Google Page Experience rolls out as AMP is axed
In May 2020, Google announced they would soon be updating their algorithm to boost the ranking of pages that provide good 'User Experience' (UX). That time has now come, with Google rolling out their Google Page Experience Update over the summer months.
Rankings in the search engine results are decided by multiple factors – most being well-known to SEO practitioners and website owners, such as page speed, content, and metadata. In line with a growing awareness across the digital industries of the importance of prioritising UX, Google is making an effort to actively reward websites that it believes are delivering better experiences than its competitors. Google's metrics to measure how UX-friendly a website is have been named 'Core Web Vitals', which focus on interactivity, how content loads, and speed.
Core Web Vitals
First Input Delay (FID) is a metric Google is now using to measure interactivity, and specifically the delay between clicking a link and the browser starting to load your request. This metric is important because it provides a sense of how responsive a website is and whether the user is having to repeatedly wait for their interaction to deliver a result. A score of under 100 milliseconds is a good loading speed, but if this takes up to 300 milliseconds, it is considered to need improvement and Google may penalise websites for it.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how quickly the first visible content loads, which should be within 2.5 seconds according to Google in order to provide a good user experience. Between 2.5 and 4 seconds suggests work needs to be done to improve, and over 4 seconds is considered a poor result.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how content on a page loads and in what order. If a page is performing well, it should mean that a user doesn't suddenly see content loading above their position on a page, disrupting what they're reading or making them click a link by accident. CLS has its own scale, and should ideally be below 0.1 for a good result.
What's happening to Google's AMP project?
Another change coming in as part of this series of updates is the gradual removal of Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which are commonly shown in the Top Stories section of the search results, usually marked by a small lightning bolt icon. This icon signifies a result is classed as an AMP and that it has been developed to load almost instantly onto mobile devices, meaning Google has given it preferential treatment.
Now that Google is releasing their Page Experience update, the need for AMP is diminished since all websites should focus on delivering better user experiences, not just specific pages developed to compete in AMP-enabled results areas. As such, the AMP badge will be retired, and although rankings are thought to remain almost the same, it means that it's easier for other news posts to compete for a spot in the Top Stories area, providing they meet the Google News content policies and guidelines.
Whilst Google state that these updates will be fully rolled out by the end of August 2021 with minimal changes to page rankings, they are very important indicators of a growing emphasis on UX and something website owners should be aware of when seeking to maintain and improve page rank status.