seo / website design

Google’s Mobile Page Speed Update – Now an official ranking factor for mobile searches

User experience (UX) has always been at the top of the priority list for Google, and mobile page speed is the next big thing to accomplish it.

Just last week (January 17th, 2018), Google announced that starting in July 2018, page speed will now stand as an official ranking factor for mobile searches. As an agency that offers SEO services for WordPress sites, we believe it has been a factor for over a year based on the data and ranking changes we have seen. Now we have confirmation that page speed is going to be crucial as we have been advising.

Slow and steady will fall far behind

The new page speed solution, or the “Speed Update” as Google knows it, will only affect a small percentage of queries and websites that deliver the poorest user experience. So if you don’t take anything else away from this blog note that if your website is not mobile friendly and takes longer than 3 seconds to load, you have until July to get on top of it all.

Did you know that 53% of people will leave a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load? (@Google) Click To Tweet

Google says

“It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

This comment from Google makes it clear that content is STILL very much king. Which means just building a mobile site that is fast will also not cut the mustard. There are no shortcuts. The content on the site must also be relevant, valuable to your readers and produce regularly!

What happens next?

“Speed Update” is aimed at mobile page speed and only mobile. Why? Because mobile internet usage is on the rise and for most websites is either the highest or second highest source of traffic.  

As of February 2017, mobile devices accounted for 49% of web page views worldwide,(*) and even overtook desktop in October 2016. According to Statcounter, 51% of pages were loaded on mobile devices in October, the first time they have surpassed computers.It looks like mobile is starting to take over and we are not surprised. It is the only internet enabled device that we have with us within arms reach (almost) 24/7. The future is mobile. The future is here. And search engines are making sure your website can deliver a positive experience to its users by implementing these mobile-specific ranking factors.

What is a reasonable page speed?

If you have done the speed test, and your website takes longer than 8 seconds to load, you are not alone. In a study carried out by Google in 2017, it shows that on average the loading time for mobile sites across 11 industries in European countries is  9.124s while best practice is to aim for anything under 3s [source]

So what does that mean? Simply, by working on your mobile site page speed now, you will be getting ahead of the game. This will allow you to improve your mobile offering and climb the rankings before your competitors get their act together, which they could be doing right now.

@Akamai research shows that a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Click To Tweet

Poor page speed impacts other algorithms

Like all SEO elements, algorithms never work on their own. They are all interlinked, and often a poor score in one can lead to a domino effect in others. Here is an example of what we mean:

‘Slow loading sites frustrate users and negatively impact publishers. In our new study, “The Need for Mobile Speed”, we found that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load.’ [source]

Slow loading page speed increases bounce rate. Depending on which keywords these visitors came on, the higher the bounce rate, the lower you will rank for these keywords.

Google has helpfully put together a graphic illustrating the impact a second or two can have on bounce rate.

What can you do to increase mobile page speed?

Google’s PageSpeed Insights implement a useful tool that will tell you the speed of your landing pages and will then give feasible tips on how to fix any speed issues.

But the top tips to increase your mobile sites page speed are:

  1. Make sure your sites have responsive design with easy navigation of mobile users
  2. Your images are compressed, flash is removed for animations and get rid of pop-ups
  3. Remove some of the content and images for your mobile users so that they can convert quicker
  4. Ensure your SEO includes an element of optimising for voice search

There is a lot to consider and get done if your website is not geared towards mobile users. The key is to look at what you need to do and make a plan so that you can test your mobile design and tweak it before July comes around.

Unaware of how your website is performing? We offer free SEO Audits which provide an insight into just how well your site is performing. We also mention how important it is to make sure that your website host is running the most up to date PHP version as required by your CMS in our previous blog: ‘ How to Get People to Engage With your Website.’


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