A few days ago Google activated its Speed Update that impacts mobile search rankings. It was originally announced in January of 2018. Learn what it does and how it may affect your website.

We reference Google’s blog post on the subject and its three tools to test your site’s speed. You can find those here.

We also reference episode 293, on better web hosting. You can find that episode here

Episode 0297

Google’s Speed Update

Liz: [00:00:04] Hey there, welcome back to Liz and Sandro’s Marketing Podcast, where we cover digital marketing, social media, SEO and so much more, all to help your small business survive and thrive. Today Sandro is going to be covering something that we knew was coming down the pipeline but it has officially been released as of this week. He’s going to be chatting about Google’s speed update.

Sandro: [00:00:25] Thanks Liz. Yes. As of Monday, July 9th, page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searches. Google announced this in January of this year and they said that page speed would become a ranking factor in July. And just like clockwork here it is.

Sandro: [00:01:25] Previous to this, page speed was only a ranking factor on desktop searches. But of course, more and more people are using mobile devices to use the Internet. In fact, the latest numbers I saw shows 63 percent of all Internet usage is done on a mobile device, which is pretty huge. And I don’t see that number going down. Phones are just more accessible, less expensive, available everywhere. So of course it makes sense that Google would want to provide results that benefit a mobile user. And as such they want your site to be, a) Mobile friendly, and if you’re not already mobile friendly then…

Liz: [00:01:17] You are so far behind.

Sandro: [00:01:18] You have a lot of catching up to do. B.) Be relevant and, c.) Be fast. You should note that Google has said this update will only affect the slowest of mobile sites. So a side note, we will link to the official Google blog post on this matter just you can read exactly what they said, but you should also note that shaving a few microseconds off an already fast site will not lead to ranking improvement. So, meaning that if your competitor’s site is a few microseconds faster than yours it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re going to rank higher. In Google’s eyes, it’s basically a wash. So while this is now a factor, it’s just another piece of a larger Google SEO puzzle.

Sandro: [00:02:00] One example or other piece of the puzzle is user intent. That is still a more prominent factor, so if Google believes a slow site will better provide what a user is looking for, then that slow site will rank higher than a speedy site that Google does not believe contains more relevant content. So relevancy is key regardless of speed. So those are the facts that we know.

Sandro: [00:02:25] But some of the more common questions that people still have that we’re seeing include, “How do I know if Google considers my website to be fast or slow?” Well the answer to that, Google isn’t giving us a specific metric for this, but they do say it uses a number of ways to measure page speed and suggest you plug your website into three different tools that Google offers to check out the metrics and those tools are, and they’re all free, Chrome User Experience, the Lighthouse tool and the Page Insights tool. We’ll have a link to all three of these in our show notes.

Sandro: [00:02:57] Another question, “Will Google still use the desktop speed factor for desktop indexing?” And the answer is yes. There are no changes for desktop rankings. Another question, “What’s a good speed?” Basically under 3 seconds. So if you run your site through some of these tools and you’re over three seconds, in the four second mark, forget about it, you’re pretty slow, so you need to do something about that. Another question, “Will there be a significant drop in ranking if a site is impacted for being too slow?” Well, speed again is just one of the many signals that are used to rank pages so keep that in mind. Intent as we mentioned, is, search query is still a very strong signal. So a slow page, as we’ve mentioned, may still rank higher if it has great relevant content.

Sandro: [00:03:42] Another question, “Will there be notifications in Google’s search console or some other way that your site has been hit by a penalty for being too slow?” And the answer to that is, no, there’s no tool or they’re not going to let you know that you have been penalized for this.

Sandro: [00:03:56] The last question, “How do I make my site faster?” This is a tough one to answer because everyone builds sites with different tools, so if you can use WordPress or Squarespace or Wix or Weebly or some other way, you may hand code it yourself, which is crazy, but you may do that. There are a lot of factors going into this. So my advice to you is if you’re a small business owner and you notice your site may be slow, talk to whoever helped build your site or whoever built your site and discuss the possibilities of speeding your site up, maybe even creating a whole new site. Or if you did it on your own, you may want to search Google search, “Ways to speed up my site using WordPress,” or Squarespace or whatever.

Sandro: [00:04:32] I know on WordPress there are plugins that purport to improve the speed on your site. You may want to test those, or you may want to test removing certain plugins from a WordPress site. Those things tend to slow your site down. And of course, Liz mentioned this a couple episodes ago, one thing you can do to speed up your site may be:

Liz: [00:04:52] Really good hosting. I think that’s first and foremost.

Sandro: [00:04:56] Exactly. So you may want to pay for better hosting. That will definitely help speed your site up. We’ll link to that episode in case you missed it, in the show notes. So the bottom line, while speed is now officially a piece of the ranking and search engine puzzle for your mobile site, It’s still just a piece. As always, other factors are involved but this is one piece that you can do something about yourself.

Liz: [00:05:17] In addition to hosting, I know one of the things we’ve also mentioned on the show is reducing the size of your images.

Sandro: [00:05:24] And actually that makes you think, I had a client and they played video and music as soon as you went to the site which is annoying.

Liz: [00:05:30] It is very annoying.

Sandro: [00:05:31] With that video dragged the speed down, loading the video and you know, it’s just crazy.

Liz: [00:05:36] So yeah, there’s definitely things that you can do and I think this is so key because it’s one of the few things that you have total control over. You can pick where you host your website. You can adjust the sizing. And you can opt not to use video on your home page. There are a lot of other search engine ranking factors that you don’t have quite as much control over and this site speed is definitely one of them.

Liz: [00:05:59] So take a hard look at that and do what you can to like Sandro said get it below that 3 second mark because it’s really important. Well thanks Sandro. I love these tips. That wraps up today’s episode. Don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app, we are on iTunes and Google Podcast. We’d love to have you show us some love. Give us a review if you can. You can also find us on Twitter. Instagram and Facebook. And if you have any questions just shoot us a quick e-mail and we’ll give you a shout out on the show. Thanks so much. We’ll see you next time.