Google recently announced a major upcoming change to their ranking algorithm. The blog post was titled “using page speed in mobile search ranking.” Google stated that starting from July 2018, page speed will become a ranking factor for mobile sites.
This algorithm update is named “Speed Update” and will affect only the pages that provide the slowest experience to the user. Google says that the update will affect only a tiny percentage of queries. But given the fact that Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day, this small percentage can result in a lot of websites.
Here is how this update will affect mobile search engine optimization.
Page speed is used as a ranking factor for desktop search from 2010.
In fact, page speed is still not a ranking factor when ranking mobile sites. But mobile sites that load faster are always ranked on the top positions on Google. Gary Illyes – Google webmaster trends analyst – stated in June 2016 that Google would use page speed as the next mobile ranking factor.
On the other hand, Google has already been advising webmasters to improve their web page loading times to provide a better user experience to the visitor.
In fact, Google tools such as Progressive Web Apps and Accelerated Mobile Pages have been helping site owners to make their web pages faster and more streamlined on mobile devices.
The Speed Update doesn’t seem to give any important information on how to improve the page speed of a mobile website. But there are a few important things that you need to consider in this regard.
Here are some things that you need to know:
- Speed Update is going to affect mobile pages that deliver the slowest experience to their users. But Google hasn’t still given a benchmark by which the webmaster can know whether his or her website falls into this category.
- The update applies irrespective of the technology that you use to build the website. The update will apply to AMP websites too. In fact, even if an AMP website delivers a slow experience to its user for whatever reason, this update will apply to such a website too.
- Content relevancy will still outrank speed. In fact, a slow web page may still rank higher if it has strong and relevant content. That means you should be focusing on high-quality content in order to rank your site higher in the search engine results pages even if your site is a bit slow in loading.
- Google also wants their webmasters to think in broad terms how the performance of a web page affects the user experience. Hence, the webmaster should consider a wide variety of user experience metrics when ranking their sites on Google.
- Currently, there is no tool that can tell the webmaster whether his/her site will be affected by this update. But Google recommends using PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse or Chrome User Experience Report to check the page’s performance.
Google is looking for an overall mobile user experience with its latest algorithm update and not only speed.
In fact, Google spelled this out correctly in a Q&A session with Search Engine Land – where they stated that the intent of the signal is to improve the overall user experience on mobile search.
Any site owner who wants to rank his/her website higher on Google needs to pay attention to more than just page load time. This is further highlighted by Google’s recommendation of using the Chrome User Experience Report as a tool to evaluate the performance of your web page.
Improvements to page speed will also improve the overall user-experience on mobile search.
For example, audio and video that is set to automatically play are annoying to the user. It will also slow your website down by loading unwanted content – which means the webmaster is killing two birds with one stone.
The webmaster can also disable annoying full-page pop-ups and implement a minimalist design to improve the speed of the website. Overall, a mobile site should allow the user to do what they came to do without being bogged down by excessive whistles and bells.
If you can design your site in such a way, you can easily stay on the right side of the Speed Update algorithm.