Every so often, Google will make a subtle or not-so-subtle change in its search algorithm, the sort of thing that not only changes what results come up, but can seriously disrupt the business models of media companies and other web-facing businesses.
Now, it appears, Google is planning another such shift-one that hopes to emphasize user-friendliness. We won’t be seeing the changes roll out, however, until 2021.
According to the post published at the end of May on the Google Webmasters blog, titled "Evaluating page experience for a better web," the company is planning a "Search Ranking Change" for its core search product, which will incorporate the recently announced Core Web Vitals, which Google describes as "a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability, to help site owners measure user experience on the web."
The changes, however, will not happen until next year, and six months' notice will be provided before they roll out, the company said, in part due to the various aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. Google, the post said, is providing the tools now to get website owners and developers started.
The updated Google, whenever it arrives, will emphasize "Page Experience," based on the Core Web Vitals. These include Loading, Interactivity and Visual Stability, as well as mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and "no intrusive interstitials." So perhaps Google's changes will discourage websites from overly cluttering themselves.
The company also promised that "we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar."
The other big announcement from the post is that Google will no longer require AMP to be included in the "Top Stories" experience. This does not mean, however, that Google will stop supporting AMP, nor will publishers who currently use AMP see any changes.
"Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile," the post continued. "We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.