Google has quietly dropped 4 ranking systems, prompting discussions over whether they were ever significant ranking factors in the first place. Before you start to panic, let’s explore in more depth.
Which ranking systems were removed?
In the update to their documented ranking systems, Google removed three ranking systems from the retired systems list and one from the main list. Here’s what was removed:
- Page experience system
- Page speed system
- Mobile-friendliness system
- Secure sites system
Page speed, mobile-friendliness and secure sites had previously been added to the retired list after they were incorporated into the main page experience ranking system. However, the page experience system has now been completely removed from the main documented ranking systems list without being moved to the retired list.
Just a few days before this, Google had made some other decisions to indicate the changing status of page experience. Google removed both the page experience report and the mobile usability report from Google Search Console, while adding page experience to their helpful content guidance.
How does this affect Google’s search ranking algorithms?
With the removal of these ranking systems, Google is very strongly suggesting that page experience alone doesn’t have a lot of weight in its search ranking algorithms.
While page experience is obviously important for usability and user satisfaction, there’s no single page experience factor that Google uses for ranking. Instead, Google looks at a variety of page experience signals to judge the usability and quality of a site.
According to Google, page experience signals such as Core Web Vitals, mobile-friendliness, HTTPS and no intrusive interstitials are not directly used to inform ranking, but “all of these aspects of page experience align with success in search ranking, and are worth attention”. Overall, SEOs are encouraged to use a holistic approach to page experience, incorporating all of these elements to improve usability rather than focusing on numbers or specific signals.
What does this mean for SEO?
In an effort to clear up confusion, Google then clarified what they meant by removing page experience, page speed, mobile friendliness and secure sites as ranking systems. According to Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison, “Taking them off didn’t mean we no longer consider aspects of page experience. It just meant these weren’t ranking *systems* but instead signals used by other systems.”
Our guidance on page experience is here, as we shared last week along with our blog post:https://t.co/My7bdcBhwS
It does *not* say page experience is somehow "retired" or that people should ignore things like Core Web Vitals or being mobile-friendly. The opposite. It says if… pic.twitter.com/KkjRklCmnH
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) April 28, 2023
This means you shouldn’t ignore page experience or Core Web Vitals, as these are still signals that are considered by Google. But, they don’t form their own ranking systems and this update seeks to rectify that.
Was page experience ever meant to be a significant ranking system?
With the removal of page experience from Google’s search ranking systems and its addition to Google’s helpful content guidance, it’s now clear that this factor should be used as part of your efforts to improve user experience on your site rather than as a key system to focus on for SEO.
SEO director Nick Boyle agrees that these page experience factors have never been that influential when it comes to search rankings:
“My stance is that nothing changes. These elements were and still are a small part of the much bigger picture of SEO – and in this case, website usability/user experience. It’s been discussed by SEOs far and wide that these elements didn’t carry much weight (in isolation) as individual ranking factors, so how you go about optimising your website shouldn’t change now (providing you are always pushing for best-in-class!)”.
Indeed, Google has stated that “Google Search always seeks to show the most relevant content, even if the page experience is sub-par.” While improving page experience is always recommended for user satisfaction, your main focus should be on optimising your content if you want to boost rankings.
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