WTH Google, is Pagespeed a SEO ranking factor or not?! (Spoiler: yes, it is, but not a ranking system..)

Summary: Last week, Google published an update wherein they announced their plan to remove page speed, SSL certificates, mobile experience, and more from their ranking systems. Everyone got totally confused. Is CWV not a ranking factor? Then later that week, they updated their story again. What's been happening, and should you care?

  • by Erwin Hofman
  • Published
  • Reading time ± 2 minutes
  • Core Web Vitals SEO
WTH Google, is Pagespeed a SEO ranking factor or not?! (Spoiler: yes, it is, but not a ranking system..)

The Confusion Surrounding Google's Page Experience Update

On April 19th, 2023, Google unveiled new insights about what defines a good page experience, while also signaling the phase-out of their PageSpeed Signals page. This announcement led to widespread confusion, with many people questioning the relevance of PageSpeed and Core Web Vitals (CWV) for SEO.

End of pagespeed as a ranking factor?

Our inbox and LinkedIn were flooded with inquiries about whether PageSpeed no longer mattered for SEO and if CWV was a lie all along. This confusion also sparked numerous blogs, LinkedIn posts, and tweets celebrating the end of PageSpeed as a ranking factor.

Google's Attempt to Clear the Air

Later that week, Google felt the need to address this widespread misunderstanding. In a tweet to clear the air, they explained that page experience is indeed a factor in determining the quality and ranking of a website. However, it is not a ranking system on its own, but rather a part of the whole algorithm. In other words, page experience is more holistic. If you want to explore the entire story, we recommend you read this page and this tweet.

Brief summary: it's a ranking factor, not a ranking system

For those seeking a brief summary, here's what Google said:

"Our first classification (red: page experience is a ranking system) led to a misclassification, so we have now reclassified the original misclassification to try to classify it correctly (red: into a ranking factor) and stop any more confusion."

The tweet also emphasized that page experience is still relevant, and people should not ignore aspects like Core Web Vitals or being mobile-friendly. The main takeaway from their explanation is that Google's core ranking systems aim to reward content that provides a good page experience.

RUMvision's View on the Page Experience Confusion Irony

At RUMvision, we find it ironic that Google, in explaining the importance of page experience and Core Web Vitals in their first blog post, unintentionally caused great confusion about the importance of page experience and Core Web Vitals for SEO. They created more confusion by discontinuing the pagespeed experience system rather than clearing things up. But we're glad they cleared things up later!

Despite the confusion, this update actually doesn't change our long-held beliefs about the importance of page experience optimization. We have always advocated for the following two principles:

1. Don't optimize your Core Web Vitals solely for Google SEO rankings.

While CWV is a factor in rankings, it's one of many and usually won't make a substantial difference unless you and your competitor offer similar page value. In such cases, Google might favor the website with better Core Web Vitals.

2. Optimize your Core Web Vitals to enhance user experience.

Focus on improving CWV to provide an exceptional experience for your users, which can lead to increased loyalty, reduced frustration, and ultimately, higher conversion rates and revenue. To learn more about the real benefits of optimizing Core Web Vitals, read our blog post: The Benefits of Optimizing Core Web Vitals

Conclusion: nothing changed regarding Google's SEO algorithm

In conclusion, while the recent confusion surrounding Google's page experience update may have caused some chaos, the key takeaway remains the same: focus on optimizing your Core Web Vitals to deliver the best possible user experience, and the SEO benefits will follow. It's important to remember that this update didn't change anything about the search algorithm Google uses. So, let's all take a deep breath, and move along!

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