Google has a long standing tradition of encouraging a better web by updating its algorithms to benefit sites that offer a positive user experience (UX) and penalize those that don’t. As Google Webmaster Matt Cutts explains, “we try to help people make the web a better experience, so people will be on the web longer, and people will be happier … for example, we never show popup ads on Google. Even though it might have meant a little bit more money up front, because we also knew it would also annoy users and make them less likely to come back.”
Here are a few examples of Google algorithm updates that have focused on making the web a better place:
In August 2010 Google introduced the site speed ranking signal and “encouraged [site owners] to start looking at site speed — not only to improve ranking in search engines, but also to improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.”
Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs.
In 2018, Google doubled down on site speed with “Speed Update”, making page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches—which are now the primary source of site rank.
People want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible — studies show that people really care about the speed of a page. … We encourage developers to think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics.
In May 2014 Google’s PageSpeed Insights was updated to offer suggestions for improving user experience.
Poor usability can diminish the benefits of a fast page load.
In July 2014 Google began displaying search result indicators for pages that used unsupported technology (i.e. Flash).
A common annoyance for web users is when websites require browser technologies that are not supported by their device.
In August 2014 Google began using HTTPS as a ranking signal, and in December 2015 Google began crawling and indexing HTTPS pages by default, even for HTTPS URLs that were not linked elsewhere.
At Google, user security has always been a top priority. Over the years, we’ve worked hard to promote a more secure web and to provide a better browsing experience for users. …we started giving a slight ranking boost to HTTPS URLs in search results last year. Browsing the web should be a private experience between the user and the website, and must not be subject to eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, or data modification. This is why we’ve been strongly promoting HTTPS everywhere.
We’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.
The desktop version of a site might be difficult to view and use on a mobile device. The version that’s not mobile-friendly requires the user to pinch or zoom in order to read the content. Users find this a frustrating experience and are likely to abandon the site. Alternatively, the mobile-friendly version is readable and immediately usable.
In November 2016 Google [announced that a new “mobile index” would become the primary source of site rank], further benefiting sites with a well optimized mobile experience.
Today, most people are searching on Google using a mobile device. … To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. … Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.
In March 2015 Google announced a ranking adjustment to better address doorway pages – sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries – as part of a continual effort by Google’s Search Quality team to “minimize the impact of webspam on users.”
[I]f a user clicks on one result, doesn’t like it, and then tries the next result in the search results page and is taken to that same site that they didn’t like, that’s a really frustrating experience.
App Pop Overs
In September 2015 Google announced a change to their mobile-friendly algorithms to exclude web pages that show an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content.
Sometimes a user may tap on a search result on a mobile device and see an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content and prompts the user to install an app. Our analysis shows that it is not a good search experience and can be frustrating for users because they are expecting to see the content of the web page.
[A] full page interstitial can interrupt the user from reaching their desired content. …Our analysis found that 69% of the visits abandoned [on our interstitial] page. …Based on these results, we decided to permanently retire the interstitial …and we are sharing this with the hope that you will reconsider the use of promotional interstitials. Let’s remove friction and make the mobile web more useful and usable!
In August 2016 Google announced a search penalty for pages where content is not easily accessible to a user due to “intrusive interstitials”.
[C]ontent may be visually obscured by an interstitial. This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting…
Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.