Last November, Google announced that page experience ranking would go live on Google Search in 2021. In this video, Google Search Central reviews the implications of those updates and the page experience ranking signals. You will also learn how publishers and site owners can optimize their web pages for the best possible page experience.

Video Transcript

Jeffrey: Hi, my name is Jeffrey, and I’m a product manager on Search. Thank you all for joining, and today I’ll be walking you through the page experience ranking that’s soon coming to Google Search, and later, Naina will be joining to give us an update on how the AMP team is setting developers up for success with this upcoming launch. Hi folks, glad to be here. Google Search has always considered user experience as part of ranking. You’d remember some of our past efforts from 2014, where we announced mobile friendliness as a ranking signal. The same year, we also launched an effort to rank based on HTTPS to ensure webpages are delivered in a secure fashion to our users. Let’s take a closer look into page experience.

The Four Pillars of User Experience

When we think about page experience, we think in terms of the four pillars of user experience. They are loading, which signifies how fast or slow the resources of the page is downloaded and displayed on the user’s browser. User annoyance, an important pillar that quantifies some of the webpage behavior that might get in the way of a user accomplishing a task. Security and privacy, a critical aspect of how safe, secure, and privacy-friendly a web page is. And accessibility, the World Health Organization’s disability/health fact sheet finds that over a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability. We as web developers have a huge responsibility to build web pages that are inclusive to all users. These four pillars provide a structure for how to think about page experience for your pages. We believe when pages perform well on these, they provide exceptional value to the users which can drive long term relationships with your customers. Let’s take a look at how these four pillars translate in practice for a page experience.

#1- Loading

For loading, we use Largest Contentful Paint and First Input Delay. The largest Contentful Paint, LCP for short, is a metric that reports the render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport, relative to when the page first started loading. First Input Delay, FID for short, measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page, that is, when they click on a link, tap on a button, or use a custom JavaScript powered control, to the time when the browser is actually able to begin processing the given handlers in response to that interaction.

#2- User Annoyance

For the user annoyance pillar, we have Cumulative Layout Shift, CLS. CLS measures the sum total of all the individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs on the page. A layout shift occurs anytime a visible element changes its position from one rendered frame to the next. No abusive interstitials is an existing Search ranking policy and an associated signal that we’ve longed used on Search that detects the presence and use of interstitials that are user-hostile. We’ve noticed that such interstitials are often used to trick users to doing something that they do not want to, preventing them from reading or interacting with the page that they landed on from Google Search. There are a lot of great uses for interstitials, such as the ones required by law, GDPR consent is an example, or an interstitial that shows updated business hours during the coronavirus pandemic. Those are not affected by this signal.

#3- Security and Privacy

For security and privacy, we want to ensure that the sites are delivered using the HTTPS protocol. Users should be able to confidently browse the internet without having to worry about man-in-the-middle attack or improper impersonations. Safe browsing systems at Google bring together decades worth of experience in identifying and mitigating web-based threats, such as malware, unwanted software downloads or social engineering. Similar to some of the other signals, we’ve long been using safe browsing on Search to warn users when we detect that they might be clicking on a potentially harmful site. Every user deserves to have a safe and secure browsing experience, and these two signals work together to ensure that sites are good citizens on the internet.

#4- Accessibility

The mobile friendliness signal covers the accessibility pillar, which measures how effective the pages are on small screens on small screens, often used by mobile phones. The first three metrics, Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift are the Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics that apply to all the web pages and should be measured by all site owners and would be surfaced across all the Google tools. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of user experience and is measurable in the field, and reflects the real world experience of a critical user-centric outcome. They can be measured using JavaScript using the standard web APIs and provides an excellent product-agnostic path for instrumentation.

To learn morout Core Web Vitals, check out the talk from the Chrome team titled What’s new in Web Vitals at I/O 2021. Core Web Vitals are not just a set of metrics but also a robust set of threshold guidance that map to user expectations. The Chrome team has done extensive research and come up with the guidance for what it means to be performing good, poor, or somewhere in between.

Core Web Vitals

For instance, LCP where we measure the loading performance of the page, values less than 2.5 seconds means the page is delivering good user experience. Pages that take more than four seconds are deemed poor. Similarly for First Input Delay, 100 milliseconds is a maximum delay users have to encounter during the initial input and its response. Anything greater than 300 milliseconds starts to feel like the page is frozen and leads to bad user experience. Cumulative Layout Shift is a unitless metric. 0.1 score or below is good while 0.25 or greater is deemed poor.

