It aims to measure the overall quality of user experience

Page experience, as the name suggests, is intended to quantify how a page performs experientially, or as Google puts it, “to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.”

It combines existing signals with Core Web Vitals metrics

Google already has a number of signals related to user experience. It has metrics for mobile friendliness, safe-browsing, the use of HTTPS security. It also checks whether certain guidelines, such as those around intrusive interstitials, are being followed.

The new page experience signal takes these existing signals and combines them with Core Web Vitals, “a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience.” Specifically, Core Web Vitals measures page load time, interactivity and visual stability.

Page experience won’t launch before 2021

Due in part to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Google says that the page experience signal won’t go live before the end of the year and that it will give six months’ notice before it is launched.

Google offers tools for Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals was launched earlier this month, and has already been incorporated into Lighthouse, an open-source tool for running technical website audits, as well as Google PageSpeed Insights. Google is also surfacing Core Web Vitals improvement opportunities in its Search Console.

Page experience is being applied to Search as well as mobile Top Stories

Naturally, the page experience signal will be applied to Google Search but the company is also planning to apply it to its mobile Top Stories feature.

Notably, Google is removing the requirement that stories be published using AMP for Top Stories eligibility. Instead, a page that ostensibly rates highly enough in terms of page experience can also be featured.

Where an AMP page is available, Google will continue to use it for Top Stories, so this change might give publishers a reason to rethink their AMP strategies.

Content is still king, but page experience is a tie-breaker

While it’s clear that the importance of performance is increasing in Google’s eyes, the search giant is also making it clear that content is still king. In announcing page experience, Sowmya Subramanian, Google’s Director of Engineering for Search Ecosystem, stated:

While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.

The last sentence is important and suggests that publishers are increasingly taking a risk if they assume that good content will ensure good rankings. Indeed, data does show that faster websites rank better and as Google gets better at quantifying the more qualitative aspects of experience, expect to see this trend continue.

There are more experience-related metrics on the way

Google says it continues to identify ways to measure page experience and plans to incorporate new signals “on a yearly basis”. This makes it clear that technical SEO is not only here to stay but could cement its position as the dominant form of SEO in the near future.

See Econsultancy’s search marketing page for more on this topic. Econsultancy also offers SEO training.