All You Need To Know About Google’s Mobile Speed Update

Access to the Internet both satiates and enhances our collective quest for knowledge and understanding. Put simply, people want to be able to locate answers to their queries as quickly as possible; so much so that studies have proven that page speed is something that many Internet users actively care about and consider.

Back in 2010, Google first clarified that page speed is a key ranking factor for desktop searches. Now, with the increase in mobile browsing and having promised to address mobile page speed for several years, this new update will evaluate the speed of a site’s mobile pages and use that information as a ranking factor within mobile search.

Google initially announced its ‘Speed Update’ in January 2018 and after a six-month period of development, its official rollout has finally arrived.

Who Will Be Affected by the Google Mobile Speed Update?

As the Speed Update will only affect the slowest web pages, Google expects only a small percentage of queries to be impacted. The update is applied in the same way to all pages, irrespective of the technology that was used in their construction.

As search intent continues to be a strong ranking signal, slow pages might still rank well if they contain high quality, relevant and valuable content. It’s important to note though, that making even incremental improvements to your website could deliver considerable improvements to your site speed, so if your site has been negatively affected by the Speed Update, there are steps you can take to both recover and continue to improve.

Alternatively, if you have started to see an increase in traffic without making any changes to your digital strategy or on-site refinements, this might mean that you are receiving some kickback from the slow page speeds of your competitors.

Resources for Webmasters to Monitor Key Performance Metrics

Google has not been particularly forthcoming about what constitutes a slow or fast page speed, simply noting that it uses several different ways to measure and evaluate this key metric. Although there are no dedicated tools that will directly indicate whether a page has been affected by the Speed Update, the search giant wants developers and webmasters to really consider how site performance ultimately impacts user experience.

Suggesting that developers look to a variety of different user experience metrics, Google has published a handful of recommended resources that can be used to monitor and evaluate the performance of a webpage.

  • The user-centric RAIL model breaks down user experience into 4 key actions: response, animation, idle and load. The primary objective of the RAIL guidelines is to help designers and developers deliver a quality user experience for each action by establishing a framework for keeping performance at the forefront of every key decision.
  • Page Speed Insights is a tool that reveals how well a page is performing on the Chrome UX report and makes suggestions as to how to further optimise page performance.
  • Chrome User Experience Report is an open dataset of important user experience metrics for a variety of popular websites across the Internet. These metrics are all experienced by actual Chrome users in the real world.

A Few Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will the desktop speed factor still be used for the desktop index?

A: Google hasn’t been clear whether these new ranking factors will also be applied to all desktop searches.

Q: If a site is impacted by the Speed Update, will it experience a significant decline in ranking?

A: As page speed is only one signal used to rank web pages and search intent remains a particularly strong signal, if the site delivers relevant and valuable content to its audience, it can still secure a high ranking position in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Q: Will Google Search Console notify webmasters if a webpage has been affected?

A: No, as the update is entirely algorithmic there is no specific tool that will directly indicate to webmasters if there is an issue with this innovative ranking factor.

While investing in a mobile-friendly and fully optimised mobile site has been recommended for some time, until now there has never been a dedicated ranking factor for this within mobile search results.

It is important to note that if your site is already exceptionally fast but your closest competitor makes changes to ensure their site is a split second faster, it is highly unlikely that this will make any difference, even in the long term. Equally, this update will also not stop slow mobile sites from securing a ranking position altogether. Relevancy remains key to search engine optimisation, so although page speed is important to consider, delivering value to your audience should remain a priority.

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