A quick aside, when the Chrome team first introduced Cumulative Layout Shift, the metric accounted for the entire life cycle of the page. Recently, the team has updated the definition to be more accurate by capping the maximum duration of the window at five seconds. When Google Search launches page experience ranking, we will be using this updated definition of the Cumulative Layout Shift. As previously announced, when we launch the page experience ranking, we also plan to update the top stories feature on Google Search. The changes include broadening the eligibility requirement to all qualifying webpages, irrespective of their Core Web Vitals score, or page experience status provided they satisfy the Google News content policies.

Page Experience Ranking

We plan to use a page experience ranking to ensure high-quality news articles are surfaced for our users on mobile. Speaking of devices, today, I am happy to announce that we are bringing page experience ranking to desktop. While we’re launching page experience on mobile soon, we believe page experience is critical no matter the surface the user is browsing the web. This is why we’re working hard on bringing page experience ranking to desktop. As always we’ll be providing updated guidance, documentation and tools along the way to help you make your pages perform at its best. Stay tuned for more details on this.

One other way you can get page performance for your users is taking advantage of prefetching on Google Search via the use of signed exchanges. Earlier this year, we announced that Google Search will prefetch websites built using signed exchanges. Pages are prefetched and stored on the user’s browser, ready to be loaded when the user clicks on the result, leading to near instant loading. This is possible through the use of Google’s fast cache servers, distributed around the world that you can now take advantage of without any additional cost. Nikkei, a large Japanese publisher, saw tremendous improvements in both performance numbers and business metrics using signed exchanges prefetching.

In their tests, LCP improved by 300 milliseconds, about 20% and this was before the team did micro optimizations. In other words, 20% was the lowest hanging fruit. As a result of fast loading, they saw 12% more user engagement. Congratulations to the team for such an amazing accomplishment. If you are raring to get-go, Search Console’s page experience report is an excellent place for all of you to get started. The page experience report offers valuable metrics, such as percentage of URLs with good page experience, and their Search impressions over time, allowing site owners to quickly evaluate their performance. Site owners can dig into the components of page experience signal to gain additional insights on opportunities for improvement. The Search Performance report has also been updated to allow for filtering pages with good page experience, which helps site owners keep track of how these pages compare to others on the same site. I’ll now turn it over to Naina to talk more about AMP our turnkey solution for page experience.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Naina Raisinghani: Thanks, Jeffrey. Hi, folks, as Jeffrey mentioned, my name is Naina Raisinghani, and I lead product for the AMP team. Now on the AMP project we strongly believe that AMP puts developers on the path to success, to not just creating, but also maintaining great page experience. This means that the AMP runtime provides developers with the constraints needed to create a great performing page, and then AMP caches can actually help further improve the performance of these pages by making them near instant. However, like many other frameworks, AMP can’t implement all web development best practices into its runtime. And this is why in the run-up to the page experience ranking change going live, we actually encouraged developers to ensure that AMP pages served from both the publisher site or via an AMP cache are both equally optimized. And the first step to a great page experience here is the AMP core, that is the AMP extensions and the runtime that enforce the design constraints that make AMP great.

The next building block is how the page is being served. Core Web Vital metrics for a page are determined by observing real user interactions with web pages, and in the case of AMP, this means that the pages could be served from either the publisher’s domain or via an AMP cache, depending on how the user encounters the content. Many sites actually see a significant proportion of their AMP visits actually occurring on their own domain. Now to get the strongest possible user experience on your AMP pages, we highly encourage all site owners to implement a number of additional optimizations that they can perform themselves. AMP Optimizers are actually tools that bring the AMP cache optimizations to your own site. And by using the latest AMP Optimizer, you’re getting the easiest way to automatically benefit from any new server-side optimizations for AMP.

You can learn more about AMP Optimizers at the link on the screen. And that’s how the AMP project actually thinks about performance. We make sure that you have the tools to create and then maintain really great page experience. And in fact, we also launched the AMP page experience guide last year, it’s a one-stop tool to help developers debug why their AMP page might not be meeting page experience criteria. And since launch, we’ve actually added even more actionable feedback to the AMP page experience guide, making it even more useful. These improvements have actually been driven by websites testing their AMP pages using the tool. So we encourage you to try out the tool at the link shown on the screen and provide feedback. And that’s that, we on the AMP team genuinely believe that AMP sets you up for success when you’re looking at creating and then maintaining well-performant sites in the long run. We hope you give it a try and leave your feedback, and with that, I’ll hand it back to Jeffrey.

Jeffrey: Thanks, Naina. With page experience ranking, we are on a multi-year journey to surface high-quality content with exceptional user experience for our users. We want to give developers actionable guidance through the various tools we offer, such as Search Console’s Page Experience Report and AMP’s Page Experience Guide. With that, I want to thank all of you for joining us today. We hope you are staying safe, and have a good rest of I/O 2021. Thank you.

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