Google Search to Add Page Experience to Ranking Signals in May 2021

Six months ago, Google announced its plans to introduce a new ranking signal for Search, based on page experience as measured by Core Web Vitals metrics. At that time, Google promised to give site owners at least six months notice before rolling out the update so they can improve their scores on the metrics before the update. The company reports a 70% increase in users engaging with Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report in preparation for the update.

Today Google confirmed that it will roll out the new page experience signals in May 2021. The search engine also plans to introduce a new visual indicator for pages that fully comply with the page experience requirements:

On results, the snippet or image preview helps provide topical context for users to know what information a page can provide. Visual indicators on the results are another way to do the same, and we are working on one that identifies pages that have met all of the page experience criteria. We plan to test this soon and if the testing is successful, it will launch in May 2021 and we’ll share more details on the progress of this in the coming months.

There are no additional details on what that will look like but AMP’s lightning bolt is a good example of how small graphics can have a meaningful impact on users’ behavior when navigating through search results.

Are WordPress Websites Ready for Page Experience as a Ranking Signal?

The page experience signals Google plans to roll out will include Core Web Vitals (Loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability metrics), combined with existing search signals for mobile-friendlinesssafe-browsingHTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. Based on where the web is now, in terms of delivering a good page experience (as defined by Google), site owners will undoubtedly need the next six months lead time to become aware of the new ranking signal and prepare.

Google’s Core Web Vitals assessment gives a pass or fail rating, with a “pass” requiring a good result in all three metrics. A cursory test using Page Speed Insights on a few of the websites for the largest companies, hosts, and agencies in the WordPress space shows most of them do not currently meet these requirements.

In August, Screaming Frog, a search marketing agency, published a lengthy report on tests that found only 12% of Mobile and 13% of Desktop results passed the Core Web Vitals assessment. Screaming Frog used the PageSpeed Insights API to test 20,000 websites, which were selected through scraping the first-page organic results from 2,500 keywords across 100 different topics. The report highlighted a few important findings:

  • First Input Delay (FID) on Desktop is negligible with 99% of URLs considered good. And 89% for Mobile.
  • 43% of Mobile and 44% of Desktop URLs had a good Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).
  • 46% of Mobile and 47% of Desktop URLs had a good Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
  • URLs in Position 1 were 10% more likely to pass the CWV assessment than URLs in Position 9.

These results suggest that most website owners still have a good deal of work ahead of them in meeting the requirements for passing the Core Web Vitals assessment. Unsurprisingly, Google suggests AMP as the preferred vehicle to get there, but even AMP is not a magic bullet.

At AMP Fest last month, the project reported that 60% of AMP domains pass the Core Web Vitals metrics (meaning 75% of pages on the domain passed), compared to 12% of non-AMP domains passing based on the same criteria.

“Looking ahead to Google Search’s upcoming rollout of using page experience signals in ranking, we challenged ourselves to consider how we could better support the AMP community and reach a point where we are able to guarantee that all AMP domains meet the criteria included in the page experience ranking signal,” AMP Product Manager Naina Raisinghani said.

Those who are already using AMP are encouraged to check out the AMP Page Experience Guide, a diagnostic tool that helps developers improve their page experience metrics with practical advice.

AMP is not required, however, if developers feel confident delivering the kind of performance metrics necessary to pass the Core Web Vitals assessment. Along with the new ranking signal, Google also plans to roll out another promised change that allows non-AMP content to become eligible for placement in the mobile Top Stories feature for Search. Starting in May 2021, sites that can deliver decent page experience metrics will be prioritized, regardless of whether they were built with AMP or through some other means.


14 responses to “Google Search to Add Page Experience to Ranking Signals in May 2021”

  1. This will be the start of the end of many of the third party page builders. As a professional SEO I know how important speed is and not just for UX, but now for rankings as well. You can’t mitigate or trick using layout shift and delays like before. That means most pagebuilders like Divi and Elementor, Breeze, Beaver and others will be gone. From the only one that I think is not that bad on speed – Oxygen, but the problem with it that you need to be an airplane pilot to know how to drive this thing.

    So the transition will start next year, where marketers, SEOs and then small business owners would demand their projects or would make their projects without these heavy page builders. Then some big vendors will start to crumble.

    This is really good news for Gutenberg, however I wish Gutenberg team STEP UP their game and introduce more DRAG AND DROP everywhere so that people who came from Elementor/Divi and the others don’t feel like they are on another planet with much limited functionality.

    One of the benefits of Elementor and Divi is exactly that, you like something and you drag it. It’s not about multi-clicking on the sidebar like Gutenberg is.

    DRAG AND DROP – that is the most intuitive task you can think about it, especially with devices that have touch capabilities.

  2. I am already working on Google Core Web vitals. All the conditions like First Input Delay, FCP is good, on my blog website But CLS( Visual Stability) is not well due advertisement. How can a website owner improve CLS with Google Adsense running? Can anybody suggest to me?

  3. Thanks for sharing this. It’s going to be interesting to see how websites (and page-builders) will adjust. Based on my experience, I think you can use a page builder (Elementor, for example) and still ensure some good web and page experience metrics.

  4. While WordPress and Jetpack have their share of performance issues, the vast majority of issues reported by Google PageSpeed arise from its OWN tools, like Analytics and Ads. Google is a big bully that wants everyone to dance to its ever changing tunes.

    Coming back to WordPress and Jetpack, it would be nice to not have jQuery dependency, to have so many “render blocking” resources, and to have user facing options to disable unnecessary stuff.

    • Looks like someone is forcing you to pay for something you could already benchmark for free. Either this was shameless promotion from your side of you’ve been trapped. Why would anyone pay for something that you can do for free? It’s like paying someone to “index” you in the search engines.

  5. We believe that Google’s new ranking signal can be beneficial for the users, although it does pose some challenges to the website owners. But, it is undeniable that the ranking measured by Core Web Vitals can ensure that the user finds exactly what he/she is looking for. It is only natural that we take this step as it would have happened sooner or later. The fact that the Core Web Vitals considers the loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability metrics is enough to understand that Google will be able to find the ideal result for its users. Although I think this does put even more restrictions on the site owners as they are constantly forced to update their website for a better ranking, it is inevitable at this point.

  6. If I use gutenberg plugins I see a drop in lighthouse and speed tests (nothing in comparison with pagebuilders like elementor) even on pages not using those plugins. The only one i found not affecting it much was the one from brainstorm. Does anyone else know plugins that don’t effect speed stats and make gutenberg more userfriedly?

  7. Nightmare moves from Google, yet again. Using one arm of the company (Search) to penalize people for using services from the other arms of the company (Ads, Analytics, AMP) is ridiculously bad policy.

    If it does have the effect of breaking page builders they’ve made a huge, stupid, selfish mistake.


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