Google has recently confirmed that mobile page speed will become an official ranking factor in mobile search results. Page speed has always been an quality indicator for Google regarding user’s experience. This update is coming along the mobile-first update and Google’s intention to encourage better search results on mobile. In this article, we are going to explain how to get ready for the Speed Update and how to improve your page speed for mobile.

What is Page Speed?

Page speed is a measurement metric to show how fast the content on your page loads. In 2010, Google announced that page speed would influence your website rankings but it was only focused on desktop searches.

A search result for a resource having a short load time relative to resources having longer load times can be promoted in a presentation order, and search results for the resources having longer load times can be demoted.

Page speed actually refers to the time a visitor have to wait until a page is completely loaded. The average load time for mobile sites is 19 seconds over 3G connections. DoubleClick conducted a study, The Need for Mobile Speed, where they found

that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load and that sites that load in 5 seconds vs 19 seconds observed: 25% higher ad viewability, 70% longer average sessions and 35% lower bounce rates.

Load times then have an impact on your usage metrics and your user experience. A poor loading time experience conducts to high bounce rate and loss of revenues for e-commerce websites for instance.

What is the Google Speed Update?

The “Speed Update” as it is called, is a new algorithm update designed for mobile search. As we said, Google was only considering page speed as an official ranking factor for desktop websites. Starting from July, 2018, it will be also the case for mobile websites.

The speed update aims at only affecting “pages that deliver the slowest experience to users” and, in Google’s words, will only impact a “small percentage of queries”. While Google is processing around 3.5 billion search queries per day (Internet Live Stats source), a “small percentage” can still impact a lot of websites.
However, the update will go live in July 2018, so webmasters have time to prepare their webpages. But for everyone wondering how this update could affect their mobile website, let’s see how you could get prepared for the Speed Update.

Is my site going to be penalized?

Having no clue whether your site could be penalized by this upcoming update? Well, there are several tools that can give you a hint of what you could improve or not. Google recommends its own tool, TestMySite, that specifically focuses on mobile performance compares to Page Speed Insights. The tool can test your site via a 3G connection, and though this is a common speed globally, most of users connect with 4G speeds and optimize accordingly.

Using a site crawler like OnCrawl can also ensure you to analyze your full site, compare sum of bytes between Google desktop and Google mobile, analyze your most important pages in priority or analyze your speed performance against your competitors and detect if your site is particularly vulnerable for a rankings drop.

301 redirect by groups

OnCrawl dashboard – Load time by groups of pages

sum of bytes - oncrawl

OnCrawl dashboard – Shows by day, the total weight of crawled pages and crawled resources 

How to improve page speed on mobile?

Don’t wait for the official release in July to look at your page’s performance on website.

Reduce server response time

Mobile page speed is determined by your web coding but also depends upon your server. Obviously the longer your server waits to respond to a request from a browser, the slower your page load time. Google recommends your server starts transmitting the first byte of resources within 200 milliseconds of a request.
You can use OnCrawl’s Free SEO Toolbox to measure your payload distribution.

oncrawl payload analyzer

There are three steps you can use to optimize your server response time:

  • Improve your web server software or configuration;
  • Improve the quality and scope of your web hosting service, and in particular ensure adequate CPU and memory resources;
  • Lower required resources by your web pages.

Activate AMP

AMP refers to Accelerated Mobile Pages and it consists of HTML, JS, and cache libraries that, thanks to specific extensions and AMP-focused properties, speed up load time on mobile pages. AMP is based on lighter coding that let your content be hosted on Google AMP Cache and preloaded to be instantly delivered to users for a search results.

When Google firstly tested out this new protocol, AMPs cut down load time between 15% and 85%. AMP is not mandatory to meet the required mobile load times and you need to notice that you could lose some control over your page appearance but if you are looking for a relatively quick way to reduce your page speed, AMP is a good alternative. We have written an article about AMP pro’s and con’s if you want to check it out.

Minimize redirects

Redirects are instructions that automatically take a visitor from one page to another page. Each redirect consumes valuable milliseconds, creating a slower page load. This is especially problematic on mobile devices because they often depend on less reliable networks than desktop users.
301 redirect are the most used type of page redirection. They drive a visitor from an outdated web page to a new direction with a different URL. While often needed, 301s can eat up a major amount of mobile load time.
Using OnCrawl’s Crawl report dashboards and the Data Explorer, you can monitor the number of redirect you have on your website and decide whether or not to keep them all.

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redirect detail

Leverage user’s intent

User’s intent are different on mobile and desktop. Desktop queries have become more conversational over the years and with the appearance of voice search, it’s also the case on mobile. But classic mobile research remains short and concise because they are still dictated by the desire of speed and simplicity.
On the other side, 40% of mobile searches have local intent. So make sure that your website is not loaded by interstitials and other unoptimized design elements frustrating user’s experience and exploding your bounce rate.

Digg into the Search Console

Having a look at your Search Console is a great way to verify your site’s usability. The “Smartphone” tab under “Crawl Errors” allows you to identify any crawl errors that might affect your mobile pages. The “Fetch on Google” tab allows you see how crawlers view your site and the “Mobile Usability” report tells you exactly which pages have mobile usability issues and what is causing the problems. You can also compile the data from your PageSpeed Insights report.

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