16 Mar The Need for Speed: How Google’s Speed Update Will Impact Your Website’s SEO
Has this ever happened to you?
You’re out running errands. At the store, you discover a product you haven’t seen before, but it looks really cool and you’re interested in learning more information before purchasing. You quickly google the brand, and the product’s website is the first result in google search. Awesome!
You click on the site, and the loading bar starts progressing very slowly. Is it loading at all? You wait for what feels like an eternity. Finally, you are frustrated and mutter under your breath, “forget it.” You walk away, no longer interested, and that company has just lost a sale and a potential customer.
How is the speed on the mobile version of your website?
When we examine the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), keywords are one of the main talking points (and rightly so). However, there are also several less-obvious factors that determine the ranking of a site, from the way a website is developed to how long it takes to load.
To that effect, Google Webmasters has issued an official announcement that page speed will become a ranking factor for mobile searches beginning in July 2018.
While page speed is currently a ranking factor for desktop searches, 2018 will be the year that cements web page speed as incredibly important across all platforms.
In this blog post from Google’s research team, the author specifically recommends speed on mobile pages based on recent studies. “Today, it’s critical that marketers design fast web experiences across all industry sectors. People want to … get rapid results. … If there’s too much friction, they’ll abandon the site and move on.”
According to a new analysis, the average mobile site takes approximately fifteen seconds to load. Compare the 15-second average to this study that shows 53% of mobile users leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
Our data shows that while more than half of overall web traffic comes from mobile, mobile conversion rates are lower than desktop. In short, speed equals revenue.
“No matter what, faster is better and less is more.”
In the words of Google itself, “When it comes to mobile pages, speed and size matter. Marketers must keep people engaged on mobile and focus on building mobile-first experiences.”
Here are a few recommended best practices to keep in mind in order to optimize mobile pages for speed:
- Compress images and text. This is the fastest way to start eliminating excess bytes.
- Keep average speed index (how fast the mobile page displays content to users) to under 3 seconds.
- Minimize average request count (number of individual pieces of content needed to display entire mobile page) to fewer than 50.
The July 2018 update will be known as the “Speed Update.” The Speed Update will apply the same guideline to all web pages, regardless of the technology used to build the site (e.g., a custom-built site will be ranked with the same standard as a WordPress site).
Content is still a strong ranking signal, so a slow page may yet hold on to a high rank if it contains great, relevant content. However, Google is encouraging developers to think big-picture in regard to websites and digital marketing. They want developers to consider how performance affects the user experience, “and consider a variety of user experience metrics.”
Google generally holds their cards close to their chest when it comes to revealing exact metrics that determine their search engine rankings. They DO mention there is not a single, one tool that will directly indicate whether a page is affected by their new ranking factor or not.
However, they do recommend the following resources on their blog to help digital marketers get started on optimizing their web pages:
- Chrome User Experience Report is a public dataset of key user experience metrics for popular destinations on the web, as experienced by Chrome users under real-world conditions.
- Lighthouse is an automated tool and a part of Chrome Developer Tools for auditing the quality (performance, accessibility, and more) of web pages.
- PageSpeed Insights is a tool that indicates how well a page performs on the Chrome UX Report and suggests performance optimizations.
There has never been a better time to optimize your website for speed on both desktop and mobile. Regardless of your website’s search engine rankings in the past, you can resolve your speed issues now to ensure you and your company are ready for the “Speed Update” happening in July.
If any of the above information seems intimidating, or you aren’t sure whether or not your web page is up to snuff on mobile or desktop, contact us. We specialize in search engine optimization, and are more than happy to help you at any point of your project.