Google Update: Mobile Page Speed Matters
The importance of mobile page speed
Today, we give one simple instruction: get your website page speed optimised.
Google has announced that the loading speed of your site will be an important factor in its mobile-first index. This may not seem important, but this suggests that overall site speed is being seriously considered as a future ranking factor.
It's been rumoured for a while that Google will be adding loading speeds to its ranking factor. These rumours were mainly based on user experience. (i.e. people visiting a slow site were more likely to leave the site) as a ranking factor.
Anyone that keeps up to date with SEO news will have known for a few years that on-site experience is hugely important, and that site speed forms a large part of this. There has also been a lot of noise in the SEO community about AMP recently.
What is AMP?
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. This is an open source initiative launched by Google in 2015 and which "aims to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web". In plain speak: the AMP project aims to deliver "stripped-down" versions of your website pages to better aid page load speed, and by extension deliver better user experience to mobile users.
We've had an AMP plugin (one that allows us to control how AMP pages display) installed on our website for a while now. Then last week, we noticed that the power of the plugin had dramatically increased and that we suddenly had lots more options to play with. Within 24 hours we had also received an email from Google Search Console, telling us that we had "errors on AMP pages".
That's what got us thinking "Why now?". Why would AMP suddenly become more powerful, and why would Google suddenly tell us that our AMP pages had errors? The conclusion is a huge waving flag. Page speed as a ranking factor is coming.
Does your site need AMP?
Not necessarily. If your site was built during the last year, you should be getting a reasonable speed already. This means it should have already been optimised beyond the original build specification. However, if the bulk of your website is based around news posts or articles, or you haven't had the site optimised for speed yet, it's definitely something you should consider.
What should you do?
In this modern period of website development, agencies build sites to be as lightweight and powerful as possible. However, this wasn't always the case.
In the past, importance was put on how the site looked. Therefore sites of this period were often overloaded with heavy visuals. They're all really good looking sites, they've just become lumbering dinosaurs in an age of sleek technology. A lot has changed over a few years too. Where once Google didn't mind an overloaded site, it now much prefers sites to function like performance machines.
If your site could do with a tune up, you need to consider the following:
- Responsive website design - okay, this doesn't affect speed, but it is INCREDIBLY important where user experience is concerned and is already a confirmed ranking factor.
- Image resizing - is your site loading a 2000 x 1000 image to display in a 500 x 250 space? Fix it.
- Caching - if visitors are having to load the full site every time they visit, your site will be slower. Caching helps to reduce the amount of collateral that needs to be loaded each time a visitor loads your site.
- Full site rebuild - yes, this genuinely might be required in worst case scenarios. With the digital environment becoming such a competitive space, every site needs to be optimised based on what Google ranks for NOW.
Site speed: it's a scary topic. But if you get on top of it now your site won't suffer when speed is officially added as a ranking factor. It's coming...