Will the new Google algorithm update have you showing up on page 2?
As many have already heard, Google is bringing a new Page Experience Update that will begin to roll out in mid-June 2021, and will officially come into play in August of 2021.
This update is intended to highlight web pages & websites that offer great user experiences, and favor those who do in the form of SEO ranking.
So, you can think of it almost as Google offering SEO ‘bonus points’ for those with pages on their website that offer great user experiences.
What does this mean for contractors?
As many of us know, SEO, and ranking high on local organic google searches is KEY for contractors.
This update doesn’t mean that you will have to overhaul your entire website top-to-bottom, but it does mean that you might have to make a few tweaks to your website to ensure that it can be optimized in order to rank after the update is rolled out.
Keep reading to find out more about what this update actually means, and the 5 things you need to do before June to prepare.
How the Google Page Experience Update Will Affect Your SEO
Salesforce reported that one in three customers will walk away from a brand after just one bad digital experience.
We have seen this time and time again in the home improvement industry, especially when it comes to page and user experience.
Page experience is measured by a certain set of metrics that tell Google how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure informational value.
So, we’re talking about what is happening with the visual content on your website and how users interact with it.
But what exactly categorizes a great user experience?
As per Google, it includes optimized Core Web Vitals along with mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.
That’s a whole lot of fancy-dancy web developer lingo if you ask me.
Don’t worry, we were just as overwhelmed as you when we started researching this new update, so we stripped it down.
Here’s what you actually need to know…
Core Web Vitals
First up, one of the more major contributors to this update: Core Web Vitals.
Core Web Vitals are a set of specific factors that determine the user experience (UX) of a webpage.
In short, they are a part of what Google measures to determine if your page has a good UX.
They are made up of three specific page speed and user interaction measurements:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
In layman’s terms, this basically means how long it takes for the visual content on a webpage to load.
Think: Loading time.
It indicates the render time of the largest image or the text blog visible within the viewport, relative to when the page first started loading.
Basically, from start to finish, how long does it take everything on your page to load?
A low LCP time indicates a good user experience, and since this new update is in favour of great user experiences, it’s a good time to check this out!
Using a tool like PageSpeed Insights, you can plug in your web domain and it will give you a ranking of ‘good, needs improvement, and poor’.
The goal here is to have your LCP under 2.5 seconds aka ‘good’. If that is the case for your site, I am pleased to tell you that you are in the clear!
On the other hand, if your time is above 2.5 seconds, you may want to give your web developer a ring and have them reduce or optimize any large visuals you may have on the page that is slowing down your load time.
With Google updates, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you are on the fence about weather or not you need to reduce or optimize something, do it anyways!
Pro Tip: If you are wanting to learn more about how you can optimize your LCP, check out this article.
First Input Delay (FID)
FID is a metric used for measuring load responsiveness as it quantifies the experience users feel when trying to interact with unresponsive pages.
Basically, this one’s all about good first impressions.
As we all know, on the web, making a good first impression can be the difference between having a lifetime customer or them leaving and never coming back.
With FID, you have to look at what actually makes for a good impression. A good question to ask is:
Are people taking action on your website?
FID is the time it takes from when a user first interacts with a page, to the time when the browser is actually able to begin processing that action.
The theory behind this is that Google wants to keep websites as interactive, engaging, and as inviting as possible!
The goal is to keep your FID under 100 milliseconds for this update.
Again, you can test this with PageSpeed Insights.
If your FID is above 100 milliseconds, it is a good idea to review your calls-to-actions on your page to make sure that you:
They are clearly visibly for the homeowner to see/click on
Pro Tip: Unsure of how this chocks up in the grand scheme of things? Try entering your competitors’ websites into PageSpeed Insights to see how they rank in comparison to you. This will give you great context!
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS is a metric that measures the visual stability of content on a webpage. It helps quantify how often users experience unexpected layout shifts.
Think: Visual Stability.
You know when you are reading a really good article online and the page suddenly shifts and you lost your spot?
Or, when you accidentally click submit instead of back and no matter how many times you click back, the order just keeps processing.
Been there, done that.
Ask me how I accidentally bought 54 non-refundable packages of sunflower seeds for my garden last year…
CSL basically measures the number of times the layout of your webpage shifts within a certain timeframe.
A layout shift can be categorized as a video player that automatically plays, animations that pop out, or pop-ups that take up the entire screen
Similar to our first metric, LCP, you can run your website through PageSpeed Insights to find out what your score is.
To provide a good user experience, websites should strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.
If it is more than 0.1, you can try to remove or optimize any moving content on your website.
