On Wednesday January 17th Google announced that it would be updating its mobile search algorithm to punish slow loading pages. The “Speed update” as Google is calling it, is due to launch in July 2018, whereby page speed will now be a direct factor in determining how highly a webpage ranks on Google.
Google has confirmed that this update should only effect a small percentage of queries, and that it will still use a multitude of other factors when determining which pages to serve to its users. Therefore, we will still see slow loading pages rank well for terms when they have high quality relevant content, but expect to see a traffic decrease when a competitor with a similar page and a faster load time emerges.
Previously, page speed has only been used as a ranking factor on desktop, and it hasn’t been an official mobile ranking factor until now. It is no new news that slow page load times have a negative effect on user experience, but as Google inevitably crack down on poor quality websites, we will be seeing webmasters and site owners scrambling to make sure that they are not affected by the latest upcoming update.
What does this mean for me?
If you think that your site that may be effected by slow page loads then there is still more than enough time to prepare for the latest update. Google have confirmed there will be no official notifications to webmasters that their webpages have been effected by the update, therefore people will have to keep a close eye on their traffic to assess if their website has been effected.
Here’s 5 ways you can prepare:
1. Ensure that your website is optimised for mobile. You can test if your website is mobile friendly with the Google tool mobile friendly test. If your website is not mobile friendly then it will not receive a large amount of mobile traffic.
2. Use Google Analytics to identify the slowest loading pages on your website. Using the Behaviour section of analytics, you can identify how quickly your webpages are loading and compare them to your average page load time across the site.
Google Analytics: Behaviour > Site Speed > Page Timings (Below shows the top 6 pages of a website and the average Page Load time for the site as a whole)
3. If you have not implemented Google Analytics on your website you can use the Google Page Speed Insights tool to check the speed of individual pages. The tool will also offer suggestions and optimisations on how to improve the page load time.
4. Monitor your site in July to assess whether any pages have seen a sharp decrease in mobile visits – this will be a strong indicator that the page has been effected by the update.
5. Make sure that your web pages contain high quality content for your users, and optimise the content to rank for key search terms. Google is still focusing on user experience, and even with the latest announcement, getting the basics right is just as important as it always have been.
If you think that your website will be affected by the latest round of updates and would like help, please get in contact with us through email at firstname.lastname@example.org