Ranking factors are parameters that determine how Google's search results are created and displayed. In other words, they determine how website pages are ranked in a search by Google's algorithm.
Over the years, different algorithms have been developed in order to help rank quality content on top of Google SERPs. But, all of these algorithms have one thing in common: there's an important aspect they don't consider.
During the summer of 2021, a new ranking factor was launched, called Page Experience. In a nutshell, it inspects the user-friendliness of pages based on the quality of the page's UX.
We'll explain everything you need to know about this ranking factor, including how it works and how you can improve your user experience to rank higher in search.
Speed Alone Isn't Enough
In the past, a lot of emphasis has been placed on speed in order to optimize a website's performance. Other factors, however, come into play, and they are more difficult to quantify. Even if a website is fast, does it perform well, according to the analytics?
Consumers don't have the patience to wait for pages to load, so ideally, they should load as quickly as possible, in three seconds or less. However, contemporary UX design techniques are making things more complicated.
Having to wait for a page to load can be a frustrating experience for users. And as if a slow website isn't already dreadful enough, bad UX design can contribute to the overall annoyance.
When users have trouble finding desired items or information, they will most probably just leave the page without searching forward.
This is where professional web design comes into play. Not only is a proper UX visually appealing, but it also keeps people on websites more engaged and relaxed.
Core Web Vitals
Meet Core Web Vitals – the factors that Google considers most important when assigning a search engine ranking in mobile search.
Each Core Web Vital examines a different aspect of the page experience puzzle, and when combined, they help the search engine determine where to rank website pages.
Core Web Vitals are subject to change, and additional ones may be included in the future. For the first phase, Google focused on three distinct areas of interest:
- Visual stability
These three interest areas are associated with these completely new metrics:
- Largest Contentful Paint/LCP: This metric shows how long it takes to load the biggest piece of content in the browsing area.
- First Input Delay/FID: When a user initiates an interaction, the FID measures how long it takes for the browser to reply (clicking on a drop-down menu, for example).
- Cumulative Layout Shift/CLS: This metric evaluates how much of the screen is impacted by movement. When a page is completely loaded, are all of the elements in the same position as they were before?
The Core Web Vitals report grades pages as either "Good," "Needs Improvement," or "Poor" based on their quality. Only pages with ratings of "Good" are considered good overall.
Even though this new rating scheme only affects mobile search results, its effect on desktop users is still to come.
In the ranking process, mobile and desktop versions of each page will be given their own score based on how well the site performs on each device. For concerns with mobile-first indexing, you should always focus on the mobile version of the page first.
Thresholds of the three values that are important to know include:
- CLS should be less than 0.1, where more than 0.25 is critical.
- The LCP should be less than 2.5 seconds, where more than 4 seconds is attention-worthy.
- The FID is less than 100 milliseconds at best, where 300 milliseconds or more is a reason for immediate action.
Clearly, these indicators aren't only about how quickly something loads. It's also important to consider how long it takes for items to be available for use.
- Mobile Usability, including three factors: Viewport Definition, Click Text Size, and Clickable Element Proximity.
- Security Issues, flags: Hacked Content, Malware, and Social Engineering.
- HTTPS Usage: to receive the "Good" page experience status, a page must be served via HTTPS.
Compelling CTAs: What can beat a well-written and beautifully designed call-to-action? It encourages site visitors to take a step further toward conversion. The secret to a great CTA is fusing a strong visual with engaging text.
Unambiguous Headlines: HTML heading tags, from H1 to H6, are used to measure the level of the text relevance to the search criteria users give. So between choosing mysterious or vague headlines, try to stay as clear as possible with your message. Changing only one word in your H1 heading can attract better traffic to a website.
Page Speed Acceleration: Your page quality and page speed may be evaluated using Google's Page Speed tool.
Removing 404 Error Code Pages: Search engines do not react in a website's favor if they contain 404 Error codes. In fact, it's a guaranteed way to get penalized. A tool called Google Search Console can help in locating 404 errors and removing them.