Mobile Speed Will Soon Be A SEO Ranking Factor

In April of 2015, Google started ranking sites differently for smartphone users. In the industry, this update became known as “Mobilegeddon,” and was the largest confirmation to date that Google was betting big on mobile. Building on this change, recent announcements are factoring speed as further factors that will help or hurt your mobile search rankings.

Thanks to the popularity and availability of smartphones and fast mobile networks, customers are increasingly turning to their phones when they want to look something up online. In fact, Google announced last year that more than half of the searches they received every day came from mobile devices.

The first mobile update focused exclusively on whether or not the page was one that Google identified as being mobile friendly. Pages that were easy to browse on a smartphone saw their rankings increase, while sites without a mobile experience saw the amount of organic traffic they receive from smartphones drop. Other signals that the company used to judge the quality of your website, such as content and links, were the same for both traditional and mobile results.

At a recent conference Gary Illyes, a trend analyst at Google, said that the company was working on a new mobile update that will factor mobile page speed into the ranking algorithm.

Page Speed Changes User Experience

In their 2014 State Of The Union for Mobile eCommerce Performance, Radware studied the mobile speeds of the top 100 retail sites in the fall of 2013. In addition to identifying larger trends in the industry, the study found that even a one second delay could dramatically change how users interacted with a website.

Page speed ecommerce graph

Not only can a slow load time increase bounce rate, but it also has a negative impact on customers who choose to remain on your site. On average, they browse 9.4% fewer pages, are 3.5% less likely to convert, and those that choose to make a purchase spend an average of 2.1% less.

Why Mobile Speed Matters More

Page speed is one of many factors that Google uses to rank which websites to show their users in search, even on the desktop. But the search engine made a point of saying that one of the focuses of the upcoming update would be pagespeed, because having a fast site matters more on mobile.

Mobile Users Are Less Patient

Smartphones let customers search your site from anywhere, from their living room, to standing in a subway waiting for their train. They can have anywhere from a new quick seconds to an hour to browse, but they don’t want to spend the time staring at a loading screen. If your page is taking too long to load, they’re more likely to go to one of your competitors and spend their time there instead.

On a desktop, if your content is taking too long to load, your customer might switch to another tab in their browser, or open a game to play. On mobile devices, however, the browser controls the entire screen. If your website is taking too long, they’ll view it as wasting their time since there’s nothing else they can do with their phone while they wait.

Mobile Networks Often Have Data Caps

Unlike a cable connection, most mobile users have a plan that they purchase a specific amount of data to use in a month, with either overage fees or throttled speeds if they go over it. Since quickly loading pages generally don’t require as much information to be downloaded, fast sites are more cost effective.

While your customers might not consciously avoid your site due to the amount of data it uses to load, optimizing your mobile experience so that it costs them less money is one more way you can provide them with the best mobile experience.

Make Your Website Faster

Before you start making changes to your website, you want to find out how fast you currently are. Google’s page speed insights is a free tool you can use to help identify where you should focus your efforts on improving your page speed. Instead of telling you how fast your content loads, it will check the code of your website and compare it to industry best practices to highlight where you can improve.

Here’s the suggestions the tool offers for Macys.com:

Macy's Pagespeed insights test results

It’s important to remember that this won’t tell you how fast your website really is. If you want to do this, another free tool called Webpage Test will give you a detailed list of how fast every item on your site loaded, and help you identify anything that’s slowing it down.

Using these two tools, you’ll have a good idea of where to focus your efforts.

Don’t Get Caught

At the conference, Gary Illyes said that Google was in the planning stages of the update, which typically means that it will be a few months until the company releases it.

Before the update last year, Trinity Insight helped numerous eCommerce stores optimize their mobile experience. Our adaptive design services can take your existing website and make it mobile friendly without requiring that you replatform or make any CMS changes.

If you’re looking for assistance in getting your site ready before the next mobile-friendly update, lets talk today.