Slow websites are lame, and Google knows it.
The search engine giant recently announced a new ranking algorithm, which is a significant change in how the search engine ranks sites for mobile searches. To be more precise, it will now consider page speed as one of its signals.
Google calls this the “Speed Update.”
Set to start in July this year, the Speed Update will only affect the slowest websites. That is, unless the page has a high relevance in relation to the query, so much so that not including it on the listings would be a great disservice to searchers.
Mobile, AMP, It Doesn’t Matter
The Speed Update applies the same standard to all pages, no matter what technology or platform you use to build that page. If you use accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for your entire website, you don’t have to worry too much, unless your AMPs are loading slowly for some reason.
If you use a combination of mobile and AMP (e.g. AMP for informational pages and mobile for transactional pages), then Google will determine site speed based on the page that appears in the search results.
The Impact on Search—Particularly Mobile Search
The Speed Update is not a new concept. The search engine giant has done this on the desktop for years now, but this is the first time Google will be applying it to mobile.
While the update will have an impact on only a small percent of queries, given the sheer volume of searches that happen daily, it could have a considerable impact on search—particularly mobile search. Load time is important on mobile. The user, after all, is always on the go and hates waiting too long for web pages to load. Mobile users also have a limited bandwidth.
What Businesses Can Do
Because the update goes live in July 2018, webmasters and businesses still have time to prepare—but other than hiring digital experts well-versed in mobile search engine optimization (SEO) and local SEO services, how should they get ready for the change?
Business owners and their developers must gauge their website’s performance. Tools like Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and the Chrome User Experience Report could help.
Next is to make sure your server transmits the first byte of resources within 200 milliseconds of a request. There are many ways to do this:
- Enhance the quality of your web hosting service
- Reduce the resources your web pages require
- Improve your web server software or configuration
Minimize your HTTP requests, as well, by decreasing your on-page components. Simplify your design, use CSS rather than images whenever you can, and reduce the scripts and put them at the bottom of the page.
In addition, content is still king, so prioritize churning out great content. In a post, Google says query intent is still a strong signal. That means a slow-loading page may still achieve high rankings if it has relevant, high-quality content.
The goal of Google is to make sure users can do what they came to your website to do, without being delayed by unnecessary bells and whistles. If you make that your goal, too, you should be able to stay on the Speed Update algorithm’s good side.