In Google’s quest for a secure web, they crafted a plan and have been rolling out updates to implement it in carefully choreographed stages. In July 2018, Google rolled out it’s latest “Google speed update”, and the impact of this particular change may be more slight than initially expected. Google announced in January that this particular update was coming and when and any consequences of the update may not be perceptible for some time.
Still, wise web developers should take note because there could be consequences for their SEO marketing efforts in future updates if they aren’t keeping up with Google’s plan.
What Changed With This Update?
According to Google, this algorithm update only applies to the speed of slower mobile websites.
Previously, speed was only one of the factors in Google’s indexing algorithm. It was recommended that users first actually have a mobile website or a mobile version of their website. It was further recommended that the mobile sites be developed to load quickly and easily.
With Google’s latest algorithm update, having a fast-loading mobile website is no longer nice to have. It’s expected. It’s the new normal. July’s update is simply the first stage.
Importance Of Fast Loading Mobile Websites
The average internet user expects a website to load within 2 to 3 seconds. If it still hasn’t loaded after 6 to 8 seconds, they will typically leave for a competitor’s site which increases their bounce rate and decreases their conversion rate.
Statistics further show that more than 50% of all search engine queries are made on mobile devices which were one of the primary reasons for this particular update. With the number of mobile searches increasing each year, Google has gone from rewarding businesses for having mobile websites, encouraging their development, to a model where all sites, either canonical URLs or mobile, will be penalised if they aren’t quick to load.
Up until this update, speed wasn’t an indexing factor for mobile websites in Google’s algorithm. Google suggests that slower mobile websites with quality content may still hold their own in search engine ranking, but encourages the use of tools like the Chrome User Experience Report, Lighthouse, and PageSpeed Insights to optimise their mobile sites so they’ll load fast and increase their visibility and chances of a good ranking. Remember, the quicker, the better.
Google maintains that the update is strictly algorithmic and at this time, only the slowest mobile websites will be affected at all. Further, since the update is strictly algorithmic, no tool will be able to show a website owner if the update has an impact on a given mobile website or not.
Some users were afraid that Google would give incentives to websites that used their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology, but so far that’s not true.
In light of Google’s change to hold all websites, mobile and not, to the same speed standards, now is a good time for web developers to evaluate their mobile website speeds, audit the sites, and make any necessary changes to increase how quickly they load. Not only will this help with search engine indexing in Google, it will help lower bounce rates, increase conversion rates, and improve the user experience for your growing audience.