Load speed has always been a factor in Google’s search engine rankings. However, until now the focus has been on desktop searches, as mobile searches were considered secondary. Come July 2018, this will all change. Why? you ask. Because mobile usage is now surpassing desktop usage and is expected to keep rising.
Google will now be treating your mobile website as the primary version to index, instead of the desktop version. Meaning they will be using your mobile page load speed as one of the major ranking factors for Google's search ranking results. They really are putting mobile first and dubbing this change the ‘Speed Update’.
Studies have shown that users consider speed as a major factor when they visit a website. No one wants to hang around waiting for something to load, instead, they expect the information almost instantly.
The average mobile landing page takes around 15 seconds to load. That might not seem like a long time, but users that visit those sites are giving up and navigating away after 3 seconds (see our partner Clickthrough's blog on Google's Mobile Speed Update here). Even though mobile page speeds are increasing, they need to get faster still, five times faster if research is anything to go by.
Google’s Speed Update will have the biggest effect on pages that are very slow to load, even if those pages have been ranking well previously, their low mobile load speed will now significantly penalise them.
Google makes between 500 and 600 tweaks to their algorithm in a year so updates are not uncommon. However, this will be one of the biggest changes in a while and could disrupt the SEO that you have worked so hard on.
Well, all hope is not lost. There are some things that you can do to prepare for the Speed Update.
1: Test Your Site
It is important to know what your website looks like to Google. How will it be indexed, how quickly does it load, is it optimised, and how will it rank in searches. There is a handy tool you can use to do a mobile speed test. Test your site here: https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com
2: Ensure Your Site Is fully Mobile Optimised
There is a difference between your site being mobile friendly and mobile optimised. Mobile friendly simply means that your site can be viewed on a mobile device, often as a shrunken or truncated version of your desktop site. But mobile optimised means that the site has been specifically designed to be mobile responsive and optimised accordingly, i.e. it works well on mobile devices, functionality is designed to be used at a mobile size, the website loads fast and isn't loading unnecessary code for desktops etc.
3: Create Mobile-Friendly Content
We know that more and more users are electing to browse on their mobile, so boost your SEO by creating mobile-friendly content. Use short sentences and paragraphs to make your content easier to read on mobile devices (don’t forget to work your keywords into the text). Optimise your images by ensuring they are files that are sized correctly, and your video files load seamlessly (and are optimised for your user's mobile connection). Most importantly, produce quality content that people want to read and can engage with easily on a mobile device.
How did your website perform on the mobile test above, is it truly mobile optimised?
If the results were not what you had hoped, then it might be time for a website refresh. As you probably already knew, ranking well with search engines is one of the best ways to get quality leads to your business. You certainly don't want to jeopardise your chances by having a mobile site that is slow to load and not optimised.
If you feel your business could be compromised by these new changes, and you feel it's time for a website refresh, then get in touch with us here at Fuel, all of our websites are designed with a ‘Mobile First’ mentality to give your business to best chance of being found online. They are built on extremely fast cloud-based platforms (with Google Certified and are specifically designed to have excellent mobile speeds (most of our sites get a speed rating in the 90/100+ range).
Want to know more about SEO basics, read our blog here on an introduction
to search engine optimisation.