Google on Wednesday announced that page speed will be a rankingfactor for mobile searches, starting in July. Speed already has been a factor indesktop search rankings. Soon, as part of Google’s new “SpeedUpdate,” page loading time will be factored in when rankingmobile search results as well.
The change will affect only pages that deliver the slowest experience to users, according to Google, and thus should affect only a small percentage of searches. Sites that arevery slow will be down-ranked accordingly, but it is not clear whetherextremely fast sites will earn a rankings boost.
The same standards will be applied to all pages, regardlessof the technology that underlies them. Further,a slow page still could rank higher than faster pages ifthe slower page provides content considered more relevant to the specificsearch.
Google called upon the development community to consider how asite’s performance can impact the user’s experience, and ithighlighted a number of user experience metrics for making assessments.
There is no one tool that can predict whether a page will be affected by the change, but there aresome resources that developers can use to test speed, Google noted, including the following:
- The Chrome User Experience Report, a public dataset of key userexperience metrics;
- Lighthouse, an automated tool and part of theChrome Developer tools; and
- PageSpeed Insights, a tool that indicateshow well a page performs on the Chrome UX Report and offersperformance optimizations.
“This a logical conclusion for the Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP)Project that Google launched in 2016,” said Charles King, principalanalyst at Pund-IT.
“The point of that effort was to speed Web browsing processes, anddownload results for mobile device users with a mechanism Googlecreated for predicting what sites a user would visit, and thenpreloading site data into cache,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
“The thing is that it only works on sites that have adopted AMP, so itisn’t what you’d call a universal panacea for mobile browsing or poorbrowsing performance,” King added.
Need for Speed
Ranking mobile sites by speed may be a bit overdue, considering that mobilesearches already have surpassed desktop searches.
“Google has used page speed as a desktop search ranking factor, and itwas long anticipated that it would be a mobile factor,” said GregSterling, vice president of the Local Search Association.
“Google is trying to maintain and grow engagement with mobile search,where its revenue growth is happening,” he told the E-CommerceTimes.
Mobile Search Acceleration
Google likely views this adjustment as a way to ensure that it remains theleader in mobile search, an area it already dominates.
Google accounted for more than 94.4 percent of the mobile search market in theUnited States as of last October, according to a recent Statista study.
For businesses, especially those that rely on mobile search, it maymean that it is time to review the Chrome User Experience Report, andensure that everything is being done to lighten the load on sites.
Still, page loading speed shouldn’t come at the expense of content, cautioned Pund-IT’s King.
“Google says that browsing speed will be just one factor in its searchrankings, and that sites with great information will still rank highlyin mobile searches regardless of their use of AMP technologies,” he pointed out.
“The company also noted that desktop browsing will not be affected bythe new ranking strategy,” King added.
“That said, if companies want to maximize their exposureto opportunities among mobile device users, they would do well toinvestigate and consider adopting AMP, if they haven’t already doneso,” he suggested.
The takeaway is that a well-designed, content rich site that loads quickly is going to rank higher.
“Presenting websites that load quickly and create a better overalluser experience will help reinforce mobile search usage,” said LSA’s Sterling. “It will benefit the consumer and Google both.”