Is The User Experience Now the Most Important Part of SEO?

Did you know that preparing for the new Google update could help you reduce your abandonment numbers by 24%? It’s true.

Google’s massive Page Experience update was announced about a year ago, and the entire staff at SEO Toronto has been consumed by it ever since. We’ve been obsessing over our clients’ user experiences (UX), because the UX has never been more important.

Your website’s UX is poised to become one of your most essential ranking signals, as well as a crucial competitive advantage when trying to rank above your competition.

Here’s everything you need to know about the relationship between SEO and UX.

The Page Experience Update and the Core Web Vitals

Any time that Google even acknowledges an update, you know it’s a big deal. And they gave us a year’s worth of warning for the Google Page Experience update, so what does that tell you?

They announced this update in May of 2020, saying that, “The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page.” Why so much time to prepare? Because this is basically 7-updates-in-1.

This update will now measure your UX based on:

  • Mobile-friendliness: Is your site mobile-friendly?
  • Safe-browsing: Is your site secure?
  • HTTPS-security: Is your site HTTP or HTTPS?
  • Intrusive interstitials: Does your site have interstitial ads that ruin the experience?

These page experience factors will now be combined with the Core Web Vitals, which focus on speed. But, they focus on speed in relation to the UX.

It will measure your site’s speed based on:

  • Largest Contentful Paint: How long does it take for the largest page element to render?
  • First Input Delay: When the user clicks on something, how long does the page take to respond?
  • Cumulative layout shift: When do the page’s assets stop moving during the load?
Image of Core Web Vitals with their descriptions along with Mobile Friendly, Safe Browsing, HTTPS, No Intrusive Interstitials

Courtesy of Google

As you can see, there is a lot to digest and a ton to think about. And you can see why we have been obsessed with site speed optimization for the last year or so. UX and speed have always been crucial ranking signals, but those two things were always a bit abstract and even subjective. Now, we have finite metrics and guidelines to accurately measure how we’re doing.

How Fast Do I Need to Be?

According to Google Core Web Vitals guidelines, these are the numbers that you should be shooting for:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): 2.5 seconds
  • First Input Delay (FID): 100 milliseconds
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): A CLS score (measured by a complex system) of less than 0.1

Our advice would be not to stop at those thresholds. It can be a challenge to get to them. A lot of companies will have to hire an SEO web design expert and purge a lot of old content from their site. Some might even have to hire a new hosting company (cheap hosting = bad speeds) and transition their site over. But if you have the opportunity to make your site even faster, take it. Don’t hesitate.

First of all, no user has ever said, “This site is too damn fast, I don’t like it.” Second of all, it’s important to remember that good speeds are temporary. Let’s say you do the right things and get your LCP down to a nice 2.4. That’s awesome. But 6 months from now that number could creep back up over the 2.5 threshold because you have added 6 months’ worth of blogs, videos and images to the backend of your site. Those assets take up space and can weigh you down.

Too many people will look at their site speed at the start of the year, see a good score, and say, “Ok great. We’re fine.” No, you’re fine right now. Good site speeds are never really attained. They are maintained.

Aim to get the lowest possible score, so that if you start to slow down you don’t go above the thresholds before you can correct the problem. Your goal should be to be as fast as possible and faster than your competition’s site.

The Mobile Experience

Picture of a hand laying down a piece of paper with different web elements above an image of a phone. This is to illustrate building a user experience on mobile. All around this image lay images of different web layouts.

These updates have coincided with Google’s other big announcement this spring: Mobile-first indexing is now the norm for the entire web.

This means that your mobile site’s speed and your UX are now more important than ever. A few years ago, you could have gotten away with a mobile site that was essentially the Coke Zero version of your website. Not any more. Now, everything that you want to be indexed has to appear on your mobile site.

As of March of this year, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that they will “drop everything that’s only on the desktop site. We will essentially ignore that.”

He added, “Anything that you want to have indexed, it needs to be on the mobile site.”

The message is clear: If it’s not on your mobile site, it doesn’t exist. Make sure all of your content appears on your mobile site, or your rankings are going to suffer.

Need Help Preparing For All This?

If you have never really paid much attention to your UX or your site’s speeds, this blog may have set off alarm bells for you. Or maybe you’ve seen your rankings drop over the last few months, and you’re wondering if Google’s latest updates were the cause.

In either case, we’re here to help. Over the last year, we’ve helped a number of clients find new ways to speed up their site’s performance and remove any UX barriers. Believe us when we say that taking care of these two things can really help your SEO rankings across the board, while also unlocking new levels of organic traffic.

If you’re ready to talk about your site, we’re ready to help. You can click the Call Now button at the top of the screen to get in touch. Or, if you need to fix your site as soon as possible, you can click the Book a Free Consultation button to see exactly how we can help you.

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