dropdown menus with longlists attached to them are very unappealing to new and old visitors alike.
Instead, opt to get rid of them altogether, or use fancy mega dropdown menus that provide lots of options and are styled nicely. Take a look at the Services dropdown menu that we use on the Top Shelf site.
Go Top Shelf’s services dropdown menu
Our services menu isn’t the biggest mega menu out there, but it’s still a good example of what we are going for.
Rather than just a simple list of our services, we designed our menu with some great icons and laid it out in a way that’s easy to look at. Someone can easily spot the service they need and navigate to the page.
Breadcrumbs can help people browse multiple parts of your website quickly and easily. They are a trail of links that someone has gone down, and can simply click one of the breadcrumbs to head back to a category, service, or internal page that they previously visited.
This is great for large sites with lots of internal pages. Especially sites with an architecture that involves many different subtopics and categories.
The user can properly navigate the site without getting confused or overwhelmed. If you aren’t using breadcrumbs, it might be the time to start implementing them to your site.
The human mind works in mysterious ways. Luckily, there are many studies out there to help us understand how our cognitive process works and how to utilize it in our day-to-day lives.
One way we can use the human psyche to benefit our navigation elements is by putting our most important pages at the beginning and end of our navigation bars.
The human brain tends to put more emphasis on remembering items in these places. They will subconsciously forget the other elements closer to the middle easier than they will on the beginning or end.
This is called the “serial position effect”. It combines two cognitive biases to form the effect:
Primacy Effect: Elements at the beginning of a list are easier to remember
Recency Effect: Elements at the end of a list are easier to remember
So it’s ideal to keep your navigation elements sorted properly. Leave your About and Team pages to the middle of your navigation and keep your money pages closer to the beginning and end of it.
You can use Google Analytics to see how visitors are traversing your site and how to improve your navigation. They are several different ways to do this and we will go over how to most effectively analyze your navigational elements.
You can see how your visitors are navigating your website by clicking on the Behavior > Behavior Flow report. It should look something like this:
Behavior flow report on Google Analytics
The flow chart does a great job of showing how your visitors are entering the website, and what pages they are checking out afterward or if they are dropping off/leaving the website.
The red lines signify a user dropping off or leaving the site.
You can use this report to get a quick overview of how your visitors are navigating your site and how you can potentially improve your website.
This report allows you to see which navigation elements visitors are using and not using, and determine which elements need to be updated.
Some different ways to improve on the structure of your navigation include:
Remember, a large portion of your traffic may not be entering the website from the homepage. It’s very important to take this into account when determining how to optimize your navigation.
A good site has many entry points, so it’s important to optimize your internal page’s navigation to reflect the points made in this article.
Another extremely important aspect that Google will be using as an even greater ranking factor with the Page Experience update is your website’s encryption.
Websites keep your data safe by using Secure Socket Layer encryption software (otherwise known as an SSL certificate).
SSL certificates encrypt your website and keep it safe from cyber-attacks looking to steal your customer’s information, or plant malware within your site that can be used to harm your visitors.
If your site isn’t properly protected, Google will see this and rank you lower in search engines, since they want to take every step possible to protect their users.
Here are a few great websites to purchase an SSL from:
Comodo – Starts at $125/year. Includes unlimited server licensing, 24/7 support, and a 30-day money-back guarantee
SSL.com – starts at $36.75/year, unlimited server licensing, 24/7 support, 30-day money-back guarantee
GlobalSign – starts at $249/year. 2048-bit encryption (compared to the typical 256-bit encryption used by most other services)
CheapSSLShop – starts at $5/year, 2048-bit encryption. 30-day money-back guarantee
Check out a full list of SSL services here.
The new Page Experience update is sure to rattle the web world at least a little bit. Its up to us to make sure that we aren’t hit with a devastating penalty that can result in a massive loss of traffic.
By updating our site’s loading speeds, mobile responsiveness, data encryption, and content are simple (but not necessarily easy) ways to help improve our chances of this not happening.
Your content could probably use a bit of updating as well. Take a look at the pages that are performing well and your underperforming pages to find different areas to improve upon.
Remember to analyze your site’s navigation and improve the way users can traverse your website. Implement breadcrumb navigation elements, switch up your labeling and positioning of different elements. It wouldn’t hurt to get rid of those pesky dropdown menus as well.
And of course, remember to properly encrypt your website so that you and your visitors are safe from cyber-attacks and malicious activity.
These are all ways that can help prepare you for the next Google algorithm update, as well as help optimize your site for search engines anyways. These are all practices that people have been using in the past to help boost their rankings, it’s just Google is putting much more weight on user metrics and experience throughout any given website.
If you found this article helpful, feel free to leave a comment down below and ask us any questions you may have. We would be happy to answer any queries you may have for us! Thanks for sticking with us throughout the entirety of this piece, and have a wonderful day.
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