Why it’s not too late to optimise your site for the Google Page Experience update

by Andy Jones ,
April 15, 2021
Custom Software Development, Software Development Company, Web application development

At Make IT Simple, our web application development team focuses on building blazing fast, ultra-usable web applications every day.

Now, it’s more important than ever to practice what we preach to make sure your websites don’t lose their way.

Why? Because in May 2021, Google is changing its search algorithms again, putting the “page experience” at the centre of its ranking system. But what does this actually mean for your business?

What is Google changing?

The Google Page Experience update will take the expected user experience into account. To achieve this, it will use a series of “signals” to rank your site. These include how quickly a page loads, its responsivity, and whether your content jumps around as a user navigates the page.

“These signals measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page and contribute to our ongoing work to ensure people get the most helpful and enjoyable experiences from the web,” the company said in a statement.

To display this page experience information to the end-user, Google is also planning “to test a visual indicator that highlights pages in search results that have great page experience.”

No exact details are available yet, but users will have a simple visual cue to determine whether your website provides them with a good (or bad) experience.

What does this mean for your website?

Currently, the update is focusing on three core areas: loading speed, interactivity and visual stability.

Our web application development team has been focusing on these areas since our own website relaunched in November 2020. Now, it’s super-fast and averaging between 94 and 100 on performance reports.

To achieve this, we rely on a content distribution network (CDN) and serious compression to distribute our website at super-fast speeds around the world.

Let’s explore how all this works…

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)? Why does it matter?

A key concept for our business is “are you doing too much work too often”?

For example, a typical WordPress site pulls the content and information needed for a webpage from a database, gets the template, merges that together, and then downloads the files to your browser to enable the page’s functionality.

If you clicked on that webpage every day, this lengthy process is repeatedly carried out. This adversely affects your load speed and the interactivity and visual stability of your site – which will also destroy your Google ranking, come May 2021.

There is another way; and our web application development team has a few Google-proof tricks up its sleeves.

When you go onto our website, we have already ‘pre-rendered’ the content you’ll see. This is done when we make a change to the site and a static site (a-la the 1990’s) is produced and distributed to a global CDN. When you go to the site, you view this static version. It’s a classic performance trick where the site does the minimum amount of work possible for every user visit.

So, we do the work upfront when time and computational resources are available. This means that our site is faster to load and process – especially when time and computational resources are in short supply during, for example, a surge in demand on our site.

To achieve this, we use a content delivery network, or CDN, where the website is pushed to the edge of a network and is not rendered every time you click on a webpage.

How does it work? Requested content is cached on the CDN servers. So, end-users receive content from the closest CDN server, resulting in a significant performance improvement for the end-user.

This means that content providers can deliver high-quality and fast web experiences, no matter what location, device, browser or network a user connects from.

This makes your web pages load faster, reduces video buffering times and engages your users. As a result, you’ll also be ready for Google’s Page Experience update.

This also boosts the availability of your site. Because a CDN is a massively distributed network, availability improves. Content remains accessible to end users under high-stress situations such as server outages and spikes in demand.

We also implemented other load-saving features, such as lazy loading – where an object is not initialised until it is needed – and prioritising certain files to load. Again, this is another example of our web application development team finding a novel solution to a longstanding problem.

What about your website?

Developers (in fact, anyone wanting to boost your search rankings) should take these new page experience metrics seriously.

Google itself is pretty clear about the importance of this new emphasis on the page experience. Plus, a great page experience increases engagement with your website and awareness of your brand.

To ready your website for the Google algorithm changes, here are some things to consider:

  • Start by gaining an understanding of the metrics that Google is going to use.
  • Then, conduct a site audit to understand how your page load speeds, mobile usability, UX, responsiveness, and security affect these ranking signals.
  • To achieve this, you can use tools like Google’s online mobile-friendly test, as well as Page Speed Insights.

To boost the page experience, you may want to:

1. Optimise your site for mobile search

Google ranks websites with this capability higher.

2. Improve page speeds

– As we’ve already spoken about, using a CDN. But simple measures like minimizing the number of HTTP requests, using compression, caching and reducing image file sizes can all help.

3. Provide strong visual cues

– To help your users navigate your site with ease. Strong and clear CTAs (Call To Actions) are important, for example.

4. Include alt text for images

These descriptions are used by search engine crawlers for indexing, helping with your ranking.

5. Focus on your content

It’s also important to remember that page experience isn’t everything. As Google themselves point out in their blog: “Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content.”

At Make IT Simple, we generally focus our efforts on web applications, rather than websites.

However, using our first-hand experience, our web application development team are more than equipped to help you navigate Google’s planned changes on your website too. Get in touch with us to find out more.

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