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Is Poor UX Hurting Your Website's SEO Google Rankings?

By Ramsay Crooks

Earlier this week I pointed out Google’s recent embrace of user experience (UX) in the form of their new Core Web Vitals and how these metrics will be added to the organic search ranking algorithm in the coming months. Today, I’d like to break down aspects of their multiple articles on the topic for easier reading and to contextualize things from a UX point of view… 

Why should I care? 

Well, due to the huge importance of UX, Google is now telling us to pay attention - and attempting to help us do so.

“Earlier this month, the Chrome team announced Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability, to help site owners measure user experience on the web.”

Obviously UX matters so why is this different?

As Google puts it, “We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.”

This is notable in that Core Web Vitals are being considered by Google as (SEO ranking) signals for organic search. This means user experience improvements are still great for converting existing traffic. AND they now also help to acquire said traffic in the first place by being a positive signal for organic rankings (SEO).

And Google thinks this will have tangible business impact...

“We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

We agree wholeheartedly! Less friction is a good thing (unless you’re a tire - and it’s raining). 

It seems Google is in this for the long haul. I guess this UX thing isn’t just a fad…

“...we plan to incorporate more page experience signals on a yearly basis to both further align with evolving user expectations and increase the aspects of user experience that we can measure.”

Furthermore, a broad based tool kit to help developers, product teams, and marketers to make continual improvements shows that Google sees UX as critical to the future of quality search results.

“To help out, we’ve updated popular developer tools such as Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights to surface Core Web Vitals information and recommendations, and Google Search Console provides a dedicated report to help site owners quickly identify opportunities for improvement. We’re also working with external tool developers to bring Core Web Vitals into their offerings.”

What is Google Measuring?

The finer details and some nerdiness on what Google is looking at:

In other words, three things:

  1. Page load speed
  2. The snappiness of interactions on the site (when you click or tap, how long does it take for something to happen?)
  3. The visual stability of the page itself (are pop-ups, hello-bars, and ad units making it hard to read content, click and tap links or buttons, or navigate in general?)

Along with additional page experience ranking factors including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines, the UX signals that Google can measure as a bot crawling your site form a basic foundational approach for the machine to build UX into its ranking logic.

While the metrics that Google’s "algo" and their new tools measure are a great start to understanding how to improve on-page user experience, they don’t tell the entire story. There are additional tools and tactics to help suss out specific user frustration and friction issues (the qualitative “why”), as well as propose the hypotheses (and a/b/n testing roadmap) to achieve the right page experience changes for your users (the actionable “now what”).

So You’re Saying I Need UX Optimization AND SEO to Rank Better in Google?

Yes and no. This incorporation of UX signals is not an end-all ranking factor (afterall, there are hundreds), but it can be a difference maker.

“...In cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.”

And there are big reasons to focus on UX beyond jumping a few spots on your competitors  in the organic SERPs. 

As Google puts it, “We believe user engagement will improve as experiences on the web get better -- and that by incorporating these new signals into Search, we'll help make the web better for everyone.”

By providing this overview of Core Web Vitals, Google hopes to “help the diverse ecosystem of web creators, developers, and businesses to improve and deliver more delightful user experiences.”

And that’s exactly why CXperts came to be. In fact, the mission statement on our homepage pretty much says it the same way. “Our mission is to make the web better for people by improving digital experiences.”  Thanks, Google, for officially joining the cause for better user experience - and for encouraging the rest of the web to do the same.

When Will This Impact My Website?

Google says, “not before next year.”  While a bit vague, it means there’s enough time to assess issues and deploy critical fixes before these ranking factors go into effect so that you can improve not only your site’s user experience, but also your organic rankings and traffic, as well. Win-win! Google says they’ll be providing more updates on this - so we’ll keep an eye out for you.


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