What does Google’s “Speed Update” Mean for Mobile Search Ranking?

To be precise and clear, there is no ranking boost for being fast, just a downgrade for being really slow.In the recent announcement made by Google, the search engine giant is going to make significant changes in “how it ranks websites for mobile searches.” From July 2018 onwards, Google will take into consideration “page speed” in ranking the website for mobile searches. The change has been referred to as the “Speed Update” by Google and it will downrank very slow websites under certain conditions. However, given that Google processes around 3.5 billion search queries per day, a “small percentage” can still amount to a lot of websites. In the recent past, Google has been increasingly prioritizing page speed.

top-rated digital marketing agency        Pic Credit: Search Engine Roundtable

As per the notification issued by Google, the update will only affect pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users” and it will only affect a small percentage of queries. In other words, the new criteria will be designed to weed out slow sites, rather than rewarding fast sites. However, this speed update is not at all related to whether the site contains the same info as the desktop,
nor is it related to any requirements surrounding AMP usage. Instead, it’s about the page performance in general, with the goal of offering mobile users a better overall experience while they are searching through their mobile.

This is not for the first time that page speed has been given the importance to enhance the mobile user experience. Earlier it has been the case for some time on desktop searches. It’s just never been explicitly taken into consideration for those same searches on mobile. Google in its initiatives such as Accelerated Mobile Pages and Progressive Web Apps have aimed to provide the site owners with the tools that can make their websites fast and streamlined on mobile.

Pondering Whether You Will Get Affected or Not? Know Yourself

According to a research conducted by Google in the year 2017, 70% of pages take 7 seconds for the visual content above the fold to load on mobile devices. As a mobile device user, you likely know, intuitively, that 7 seconds is a long time. If a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load, then it’s a big problem!

Needless to say, the average mobile page is not meeting users’ expectations. This is true with websites in almost all verticals. But if your website features a highly relevant piece of content, there still lies the chance of achieving top rankings – even if it loads slower than average. Because relevancy plays the vital role!

Again the question that pops up is “Will my site be affected”? The simplest answer is “probably not,” since only the worst-offending sites are going to face the negative ranking factor. But at the same, such sorts of mobile-focused changes to Google search are critical for the company, in a way that the majority of Google users today search the web via mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet.

Google’s “Speed Update” Timeline

  • In 2009, first Page Speed was announced: It was a free tool to check your website against best practices for basic performance. Presently, it is known as Page Speed Insights (PSI).
  • Since April 2010, Google has been using page speed as a ranking factor on the desktop. But having a fast mobile site has always made the companies outshine when it came to ranking well in search. Mobile ranking has never been an official ranking factor in Google’s algorithm until now.
  • In 2014, Google Bots became more similar to your real visitors, by being able to execute JavaScript.
  • The year 2015 ended with Google introducing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project. It was expected that Google would start promoting AMP in the search results from 2016.
    • In fact, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches back in 2015, and mobile has continued to grow in the years since. This clearly indicates that mobile has been more important than desktop for several years now, and it’s time for the search index
      itself to reflect that.
  • As far back as June 2016, Google webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes confirmed that the next mobile algorithm update from Google would use page speed as a ranking factor.

AMP and Speed Update

AMP is Accelerated Mobile Pages. They are basically set of protocols which can be used to restructure your site, thus enabling it to load easily and viewed on a mobile device. No…No… do not confuse it with making your site “optimized for mobile devices.” It is an altogether new and different concept. Mobile-optimized pages are loadable and viewable in mobile devices, but AMPs are designed to load much faster, providing users with instantly available content.

In accordance with the “Speed Update,” AMP will offer you a couple distinct benefits: Customers will be able to access the content faster, and visitors will purchase and go through the checkout process without facing any hiccups. Last but not the least, Google will not downmarket your website.

As the mobile traffic is rapidly increasing with each passing day, demand for fast-loading mobile pages is going to keep increasing. That is why AMP is fast becoming a new standard for web content and SEO. Overall, AMPs are an effective way to increase your search visibility, give your visitors a better impression of your brand, and secure more conversions from overall traffic.

Are You Ready For The Change? If Not, Here How To Prepare Your Website For Speed Update

Although the “Speed Update” announcement does not provide a deep insight about how website owners should improve their sites in order to rank well on Google, however, you can adopt these strategies or ask one of the top-rated digital marketing agencies to help you improve your site’s speed and performance:

  • Activate AMP on Your Pages – Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project (AMP) promises fast, beautiful, high performance across all devices and distribution platforms. Built with AMP HTML, AMP JavaScript and AMP cache, it promises higher performance and engagement thus giving the user a smoother, friction-free mobile experience.
  • Make Your Site Mobile Optimized – The most important thing is to make your site fully optimized for all platforms and mobile devices. Use a responsive design, and ensure that all your content loads quickly and efficiently on mobile devices.
  • Streamline On-Page Components – For every component present on your site, from images to stylesheets to scripts, there will be an HTTP request. Make a note: the more the requests, the longer it takes for your site to load. Therefore, streamline these components as much as possible to reduce the number of necessary requests.
  • Cut Unnecessary File and Reduce the Size of Image and Videos – Images and video are the heaviest file types you’ll have on your site, so try to minimize them without sacrificing the quality. If there are unnecessary files on your site or on the backend, eliminate them. The efficient the website, the faster it will upload.

The Google’s “Speed Update” will not spark an SEO revolution, but it will surely improve mobile user experience. This update will definitely affect the worst performing websites. But this is a good as well as a golden opportunity to go through your site’s loading speed on mobile devices, analyze your key user experience metrics and make tweaks to improve its performance over the mobile devices. This is the right time when you should engage a top-rated digital marketing agency to help you optimize your website performance so that it is not get affected after Google’s Speed Update is launched in July 2018.

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