Pro Tip: You can download the Google Lighthouse Audit Tool Chrome extension to give yourself a more accurate picture of your core web vitals. This may be a useful tool to have in your toolbox to audit you (or your competitors) web page at a moments notice!
Now let’s move outside of the core web metrics, and into the 4 other factors that will be taken into consideration for this page experience update.
First up; mobile-friendliness.
In the USA, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones.
This means that mobile is critical to your local contracting business, and if your web presence is not mobile-friendly, you are simply costing yourself business.
Now, if you have heard us tell you to create a mobile-friendly web presence, and you never listened to us, now is the time to listen and get your ducks in order- seriously!
It is a good idea to test your website every couple of months for mobile-friendliness. You can use the Mobile-Friendly Test to do so.
This test runs on a yes/no system and lets you know if your page is or isn’t mobile-friendly.
If your test doesn’t give you the green light, the issue might be as simple as the font is too small. In this case, the test will suggest ways for you to improve.
Pro Tip: If you want to dig a little deeper into the specifics of mobile SEO, check out this article.
This feature is to make sure your page doesn’t contain any malicious (ie. malware) or deceptive (ie. social engineering) content.
You’re probably wondering what that actually means. You are not alone!
Basically, malware and unwanted software are downloadable applications that run on a website that affect site visitors. This can look like a webpage installing software (like a virus) onto your computer without your permission.
Social engineering content on the other hand is content that tricks visitors into doing something dangerous, such as revealing confidential information. This can look like phishing when a user is tricked into revealing information through a scam email.
Although we can almost guarantee that 99% of contractors have safe-browsing websites, you can still do the Security Issues Report to make sure you are in the clear.
As a general rule of thumb, all you have to do here is make sure that you are transparent about what your website is. As long as you are not scamming people, you are probably good.
(Almost) Everyone gets a checkmark here!
This one is all about security.
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and is the secure version of HTTP which is the primary protocol used to send data between a web browser and data.
That’s a mouthful, eh!
In short, HTTPS provides three layers of protection:
To break this one down, a secure site means that anyone browsing the web cannot see what exactly is happening on that page. You can tell the level of security with all web pages by one of three symbols that will appear at the beginning of the web address.
Why does this matter for your contracting website?
This feature is very important for contractor websites as homeowners fill out CTA forms which typically include them giving their email address and phone number.
The last thing you want is this sensitive information getting into the wrong hands.
Having a secure HTTPS will not only make homeowners feel more comfortable giving you their information, but it is also a requirement for the Google Page Experience Update.
Google wants to make web pages more secure, so if this is not activated, Google may assume your page is dangerous and flag it as such.
Pro Tip: Talk to your web developer and get them to add an SSL to your website so that users can see it is secured.
No Intrusive Interstitials
To round this off, let’s talk about pop-ups AKA interstitials.
Intrusive interstitials are any sort of pop-up that makes the content inaccessible to the user, especially on mobile.
What does this mean if you have pop-ups on your contractor website?
Although there is no official way to test if your pop-up is categorized as intrusive, you can typically tell a pop-up is intrusive if it:
Appears before the user is able to see the main content
In a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to the standalone interstitial, but the original content has been hidden underneath
Here are some example of intrusive interstitials:
Now, you are probably wondering what a good pop-up is like.
Typically interstitials that are NOT intrusive (and that will be given the a-okay by Google) are:
In response to a legal obligation (cookie usage and age verification)
Pop-ups that are used for obtaining login information or emails
Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissable
Here are some examples of passable pop-ups:
So, what do you need to do to make sure you get that big thumbs up from Google?
Do a quick run-through on all of your pop-ups, both on desktop and mobile, and using the above guidelines, see if they are intrusive or not.
If they fall along the lines of intrusive, or you are unsure, it is always better to play it safe and either decrease the size of the pop-up or remove it altogether if it is not 100% necessary.
Execution: What Matters Most
New updates, especially updates from massive media beasts like Google can make you feel absolutely helpless.
Especially when it can have a huge impact on your local business- we get it.
So consider this your official Google Page Experience survival guide for contractors!
All you have to do to prepare for this update is check and optimize the following 5 things by the end of May and you’ll pass this update with flying colors!
1. Core Web Vitals
Largest Contentful Print (LCP):
First Input Display:
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS):
2. Mobile Friendliness
- Think: Is your site secure?
- Test: Does your website URL start with http or https?
- Goal: Your website URL should start with https and have a secure lock icon at the start.
5. Intrusive Interstitials
- Think: Do your pop-ups interfere with user experience?
- Test: Check your pop-ups on both desktop and mobile to see if the follow the above guidelines
- Goal: Aim to have pop-ups that take up less space, and are used for age, cookie, or email verification