Google’s much-anticipated page experience update is just a few short months away, and SEO practitioners everywhere are anxious to see how their sites’ rankings will be affected.
Fortunately, Google public Search Liaison Danny Sullivan took to YouTube and Twitter to shed some light on ways the new update will (and won’t) impact key metrics.
- Chaos Will Not Ensue
- Relevant and High-Quality Content Will Still Be King
- Page Experience Will Gain Importance Over Time
Chaos Will Not Ensue
On February 23, Danny Sullivan joined Cherry Sireetom Prommawin, Martin Splitt and Ashley Berman Hale for a Search Central Live event streamed on YouTube:
A little over 20 minutes into the discussion, Splitt asked a question that’s crossed the minds of countless SEO pros over the past year: “Do we expect the [page experience update’s] impact on the metrics to be significant or more subtle?”
Sullivan’s response is sure to soothe some of your concerns:
I mean, I think if you go back and look at how we’ve had these sorts of things over time, it really isn’t that, OK, then the next day everything completely changes. There’s no intent to try to do that, even though we might say we start using [page experience] as a factor.
And in a February 24 tweet, he reiterated that “it shouldn’t be the case that overnight, we flip some sort of switch and there’s a massive change. That’s not typically how rollouts of this nature (such as speed, mobile-friendly) have worked.”
Translation? Don’t panic! While the addition of a brand new ranking factor sounds earth shattering, the page experience update won’t immediately tank (or boost) your rankings.
Relevant and High-Quality Content Will Still Be King
In the Search Central Live discussion, Sullivan emphasized that as a ranking factor, page experience will not supersede relevant, high-quality content:
First of all, [page experience] remains one of many things. Secondly, it’s always the case that we’re going to try to return the best content based on this basket or bucket of things.
So maybe you don’t have the best page experience. But if you’re still the most relevant content, that is overall on various things we’re looking at.
So I think it’s not a case of start being all super concerned, and understand that we want to make sure that this is coming in a moderated fashion.
In other words, there are still hundreds of ranking factors that will determine whether the site you’re optimizing sinks or swims in the SERPs, with content relevance and quality being some of the most important among them.
To make your site’s content meet Google’s exacting quality standards:
- ensure each page accomplishes both its own unique purpose and the site’s overall purpose;
- only publish copy that’s well-written, original and on-topic; and
- work to improve the site’s expertise, authority and trust, or E-A-T.
As long as you never let those best practices fall by the wayside, a great page experience will serve to augment your site’s current rankings, not define them.
Page Experience Will Gain Importance Over Time
While the page experience update might not wreak havoc on rankings right away, it is expected to have a comparatively greater impact on sites’ metrics in the long run.
As Sullivan explained at the Search Central Live event, “over time, what will happen is, as more and more content is coming up in page experience, and if you’re in a situation where things are all relatively equal, the things that are more page experience-oriented are likely to start doing better.”
In other words, the more SEO practitioners upgrade their sites’ page experience, the more important page experience will be as a ranking factor.
Sullivan elaborated further on Twitter, adding that “when mobile-friendliness began, plenty of pages still needed to become that way. So while it was a factor, using it more heavily as a factor initially doesn’t make much sense. But over time, it (like any factor) might become more valuable.”
“So with page experience,” he continued in the same thread, “it could become a more important factor over time than with an initial launch as a great page experience becomes more common to pages. But also, and as we’ve kept saying, it’s one of many factors.”
He then linked to a Google Search Central document about the page experience update and highlighted a paragraph expressing a similar sentiment:
The bottom line is that while Google’s rollout of the page experience update might not immediately take a monumental toll, there’s a good chance it will make a greater and greater impact as time goes on.
So, it’s crucial for SEO practitioners to avoid complacency and make top-notch page experience a long-term goal.
A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action, Please
As Danny Sullivan emphasized in the Search Central livestream, if there’s something you should be doing that you’re not already, Google will typically make sure you’re aware. That’s because Google doesn’t want sites’ rankings to go plummet—rather, it wants SEO pros to have actionable information they can use to achieve the best rankings possible.
So if you want to make the most of the page experience update and earn the highest possible rankings, Sullivan recommends spending less time speculating and more time taking action to generate tangible results.
Screenshots by author / March 2021