Google Speed Update Threat to Slow Mobile Sites

Every month we work on custom SEO reports for our digital marketing clients. One issue we always look at is how our clients’ websites are performing on mobile. Why? Because mobile has become a massive part of search in recent years.

When I had my first mobile phone nearly 20 years ago (a Nokia 7110) it had a tiny little screen. I could see three lines of text on a monochrome WAP browser.

Now, in the advancing 21st century, we have large full-screen, full-colour mobile devices and 4G data speeds with fast WI-FI connectivity too. Our mobile browsers are powerful and we have a great choice. Where once we had just Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator on our desktops we now have Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Edge and Opera on our handsets, as well as a raft of minor browsers (Red Onion, Puffin etc)

That means it is now so much easier to consume website content including all the text, rich images and streaming video too.

It’s a long way since the days of the Nokia 7110 with its tiny text-only screen and WAP connection. Same as the Motorola V50 I had, once the world’s smallest phone but again with a tiny screen.

And to think that now we now have all-singing, all-dancing, retina-display 7-inch AMOLED screens with zoom, pinch and swipe capabilities…

But even with all these fab phones, web designers are not always thinking about what they display and how they display it. You just have to run your own website through Google’s Mobile Friendly test to see just how your business’ site will fare on a mobile.

In our extensive experience we’ve seen sites get the “green light” and then we manually test them or throw the URL through another test and we see the exact same site really isn’t mobile friendly. We discussed this infallibility in our piece on web audits and what an automated audit won’t pick up.

But why are we talking mobile web speed now? Surely everyone already knows that:

  1. Websites are ranked differently in desktop and mobile searches. Except that back in March Google announced it would be indexing mobile versions of your website in the main SERPs.
  2. Mobile users may be relying on poor connections e.g. dropping to 3G in a poor reception area, so old-fashioned desktop-only sites will not load so quickly when you’re “out in the sticks”
  3. To combat this the “mobile first” approach of designing primarily for handsets has been around for a few years now. Responsive design is a must to help mobile content consumers.

Yes, these are all true and well known. But Google never sits still as it constantly pushes to make search more robust for users. Google likes fast websites, Google likes websites with security certificates. Google likes sites that are fast on mobiles, it always has.

But when the Internet giant makes a specific statement, everyone pays attention.

Google says jump and all the world’s website owners ask “how high?”.

Using page speed in mobile search ranking

Some weeks ago Google announced that it was stepping up efforts to ensure that speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches. The “Speed Update” will supposedly only affect the slowest pages and “a small percentage of queries”.

What Google did say on their Webmaster Central blog is that they still regard user intent as a key ranking signal, meaning that if a result is still a good match for an enquiry then, even if the site is slow, it could still rank well as being the best result.

But that doesn’t let website owners off the hook. You should be delivering the best experience for your users no matter what.

Google also likes to see that website owners, or their agents, are doing regular work to improve websites. Anecdotally, our Digital Marketing Manager ran one particular client website for over 13 years. He updated the website on a daily basis and made sure Google knew about those updates.

Not long after the site was sold to new owners the website traffic “fell off a cliff” and never recovered. Our Digital Marketing Manager strongly believes that the failure of the new owners to update the website, fix errors, make constant improvements and keep Google informed contributed to the demise of that website.

Live Fast or Die

This may seem a harsh judgement but think about it like this…

You don’t take mobile speed seriously. Your competitors do.

They overtake you in the rankings. They get more clicks.

You lose rankings. You lose clicks.

As your traffic and Click Through Rate disappear so do the enquiries, the leads and eventually the sales too. You earn less money, etc etc etc. You get the picture.

So it pays to give serious thought to the speed of your website and the speed of your mobile version. Because now that Google is giving a leg up to fast mobile sites then you need to work on your mobile website and see how fast you can make it. If you don’t you could be losing out.

Clever Marketing - Hampshire Digital Agency Here at Clever Marketing, Hampshire’s premier digital agency, we take site speed very seriously. We know that if you require certain functions your site will slow down. But we try to mitigate this with work to speed up other areas of your platform.

If you’d like us to audit your website and make recommendations on how we can help you to make it faster and rank better then call us on 01276 402 381 or fill in the form.

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