Major Google Update May 2021 Impacting Websites Earlier than Expected

30 March, 2021

15 mins read

May 2021 Google Page Experience Update

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A major Google algorithm update has been confirmed by the world’s most-used search engine for May 2021, called the Google Page Experience Update. This update will impact all websites as Google is changing how they measure web pages for ranking positions in search results.

However, Localsearch’s Head of SEO, Mike Andrew, has predicted Google’s new ranking algorithm update will launch earlier than expected, with suspicions it may already slowly be rolling out. 

For businesses not prepared, this could be the nail in the coffin after the last 12 months.

What is the May 2021 Google Page Experience Update?

The Google Page Experience Update is intended to provide what their studies have shown is an optimal website and online browsing experience when people use their search engine. Google Chrome released a set of measurements to adapt to these measures, known as Core Web Vitals, which look at page speed, visual stability and other ways for website owners to measure the user experience of their website.

Google has since announced they are using these Core Web Vitals as ranking factors for websites in the May 2021 update. While many of these factors are already considerations, like if the website is mobile friendly, they are changing the way they look at page speed and functionality.

The May 2021 Google Update is considered a major impact and will affect all web pages.

How Google Update Impacts Website

When will the Google Page Experience Update be rolled out?

Localsearch’s Head of SEO, Mike Andrew, has said despite Google saying the update is not being rolled out fully until May 2021, he has already started seeing signs of websites not prepared for such changes.

“I believe Google has started to softly roll this new update out across the search network,” Mr. Andrew said.

“They have updated the criteria on the core web vitals recently in that it is now a less than rather than a set criteria, the new page experience algorithm will impact a lot of sites as Google aims to not only speed up the load times of individual pages but also provide a better content experience as well.”

What is page experience?

Page experience refers to the positive or negative affects someone may experience while using a webpage. For example, an image running halfway off the page would be a poor experience, while thorough website content would be a good page experience factor.

Google is looking further into ensuring the websites they refer their users to in search results are providing a good page experience. This includes existing Google Search signals, such as the website being mobile friendly, secure with a HTTPS, and intrusive interstitials, also known as pop-ups. 

Currently, there are four main search signals Google looks at for page experience:

  • Mobile friendly, so the website adapts to any screen size and device type.
  • Safe browsing, meaning the website is clear of malicious harm, such as malware.
  • HTTPS, which ensures the website is secure with a current SSL certificate.
  • No instructive interstitials, keeping the website free of pop-ups or annoyances.

Now, Google is looking into additional factors known as the core web vitals.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Google’s Core Web Vital Metrics are real-world measurements of what provides a good user experience when someone is on a website. They measure specifics of what can impact a web experience, like website load times, ease of interaction and stability of content when a page is loading, such as preventing accidentally opening links.

The core metrics were used for the Google Chrome web browser, but are now going to be measured for rankings on the search engine.

Google’s new 3 Core Web Vital Metrics:

Largest Contentful Painting (LCP) or Loading: Largest Contentful Painting refers to how quickly a web page loads. To be following best practices under the new Google Page Experience Ranking Algorithm Update, you’ll want your web page to load within 2.5 seconds. 

You can test page speed using one of the many tools online, with tools like PageSpeed Insights or Search Console for testing new features before you roll them out, or Lighthouse for web page performance checks. 

First Input Delay (FID) or Interactivity: Google is said to measure your website’s first input delay rate, which is the measurement of how long it takes for the browser to react after a user makes an initial interaction. Ideally, for the Google Page Experience Update, your FID should be less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) or Visual Stability: The cumulative layout shift monitors the stability of the layout of a web page. For instance, if you have ever been on a web page on your phone and went to scroll and had the page shift unnaturally, you may end up clicking a link. The ideal stability for the May 2021 Google Update is reportedly 0.1.

Industry Website Speed Benchmarks from GoogleThink

How to prepare for the May 2021 Google Page Experience Update.

1. Create user-focused content.

Mike Andrew, Localsearch’s Head of SEO, said even though page speed is meant to be an important part of the Google Page Experience Update, Google has said it will not impact where a website ranks if they match the search query and user intent the best way possible. He also advised content would still be king and crucial for this.

“User intent will be the key measurement in page experience. Does the content match the user intent? Does it match the search query the best way possible?,” said Mr. Andrew.

“Where content on the page is positioned and how quickly it becomes stable are all part of the new update. Google has said even if the page does not match the core web vitals speed requirement, but matches the user intent as best as possible, it will not penalise the page or site. This means SEO really needs to concentrate on improving page content site-wide with keeping the intent of the user in mind.”

2. Reduce page load speed.

Google has identified the time it takes your page is load once a user is on it will impact your search engine rankings with the next update. Working on reducing your page speed to around 2.5 seconds should help positively impact your SEO. 

What impacts page speed:

  • Image size and type.
  • Poor coding.
  • Poor hosting with distant servers.
  • Plug-ins are out of date. 
  • Website is not optimised for caching.

And more.

3. Ensure your website is mobile friendly.

Some of Google’s past major updates have been focused on ensuring the increased number of mobile users receive a good experience. The problem is, a lot of websites are only built for desktop users, meaning they have errors or don’t fit screens well for other devices. This is something you’ll want to ensure is fixed ASAP.

If you’re building a new website, you’ll want it to either be mobile responsive or adaptive, meaning it will adapt to whatever screen size someone is using.

What makes a website mobile friendly:

  • Content, including visuals, do not run off the page.
  • No pop-ups.
  • Images adapting to different phone sizes.
  • Buttons and links work correctly.

And more.

4. Have your website UX-designed and written.

UX (user experience) designers and writers work in unison with each other and developers to ensure a website works in the best interest of those who will be visiting it. This includes ensuring links are in the best place, buttons are optimised, content is helpful and easy to understand, features are in the most intuitive places and more.

Your website being designed with users first is crucial to your success once the Google Page Experience Ranking Algorithm rolls out fully in May 2021. Mike Andrew, Localsearch’s Head of SEO said it’s going to be important to put content and usability first, and if not, get fixes in place immediately.

“User intent will be the key measurement in page experience,” Mr. Andrew said.

“Does the content match user intent? Does it match the search query the best way possible? Where is content placed on the page and how quickly does it become stable will all be very important for success once this update is rolled out.”


The Google update is coming and it will impact every website, either positively or negatively. What you do in the coming weeks will be important for how your website performs when the update fully rolls out, although you may see indicators earlier on. 

If you need help preparing your website or search engine optimisation, Localsearch can help. Book in your free website audit and get ready for May.

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