In late May 2020, Google announced that it would be “evaluating page experience for a better web.” According to the tech giant, industry research, as well as their internal findings, indicate that users favor sites with a great page experience. Users want sites to load faster, be more responsive and be more intuitive.
This should come as no surprise to any of us as regular consumers of content. As daily browsers of the internet, we are easily annoyed by the smallest inconveniences and are quick to dismiss any brand whose website simply isn’t up to par. This impacts PR in a big way, too. Ultimately, PR comes down to the mental and often subconscious associations that people make when they think of your company or brand.
As IT and software companies in the 21st Century, most PR efforts are done online. The way that people feel when they are interacting with your website, app or social media page inevitably becomes a part of the story they form of you and the story they repeat to their colleagues and friends. The experience that users have on your website becomes a factor in their decision-making process and can determine whether or not they do business with you.
The user-friendliness of any webpage has a great impact on how long we choose to stay on the site, whether we visit the site again and whether we choose to conduct business with that company.
The “page experience” of a website remains in the minds of users long after they have exited the site and inevitably seems to form a part of the brand’s overall presence and story. Long after they have forgotten the copy and the colors, users will remember how a website made them feel while they were browsing it.
Were they annoyed? Was it difficult to find what they needed? Was the page quick and responsive? Did it feel fluid and intuitive? Was it a pleasant visit?
Like it or not, things like slow load times, lagging, and a lack of intuitiveness on your website can easily lead to the perception that your product or service is similarly subpar. Fortunately, the converse is also true. A positive page experience can easily inspire confidence, trust and the perception that your product or service also is fast, friendly and a pleasure to use.
With this algorithm, Google has narrowed the gap between user experience and search engine optimization, since sites with better page experience rank higher in searches. They aim to “make the web more delightful” by forcing us to consider the user-friendliness of our website.
We are well aware of the importance of search engine placement and there is an entire area of expertise dedicated to proving the worthiness of your webpage to search engines. There is no doubt that a high search engine ranking inspires confidence and is an extremely important tool in the PR arsenal. Now more than ever, we can’t ignore page experience, since it directly impacts placement in search engine rankings.
However, we want to approach page experience from a more selfless perspective. We simply want visitors to have a good time. When hospitality drives your efforts, you will find that creating a positive page experience isn’t a difficult thing to do.
The Core Web Vitals
Since a positive page experience seems to be a subjective concept that may vary from user to user, you may be wondering how this strategy may be implemented for your business. Core Web Vitals were conceptualized by Google with the aim of providing us with concrete metrics to measure page experience. These metrics are a simple and straightforward way to evaluate the quality of the experience that you are providing to your visitors.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a key, user-centric metric for evaluating apparent load time. LCP describes the speed of delivering the main and most important content on the screen. For great page experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds.
First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity by quantifying the experience a user feels when interacting with unresponsive pages. FID measures the time between the user interacting with the page (usually by clicking a link or button) and their browser actually responding to that tap or click. We should aim to have FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
Finally, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability by quantifying how frequently users experience unexpected layout shifts. A page with poor CLS can cause text to shift without warning, leading to a user losing their place on the page. Or worse, a link or button may shift, causing a user to inadvertently click on an unwanted page, creating annoyance, inconvenience or even an accidental purchase. Ideally, you’ll want a CLS score of less than 0.1.
Page Experience and PR
These metrics are all well and good, but what do they really mean? Simply put, if people have a good experience, they’ll come back and they’ll tell their friends. Brick and mortar locations understand the importance of positive user experience and know that visitors are unlikely to return if, for example, the chairs were uncomfortable or there was an unpleasant smell in the air. That experience, whether consciously or unconsciously, forms part of the story that is told about the company. It’s no different online. A bad visit to the website of an IT or software company can leave a lasting negative impression that can be near-impossible to correct.
As stakeholders in the IT and software industries, page experience should be foremost in our minds when developing a website and when devising a PR strategy. Quite often, your website is your brand’s first opportunity to make an impression on a potential client, investor or partner. Page experience should, therefore, be a vital consideration in making a positive and lasting first impression. After all, who wants to work with a software company with a shoddy website? Confidence in your brand can be compromised within seconds of browsing your homepage, simply because a user had a poor page experience.
Your website’s analytics can also be an important tool to clue you in on whether your visitors are having a positive page experience. For example, a high bounce rate can be a sure-fire way of knowing that visitors are not having a positive page experience.
Do certain pages have a higher bounce rate than others? What could be causing this? How can you improve page experience to ultimately improve the story that is told about your product or service?
Though the new Google algorithm takes effect in 2021, the company’s announcement is an important wakeup call right now that we should remember for years to come. Investing in improved user experience on your website is always a great idea.