How to prepare for the upcoming Google UX ranking update
As a B2B SEO agency, it's crucial to keep informed on updates rolled out by Google. These updates undoubtedly have a large impact on rankings! On May 28th, 2020, Google announced a new update that will revolutionise search rankings dramatically.
User experience has been a relevant subject in search for quite some time now. It's also been a prominent subject of research in Digital Marketing, due to its impact on metrics like time on page and bounce rate. Google have since, confirmed UX will directly interfere with search rankings. Now more than ever, it's important to understand what to consider when optimising a site for user experience.
Google has realized from extensive research, that users show a preference for pages that provide a positive experience. Criteria such as loading speed and mobile friendliness have already been deployed into the ranking factors. Not only is this now in place, but Google has also rolled out Core Web Vitals. The Core Web Vitals fundamentally include a set of metrics based on speed, responsiveness and visual stability. With all of this in mind, it's quite clear that Google is actively making an effort towards promoting UX as a key factor to determine search rankings.
How will this update change search rankings as we know it?
Although it is still too soon to fully comprehend the effects on websites rankings, Google has already offered some insight on what is to be expected from this update. The most crucial feature noted, is the page experience signal which will measure the experience of users when interacting with a webpage. This insight will be provided by combining the Core Web Vitals with existing search signals. Existing search signals include mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS security and intrusive interstitials.
This kind of insight pulls together to produce a clear picture of how page experience is perceived holistically and will effectively interfere with the search ranking position.
The good news is, this revolutionary announcement will not be launched until 2021. With the impact of COVID-19 remaining prominent, Google will be providing a 6 month notice prior to the actual launch. Leaving us all with plenty of time to prepare!
The Areas of Impact
Page load speed
In an increasingly fast world users are continuously looking for ways to access information as quickly and conveniently as possible. The most critical factor to consider is the page load speed. Slow websites were known as the 'norm' a decade ago, but now? Sites run significantly faster given all the advances, in terms of devices, software and connectivity.
For that reason, fast loading websites are the new norm and we as users, strongly rely on that! Not being able to meet these standards will impact user experience on the website and ultimately, the traffic.
Recently I was running a tech audit on a website, when it came to perform the speed test the results were worrying – it took over 30 seconds for the page to load the content, stabilize the layout and to be interactive. The Google Lighthouse speed test couldn’t be clearer.
As it turned out the issue was due to a script that the client had added into the site to an external service that was no longer active. Our development team was quick to address the issue and was able to dramatically improve the page loading speed. In a week we started seeing some improvements in relevant metrics such as time on page and bounce rate.
Over the years mobile devices have evolved to become a multi-functional piece of tech. With endless possibilities, users can now rapidly access information anywhere, any time. It has become such a convenient tool, that users started massively transitioning from desktop to mobile. As of June 2020, mobile traffic has taken over 50% market share against 47% in desktops.
With this in mind, we've seen Google launch several updates over the past 5 years with the purpose of transitioning mobile optimisation into a crucial factor for search rankings.
Amongst other factors that need to be taken into consideration when optimising a website for mobile friendliness, these seem to be the ones with the most impact:
- Page load speed: Page speed can sometimes be challenging to optimise perfectly. When it comes to mobile devices it becomes even harder given the usual mobile data traffic limitations.
- Layout Responsiveness: The ability to resize design elements for different devices maintaining the structural integrity of a website. As devices are constantly changing in size and shape, it is important to maintain a comprehensive and coherent layout
- Brand consistency: Transitioning from a desktop to a mobile version within the same website should be seamless as users expect consistency in terms of presentation, structure, and content. Having a downgraded version of a desktop website for mobile devices won’t work.
- Touch-Screen Design: Touch screen navigation should be smooth and functional for all users. Keeping in mind that individual users have different ways of navigating on a site, i.e different hand sizes.
As important as the user experience may be, content will always be top priority for Google. In their own words “a good page experience does not override having great, relevant content”.
In fact, content optimisation is more than simply creating a long copy with a large number of trendy keywords. What matters most is the relevancy, intent and coherence of the content across a page or website. The copy needs to be built around a very clear purpose, and users should be aware of it from the moment they click a link, go through the website and read it.
Considering these points, and prior to building your copy, you should consider the following:
- Know your product: In order to build trust you need to know what you are writing about. Make sure you are confident about the topic you are working on and the information is solid, users will quickly loose interest if the reading doesn’t add up.
- Know your audience: Equally as important, you should understand how to deliver your knowledge, considering what your audience's needs are, communicational expectations and tone.
- Get a list of hot Keywords: Keywords optimisation is a powerful tool in SEO and a complete universe itself. In short, when well optimised it lets users find you more easily. To achieve this, it is crucial that you know what they are looking for and what terms they commonly use in search queries. By adding these into your content you are improving the chances of your website being found. From a UX perspective it lets users reach relevant content more easily and quickly find what they are looking for.
- Be concise: The internet is a large space. The number of websites competing with you is endless! Users will often go to the most direct and straightforward source.
It might be too early to completely understand what the upcoming Google update will bring us and how it will affect ranking positions. From the early announcement and previous updates, as well as from all the changes that they have been implementing across the years with the clear purpose of giving user experience a relevant role in search rankings, we can be absolutely sure that it will be a significant shift.
Polaris is an award-winning SEO agency in London specialising B2B, e-commerce and the healthcare industry.