2021 Google Algorithm Update & Improving UX for SEO

Kimberley Maunder

Aug 14 . 6 min

Let's start at the start shall we... What's a core algorithm update?

Article Updated: 27th May 2021

They’re major updates that Google releases about twice a year and they are followed by a major shift in organic rankings. Every update targets something different that Google believes will improve the quality of their search engine. Normally SEOs don’t have much notice or clarity about these updates and we’re all left guessing and testing after the fact in order to find out what ranking factors were hit by the latest update. However, this time is different because we finally have a heads up as SEOs and we’re personally very excited about the update because it’s exactly what iterate is all about – User Experience.

Why has Google told us all about this update so early you ask? Well… this kind of major pandemic broke loose in 2020 and unfortunately many businesses cut their marketing budget and SEOs lost a lot of work. Also, it takes months to improve user experience and conversion rate so it only makes sense that they would let us all know months in advance about this new update.


Why does Google care so much about the user experience?

Well, if we think about what Google primary goal is, it’s to present users with the best possible website it can find based on their keyword search. Google thrives off of ranking websites that users LOVE because it means that the user will keep coming back to Google to find relevant websites.


About the Update

Now that we’ve given you a bit of a background, we’ll go into more detail about what the update actually is. Google has updated their guidelines on what is classified as ‘page experience’ factors and you can find the list here. What Google will be looking for will be what’s known as Core Web Vitals, which is all about your page loading performance, Mobile-friendliness, Safe-browsing (no malware or deceptive content, HTTPS, and no intrusive interstitials. Interstitials are those frustrating popups or ads that make it difficult to view/read the content on the website.

Websites who score well across a number of page experience factors will be rewarded with, not only happy customers, but also higher Google rankings. Because we love UX, we also wanted to talk about what we believe Google might also be looking for in the future when they look at rankings based on user experience metrics. Just because Google is paying close attention to the factors mentioned above does not mean that they aren’t also looking at your experience across the website. We’ve known for years that Google looks at a whole range of UX factors which means that attacking the metrics that they’re looking for in this latest update while also improving a range of other engagement metrics is a killer way to launch a well-rounded SEO strategy.

Now that's out of the way, what are our top positive UX metrics?

The first 5 points are part of Google’s next algorithm update, the rest are UX metrics that you can track and improve for a greater experience overall.

  • No errors across your Core Web Vital statistics (LCP, FID, CLS)
  • Mobile Friendliness
  • Safe Browsing
  • HTTPS Security
  • No intrusive Interstitials
  • Events, goals, and interactions with the page
  • Cart completions on ecommerce websites
  • Time on site + Scroll depth
  • Low bounce rate
  • Pages per session
  • High conversion rate
  • Fast page speed
  • Returning users

On the other side, what are our top negative engagement metrics?

Not all of these are in direct correlation to the latest update, but they are negative UX factors that can signal that something isn’t quite right with your website and shouldn’t be ignored!

  • Errors throughout your GSC website experience report (Core Web Vitals, Mobile, & Security)
  • Cursor thrashing 
  • Dead clicks
  • Rage clicks which is when someone clicks rapidly within a certain time frame 
  • Low bounce rate
  • Low scroll depth (staying above the fold)
  • Cart abandonment
  • Low conversion rate
  • Low page speed 
  • Lack of returning users

How can you measure, track, and improve user experience?

  • Tracking is everything, set up all of your goals, events and funnels in Google Analytics so that you have eyes on your users throughout every step. This way you can spot drop-offs very quickly and easily. 
  • Look into user behaviour tracking software so you can track clicks, heatmaps, hover maps, scroll maps, and user recordings
  • Take it one step further and do some user testing on your website by getting a range of individuals within your target audience to perform a number of tasks across the website and get them to provide their feedback during the process
  • Use your data from the last 3 points to develop split tests or multivariate tests. I’d advise against setting up a test because it ‘looks better’ or you ‘have a hunch’. Use your data to inform your decisions always.
  • Research new experiences that you can give to your users. For example, there is an eyewear company who developed an inbuilt camera so you can try on your glasses using their website. Now think about all of the positive engagement metrics that they’ll be experiencing from users who are playing with that new feature. Not to mention the uplift in glasses purchases. 
  • Keep improving your website, don’t just let it sit. Keep iterating.

Our favourite software for user experience is...

Full Story – Easily accessible and you can get a free 14 day trial of their pro plan that will track cursor thrashing, dead clicks, event funnels, slow page speed, and rage clicks

HotJar – Tracks heatmaps, scroll maps, hover maps, form tracking and user recordings 

Crazy Egg – Tracks heatmaps and scroll maps, and I believe that the setup functions are more superior as you can use wildcards 

VWO – Your one stop shop for everything included in HotJar combined with A/B testing, multivariate testing, and split URL testing. It also has form tracking, surveys, funnels and goal attribution. It also homes your observations, hypotheses and ideas for your experiments so you have something to refer to. 

Optimizely – Essentially the same as VWO and has I believe the largest user base for companies all over the world

Google Optimize – A free alternative if you’re only testing minor changes or dabbling in testing for your first time with limited budget. It’s easy to use and automatically integrates with Google Analytics

Happy Optimising!

Kimberley Maunder

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