Page Speed and SEO: It Matters More with Mobile

Whether on our smartphones or computers, people want webpages to load fast. Since 2010, Google has rewarded faster loading webpages by making speed a ranking factor in order to improve the user experience. Now that most Internet searches are done on smartphones, mobile page speed has become an icreasingly prominent ranking factor on the Google search engine result page (SERP).

What Is Google Page Speed?

Page speed is simply how fast the content of a webpage loads. This not only includes the text and images the user sees but also all the behind-the-scenes data that makes up your webpage like cascading style sheets and JavaScript.

While Google has rewarded faster loading webpages on desktops for years now, those same webpages do not necessarily load quickly on a mobile device. To load quickly on a mobile, you will need a stripped down HTML and simplified coding, along with other streamlining techniques. Hence, the standard that Google applied to desktop webpages could not apply to the mobile, making Google become more mobile focused as consumers have become more mobile obsessed. In 2015, the company began emphasizing on mobile when it started rewarding sites that rendered better on mobile devices. Soon Google will reward mobile sites that load fast, so much so that mobile page speed will affect the SEO ranking of the desktop version.

Mobile Pages Still Fail the Page Speed Test

As important as page speed is to the user experience, even a mobile-friendly site—one that renders well and loads fast—is typically too slow for either users or Google. According to Google, the average page load time for a mobile phone is still 15 seconds, and 53 percent of site visitors will abandon a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. If you count 3 seconds in your head right now, you’ll think that’s no time at all. However, your user thinks otherwise—and so will you when you’re searching on your phone. As we move past 3 seconds to even slower load speeds, we see a dramatic increase in the likelihood that a user will scoot without waiting:

Page load speed correlated with probability that a user will leave
Up to 3 seconds, the probability of a bounce increases by 32 percent
Up to 5 seconds, the probability of a bounce increases by 90 percent
Up to 6 seconds, the probability of a bounce increases by 106 percent
Up to 10 seconds, the probability of a bounce increases by 123 percent

Notice that a user who visits a webpage which takes up to 10 seconds to load is 123 percent more likely to leave—and the average speed right now is 15 seconds! This disconnect demonstrates that Google has good reason for taking its approach. And Google has a lofty goal: a load time of one second.

Google Is Going to Make Page Speed SEO-Relevant

The search engine giant is capable of making this one-second standard a reality precisely because it can relate page speed and SEO, and thereby subtly force marketers and webmasters to comply or else suffer the ranking consequences. How? By making mobile web page speed the ranking factor.

As mentioned above, Google has been taking page speed into account since 2010. But that was for the desktop index, which was the only index we had up until now. Thus, understandably it was based on desktop page speeds. Nonetheless, the page speeds that are acceptable for desktop versions of websites are not acceptable for mobile versions for obvious reasons. With the mobile-first index launching in 2018, Google is taking a mobile-first stand, including speed.

Earlier, your mobile site was essentially ranked based on your desktop site. This is soon bound to change, and your desktop site will be ranked based on your mobile site. Websites that are not mobile-friendly won’t perform as well in SEO and that can have a negative effect on your desktop rankings too. As Google adopts a mobile-first approach, you will have to as well.

Take the Page Speed Test

Mobile page speed is not an SEO ranking factor yet, but it is going to be since Google went official with that news in March 2018. The stated goal is to have page speed be an SEO factor as soon as the mobile-first index launches. Since no one knows when that will be except for happening some time in 2018, the time to tackle your page speed and SEO is now.

Are you ready to take the page speed test and see how you’re doing and where you need to improve? Google makes it easy to check your page speed with Google PageSpeed Insights. When you use Google PageSpeed Insights, you’ll get a score for both the mobile version of your website and the desktop version, as well as a list of issues and suggestions for optimizing. It’s a good place to start.

How to Improve Your Page Speed and SEO

If you check your page speed and end up lacking, now is the time to improve it. Google does these changes to make all search experiences better for everyone. As mentioned above, you will get optimization suggestions when you run the page speed test. Google also offers PageSpeed tools, which can be used to improve your page speed and therefore, SEO. You can also find specific page speed and SEO advice at Yoast, including:

  • How to activate Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on your pages
  • How to use HTTP/2
  • How to switch to PHP7, the latest version of PHP
  • How to use a content delivery network (CDN)
  • How to optimize all images (a no brainer, but one many marketers overlook)
  • How to clear up the critical rendering path

In addition to using the PageSpeed tools, you can also improve your page speed and SEO by learning more about multiple SEO basics because page speed is only one SEO factor. To master SEO for 2018, pursue online learning to ensure your SEO knowledge and learn how to meet Google’s expectations so that your websites can rank well and win searches on both the mobile and the desktop.

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