Recently, Google launched its Speed Update, which was announced back in January. Now mobile search ranking will consider loading speed of the mobile pages. Let's try to figure out what this update will affect.
Reasons and assumptions
As you know, mobile Internet has been developing rapidly in recent years. For example, the Internet traffic from mobile devices started to overtake desktop traffic for the first time in 2016. Google, always trying to keep up with the times, has prepared several "answers" to this development: Mobile-First Index, and active support for AMP and PWA technologies. The next stepinuser experience improvement for mobile device owners is Speed Update.
Importance of loading speed of pages is confirmed by numerous researches in the Internet marketing field. In a study by Google, a delay of 0.5 seconds before ad loading resulted in a 25% decrease in the number of views. Amazon showed that every 0.1 seconds of loading delay cost them 1% of potential sales, and Walmart say that page acceleration by 1 sec leads to an increase in conversion by 2%.
The essence of the update
Page loading speed is used by Google as a ranking factor for a rather long time. However, it is important to clarify here: previously, only the loading time of the desktop pages was considered, regardless of the device that user came from - a computer or a phone. In other words, it was not important for Google how quickly your mobile site is loading: the main thing was to have a sufficiently optimized desktop version of the resource. Now, if your mobile pages are too slow, this will negatively affect their positions in search.
Details of the update’s work
Soon after the announcement of Speed Update, Search Engine Land editors asked Google some questions that help to understand better, how the update will work. Here are the main answers.
- For ranking on PC, the loading speed of desktop pages will continue to be used. Nothing will change here. The launch of Mobile-First indexing, when the mobile index will become the main index for the site, also will not affect it. Google say that they want to create the best experience for all users, regardless of the device they use.
- The update will only affect a small percentage of queries (the company does not specify it), and only the slowest pages. In addition, we should remember that loading speed is only one of many ranking factors. If the page contains quality and relevant content, it can still be ranked high, despite its low speed.
- Speed Update is a fully algorithmic filter. It means that Search Console will not give any alerts about the site hit by this algorithm, as well as no other tools can allow you to see it.
- The company does not disclose full information about which data is used by Speed Update, but it is very likely that they include information from the Chrome User Experience Report. It is known that the data of this report is used in the PageSpeed Insights tool, which Google recommends to use to check out the speed of pages. Therefore, perhaps, you should accelerate your site not only for the search robot, as the search engine has access to the data on the interaction of real users with your resource.
- If the site uses AMP technology, its mobile ranking will be affected by the loading speed of the AMP pages, because the user will see them.
During the regular Google Webmasters hangout, the Google employee John Mueller also told more detail about the work of the update. According to him, the new algorithm will not just look for the slowest pages and lower them in SERP, as it did with desktop versions earlier. It will work by the principle of scale, rather than defining extreme values. Therefore, even a slight increase in speed for a slow site can lead to an increase in its positions.
Mueller also made an important refinement later in his Twitter account, saying that the update will not affect fast sites: if the download speed of your pages is within reasonable limits, then their acceleration will not lead to an improvement of positions.
How to prepare your site for Speed Update?
By the recommendations of Google, the best option is to use PageSpeed Insights to check the loading speed of your pages, as well as to get detailed recommendations for improving it. Instructions from PageSpeed Insights may be unclear to those who have never worked with sites, but for professionals it gives an excellent guide to action. By the way, this tool received an update at the beginning of this year: now it uses real-time data from Chrome User Experience Report about the interaction of users with sites.
Unfortunately, PageSpeed Insights tool shows data from Chrome User Experience Report not for all sites, but only for those whose data is in its databases. However, the information provided in standard PageSpeed Insights reports will be sufficient in most cases to optimize and speed up your site.
Google also recommends using data from Lighthouse tool, which is the part of Chrome DevTools. However, some third-party tools, such as GTmetrix, also proved to be good, and allow you to estimate the loading speed objectively.
When analyzing the time of your site’s loading, take into account such basic metrics as Time to First Byte (TTFB), draw time (DOMready) and the full loading time (onload). These values are quite different, therefore, comparing the speed of different sites, consider what parameters were measured for them, in order not to confuse anything. By the way, as for TTFB, Google previously claimed that this metric is not a ranking factor.
Google does not give exact information about what loading speed is acceptable and where the "threshold" begins, after which the site will be lowered in SERP. However, even if your pages load quickly enough, but you have an opportunity to speed them up even more, then do not neglect it: as we already mentioned above, site’s performance is important not only for Google, but also for improving user experience and increasing conversion.