Exactly one month ago today, Google released the Page Experience Update. Since then, good websites should have be boosted, bad ones disadvantaged. In this article, we will examine whether there have been any initial developments after the first month.
When Google officially confirms new ranking factors, the priorities and to-do lists of entire companies change. This was the case with the introduction of HTTPS as a ranking factor and last year with the announcement of the Page Experience Update.
It has now been exactly one month since the update. Of the roughly two and a half months that Google are taking to roll out this update, almost half has already gone. Now is a good time to take a look at what’s going on in the SERPs.
In this post we clarify whether there have already been measurable changes in the search results.
The Google Page Experience Update
Last year, Google announced that it would bundle multiple user-friendliness signals from web pages into a ranking factor. The following signals flow into this new ranking factor:
- Core Web Vitals: a new way of measuring web performance. This part of the update has certainly received the most attention in the last few months. More background information.
- Optimisation for mobile devices: with more than half of all searches carried out on mobile phones, the optimisation of websites for mobile devices (mobile friendliness) has long been an official ranking factor.
- Safe Browsing: a database from Google to warn users about visiting dangerous websites. Hacked websites, phishing pages and similar content are represented there.
- HTTPS: all websites should be delivered encrypted. This protects users from being read by providers as well as other third parties and Google from unintentionally exchanging content or advertisements.
- Interstitials: Visitors to pages should not be distracted from the actual content they are looking for by annoying interstitials.
With the exception of the Core Web Vitals (CWV), all items were officially part of the Google rankings before the update. What is new with this update is that all individual points are summarised in a ranking factor and the Core Web Vitals.
In April, Google announced that the Page Experience Update would be rolled out from mid-June to the end of August. An unusually long period of time: most “normal” updates take effect within a few days.
Our Results: What have we analysed?
Analysing Google Ranking Factors is usually like trying to put trousers on a busy octopus. There are too many different and ever-moving parts for the attempt to be successful. Let’s not even start the discussion about correlation and causality.
In this case, however, the situation is a little different. Through communication from Google in the run-up to the update, we know a lot of key points about the update:
- Duration: we know that the changes in the ranking will be visible between June 15, 2021 and August 31, 2021.
- Metrics: only the Core Web Vitals are new. All other values in this update are already part of the ranking. We can therefore assume that any differences in the ranking are due to the CWVs.
- Evaluation: Google clearly communicated which values are good for the Core Web Vitals, which values they consider to be sufficient and which values are bad.
- Direction of change: it is clear that bad values in the Core Web Vitals have lead to worse and not to better rankings.
Equipped with this information, we have a good chance to shed some light on this update. Our process for measuring the impact of the Google Page Experience Update is as follows:
- We take all websites that clearly do not meet Google’s expectations for the Core Web Vitals. We including nohing that is acceptable, only those websites that are clearly in the red.
- From all these websites we determine the daily SISTRIX Visibility Index from June 15, 2021 to evaluate the performance in the Google search results.
- We rebase the daily Visibility Index from June 15th. (the start of the update) to 100. We do that for all affected domains.
- Then we determine the daily average over all evaluated domains. Values above 100 mean that the average visibility of the examined domains has increased, values below 100 mean that it has decreased.
The expectations for the results are clear: if bad Core web vitals have been a ranking factor in the context of the Page Experience Update, websites with bad CWV values must also have poorer rankings. The index value across all of these domains should therefore decrease.
The result: Not much to see (so far)
We followed the procedure described above. We evaluated a total of 46,042 different websites that clearly did not meet Google’s requirements for Core Web Vitals.
As with Google, measurements were made with field data. So no self-measured data, but performance data determined by real users in Chrome. Google has confirmed that this update is also based on this data. The result looks like this:
The start of the Google Page Experience Update on June 15, 2021 is clearly shown in the diagram. The average of all 46,042 analyzed websites on this date is also re-based to 100.
As you can see, you see nothing! Since the start of the update, there has been no systematically poorer Google ranking for all websites that do not meet Google requirements. On the contrary, the index has risen slightly from 100 points at the beginning to 100.1804 points today.
Conclusion – Is there more to come?
The results after the first month of the Google Page Experience update are sobering. So far we have not been able to measure systematic ranking changes. On the contrary, there is even a very slight, positive trend in Google visibility for domains with bad values.
But Google still has time: of the roughly two and a half months, only the first month has passed. We will continue to monitor the situation and deliver an update no later than the end of the Page Experience Update at the end of August. In any case, our expectations are high after Google’s announcement marathon.