Google’s Algorithm Update for 2021, Improving Page Experience

By: Sarah Russell May 20, 2021

Google’s Algorithm Update for 2021, Improving Page Experience

You’ve heard the buzz about Google’s Algorithm update for 2021. Now you’re wondering how it will impact organic performance for your web pages and landing pages. Like many of Google’s major algorithm updates over the last few years, this one focuses on speed and usability. If you’ve kept up with technical best practices over the last year or so, this update shouldn’t require any drastic action on your part. But you should check to make sure your pages meet the new Google Page Experience standard so you can keep showing up in student searches.

How the 2021 Google Algorithm Updates could affect higher ed

You shouldn’t expect drastic changes to rankings or web traffic. At least not right away. The Page Experience Update was originally scheduled for this month. They’ve since pushed the timeline back to a gradual rollout that will start in June and end in August. Even after the full rollout, pages that have performed well up to now should continue to do so.

Rather than introducing something new, this update is more like a doubling down on the factors that Google has been telling us are important. Page speed has been a factor in one way or another since 2010. Over the past few years, mobile optimization has also become increasingly crucial. This update gives weight to both.

If you’ve been procrastinating on the technical updates that might improve your website speed and usability, don’t wait any longer. Make sure prospective students can find you.

The three page experience factors

Put simply, page experience is how difficult or easy it is for prospective students to interact with your web pages. This includes every page on your site, including landing pages, course pages, and blog posts. The speed and stability factors Google is looking for are not arbitrary. They’re based on those issues that make students most likely to give up and move to another page. That means, when you adjust to meet new algorithm standards, you’re also improving the prospective student experience on your site.

Google has identified three web vitals that determine your page performance:

  • Perceived load speed. The technical term is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). That’s how quickly the main content on your page loads. Your goal should be less than 2.5 seconds. Large graphics, too much video, or over-designed pages might cause issues here.
  • Interactivity speed. Called First Input Delay. The lag time between the first click and the processing of that click. Basically, if a student clicks a button on your website, how quickly will that button respond? You’re aiming for 100 milliseconds or less. This is especially important for forms and calculator tools powered by plug-ins that might be sluggish.
  • Visual page stability. Cumulative Layout Shift is the technical term for how much elements move around as other elements load. Try for less than 0.1. Visual stability can be a problem if your site relies heavily on Javascript. While some elements will load faster, the page may also shift more to accommodate new elements. You may get similar problems with dynamically sized fonts, widgets, videos, and images. Thoughtful design can minimize their impact on page stability.

How to measure page experience

In the new Google Search Console, you’ll find an option called Experience. If you expand that menu item you’ll see Page Experience, Mobile Usability, and Core Web Vitals. If you click on any of these right now, you’ll likely get a screen that says “not enough data collected for this property.” But that should change in the next few months.

According to Google, page experience includes:

  • Mobile usability
  • Security issues
  • HTTPS usage
  • Ad experience
  • Core web vitals

Eventually, this tab will show how you’re performing on page experience and if you have any issues to address.

For a closer look at these metrics, you can select the Core Web Vitals tab. It gives you a breakdown of your LCP, FID, and CLS performance. Pages that receive a good score are most likely to appear in search engine results. The mobile usability tab gives you similar feedback for your mobile pages.

Improve your page performance

If you uncover page experience issues, bring them to the attention of your developer. Optimizing these metrics is a job for a technical expert. Of course, quality content is still vital. Fast, stable pages don’t matter much if students aren’t interested in what that content has to say. For help building sites and landing pages that encourage enrollments, reach out to the education marketing experts at EducationDynamics.

Our data-guided marketing experts are here to help you enroll more students with a full-funnel marketing strategy backed by full-service marketing support. They’re obsessed with delivering results to guide potential students through enrollment and beyond. Contact us today to get started.