Website loading speeds on mobile devices will now be used as ranking factors in Google search results. Here's how to take action and protect your ranking.
Earlier this year, Google announced a big change to the way they factor search rankings. For the first time, website loading speeds on mobile devices will be used as ranking factors in search results.
Of course, anytime the Google wizards announce an algorithm update, search professionals like myself scramble to learn all the ins-and-outs so we can preserve our clients’ hard-earned search real estate. While the so-called “speed update” isn’t as earth-shattering as previous Google changes, you should be aware of ramifications that could begin July 2018, and be ready to take appropriate action if you value your Google ranking.
What is the speed update and what does it mean for businesses?
Site speed has always been a Google ranking factor, because Google knows web users will quickly abandon a page if it takes too long to load. So what’s new about this speed update? Previously, site speed was based only on a site’s desktop version. With this update, speed will now be a ranking factor for your mobile site as well. This means that mobile sites delivering slower load times may see a decrease in mobile organic rankings on Google.
While this may not sound like a big deal, remember that more than half of all search traffic occurs on mobile devices and consumers are increasingly making major purchases from their phones and tablets. So even if you don’t see major traffic from mobile yet, you will soon.
It’s also possible that this change won’t end with mobile organic rankings. Google could roll this same methodology out to Google AdWords mobile ads at some point in the future. This would mean that a slow mobile site may hurt your quality score, and you’ll have a harder time getting your ads to rank at the same cost. Therefore, if your site relies on Google traffic and AdWords campaigns, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to this update.
How can companies avoid punishment for a slow-loading site?
If companies want to avoid punishment for a slow-loading site, they should first start by testing the existing version of their mobile site. Google’s testmysite tool will scan a mobile site and test it against a standard 3G connection. Then it will grade the site’s loading speed time and provide a report on other factors affecting the test results.
Other methods of improving mobile site speed include removing unnecessary plugins, hiding unnecessary videos or images on mobile, and reducing server response time. Developers can also use Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project, which is an open-source initiative enabling the creation of mobile pages that load nearly instantly across devices and distribution platforms.
If improving a site’s mobile speed isn’t possible before the July update and businesses start seeing organic rankings decrease, they may want to focus on Google AdWords, using mobile-specific ads. However, this may only be buying time, as Google Adwords could follow suit in the future with increased weight on mobile site speed.
It’s important to remember that this latest update will only affect a small percentage of sites and won’t have any effect on current algorithms or rankings for desktops. But, designers and developers should always be thinking mobile-first regardless if you’re B2B or B2C. This update serves as an excellent reminder of that principle.
In my day-to-day work with Logical Position, I’m often reminded of the old saying, “the only constant is change.” Even minor updates like this speed change require adjusting our methods to ensure we’re continuing to deliver great results for our clients. It’s a method towards success no matter what industry you’re in.