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When you want to make your brand as visible as possible, staying on top of the latest search engine optimization (SEO) strategies is essential. Google’s January 2018 announcement regarding updates to ranking for page speed could have a major impact on websites in every industry. Find out what Google’s page speed update entails, how it could affect your website, and what changes you should make now.
Why Mobile Page Speed Matters
Image via Flickr by Japanexperterna.se
For years, research has indicated that page speed is important in searches. No matter what they’re searching for, people want fast results, readily available information, and instant answers. If they have to wait for a page to load or if they experience an unexpected delay, people tend to move on to the next result.
Despite the importance of page speed, in the past, Google has only used it as a factor when ranking results for desktop searches. In the future, the search engine giant will also consider page speed when ranking results for mobile searches. That’s why this new algorithm change, known as the Speed Update, will only target mobile searches.
Mobile page speed matters more now than ever because even though it continues to increase over time, mobile sites still take an average of 15 seconds to load. Since Google estimates that over half of mobile site visitors abandon a page when it takes more than three seconds to load, brands may be losing out on substantial potential revenue. After all, even though mobile users generate the majority of web traffic, desktop conversion rates still outnumber those from mobile users. That means this algorithm update could increase page speeds while boosting revenue.
How This Update Could Penalize Your Site
Like most major Google algorithm updates, this new one regarding mobile page speed won’t take effect immediately. Google announced the update on January 17, 2018 and indicated that SERPs would begin reflecting the algorithm change in June 2018. When it takes effect, Google’s Speed Update will reward sites that load quickly while penalizing sites that load slowly. If your site takes more than a few seconds to load for mobile visitors, the slow speed could potentially affect your high search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
While marketers may find this update alarming, it’s important to keep the news in perspective. Google has indicated that the Speed Update will affect a relatively small percentage of searches, and only pages with the slowest load times will experience the full impact of the update. Since page speed will be one of many factors that determine a page’s rank, taking steps to improve speed while following standard best practices for SEO will continue to help pages maintain high ranks and increase visibility.
Tips for Increasing Mobile Page Speed
Since the Speed Update doesn’t take effect until June 2018, you still have time to make any necessary changes to your site. Try a few strategies for testing and increasing the speed of your mobile site.
Tap Into Your Speed Scorecard
To assess how your site compares to your competitors, use Google’s Speed Scorecard. Enter your domain, and Google will estimate the page speed for mobile users. Then enter your competitors’ domains to learn how you compare. If your page speed is significantly slower than your closest competitors, you may want to prioritize speeding up your site.
Check the Impact Calculator
To get a more accurate picture of how much your page speed impacts your bottom line, take a look at Google’s Impact Calculator, a tool that helps you estimate how much revenue you could gain by improving page speed. Input your URL and site speed or carry it over from the Speed Scorecard, and then enter your site’s typical monthly visitor count, the average order amount, and your site’s conversion rate. You’ll instantly be able to see how improving page speed by various amounts of time could increase your revenue.
Do a Site Crawl Analysis
If you aren’t sure where to start with speeding up your pages, a site crawl analysis is one of the most effective ways to gain insight into site performance. When you do this type of analysis, you’ll use an automated tool that can recognize server redirects that slow down your site speed, duplicate content that penalizes your site, URL and title tag errors that compromise page rank, and unnecessarily large images that reduce page speed.
Once you have the results of a site crawl analysis, you’ll have a to-do list that can help you increase speed and improve SEO. In many cases, removing unnecessary code, optimizing images for mobile, enabling compression, and reducing multiple redirects offer significant boosts to your page speed.
Delve Into PageSpeed Insights
You can also get an advanced look at your site’s mobile performance by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Simply enter your domain, and you’ll find out how your site ranks for both optimization and speed. You’ll also be able to assess first contentful paint (FCP) and document object model content loaded (DCL) metrics, which can help you understand how your page ranks.
This tool also tells you whether your domain ranks in the top, middle, or bottom third of sites for mobile users. If your domain ranks in the bottom third for page speed, it may experience a substantial impact from the Speed Update. That may mean prioritizing speed-related improvements could pay off in a big way.
Audit Your Site With Lighthouse
For even more high-level insight into site performance, consider using Google’s Lighthouse. To run Lighthouse, open Chrome DevTools or install the Chrome extension and perform an audit on each page of your site.
You’ll find out how each page ranks in terms of performance, accessibility, and SEO best practices. Although you’ll need to set aside some time to run this tool on each individual page, you can gain insight into major problems quickly by running the tool on your homepage and the most-viewed pages on your site and then making a list of issues to address.
Don’t let the Speed Update catch you off guard. Test and upgrade your site now to improve your site rank, capture search traffic, and even increase your conversion rate.