Google’s changes to mobile search and what the ‘Page Speed’ update means for your website
Like it or not, Google effectively runs search.
In early January the company released a statement informing website owners that from July this year page speed will become a significant ranking factor in mobile search. Roughly translated, this means sites with faster load times can expect to rank above slower pages, in searches made on smartphone.
In this post we’re going to explore what the Google Speed Update means, how you can comply with the new requirements and the advantages of optimising your website for mobile users.
Why are they doing it now?
Google’s long term goal is to weed out pages and websites that deliver the ‘slowest experience’ to mobile users. This follows extensive research by the search giant, that concluded we’re becoming increasingly impatient when browsing the web on our phones. If a site isn’t available within a few seconds users simply look elsewhere.
While load speed has played a big part in desktop search results for some years, Google has always taken a more liberal approach with mobile. Now they plan to introduce tougher rules across all devices and create a universal ranking standard.
How your website looks on mobile matters
With research showing more than half of all searches are now made on a phone, imposing tighter quality controls on mobile pages has been an inevitable for some time. From July the Google Speed Update will make it a requirement for website owners to consider the following:
- Mobile screen sizes are smaller than traditional displays, so space on the page is at a premium.
- People using smartphones tend to be on the move, meaning shorter than average attention spans
- Mobile users are highly goal focused. They want information quickly.
Discover if you’ve been penalised by the Google Speed Update
Unfortunately there’s no plan to specifically warn website owners that they don’t make the grade – although there are ways to ensure your site provides the best possible service to mobile users. Google pretty much gave the game away in their statement, by saying their ultimate goal is to improve a user’s experience of the pages they visit.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with an on-page checklist to ensure your site conforms to the Google Speed Update and is protected from a potential fall in mobile search rankings.
5 ways to ensure your website ranks well in mobile search results
- Streamline links, buttons and calls to action
These are often referred to as ‘tap targets’ by web designers. As a rule of thumb Google recommends these are at least 7mm (48 pixels) wide. Difficulty in opening links or clicking on calls to action clearly have a high impact on user experience.
- Ditch the popups, call outs and overlays
Large or full-screen content – stuff like sign-up forms and special offers – are out, at least on smaller screens.
- Minimise images and videos
A common mistake – even with websites that are responsive – is not to compress images or scale them for mobile. Don’t panic this is something that can usually be implemented retrospectively.
- Use a responsive theme
Most website themes today are optimised to load quickly on mobiles, but first and foremost make sure your site’s theme is responsive.
Is your website mobile-friendly?
The best way to discover how your website stands up to Google’s new standard is by running it through their own suite of tools. These include;
Mobile-Friendly Test – An easy to use page test that’s light on detail but will give you a simple yes or no answer.
Chrome User Experience Report – Aimed primarily at developers, this requires some technical understanding to set up but delivers detailed performance indicators.
Google Page Speed Insights – Much criticised by professionals and perhaps a little outdated, this tool details known issues and possible fixes.
Google Chrome Lighthouse – A plugin that sits in your bookmark bar and generates comprehensive full-site audits, which do require a degree of design knowledge to implement.
3 easy wins for your business by taking action now
- You’ll be well ahead of the curve
Google tend to roll these changes out over many months, but they often reward early adopters. By creating the smoothest possible experience for smartphone users you can expect more visitors.
- People will stick around
If they can navigate your site, click your buttons and visit other pages quickly and easily visitors are far more likely to stay on your site.
- Quick loading sites are inviting
Sites that load quickly and offer a smooth user experience encourage people to come back, tell their friends, enhance brand reputation and make more sales.
The Google Speed Update could be considered a ‘friendly warning’ to website owners who have still not optimised for mobile. And although they stress sites with outstanding content will still be be accessible, the overall message is clear; If your website doesn’t present an intuitive, engaging experience on mobile, it will be passed by for others that do.
Need some help?
If you’re not sure how well prepared your company’s website is for the Google Speed Update, or you know it’s not performing well on smaller screens, why not let one of our developers take a look for you?