Google’s “Speed Update”: Page speed is important, but content is king

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Google just rolled out a mobile “Speed Update” that affects mobile search rankings. You might be wondering what that means for you.

What is the “Speed Update”?

Page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile pages. Faster pages will rank higher. Everything else being equal, the faster of two pages will rank higher in search results for any particular query.

Wasn’t speed always a ranking factor?

Only on desktop searches. Page speed was introduced as a ranking factor in 2010 for desktop searches, but not for mobile. It is now.

What does it mean?

It means that having a fast, performant site is more important than ever. However, don’t panic! The update is supposed to affect only the slowest pages:

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries.

From this point of view, you definitely don’t want your site to be one of those that deliver the slowest experience.

But while that might be enough to avoid any negative impact from this update, you should aim higher. Remember, an extra second of page-load time can reduce conversions by 27%, and that over half of your website visitors will abandon your site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Don’t be that site!

How do I improve my page speed?

There are plenty of things you can do to improve page speed, such as optimising images, removing third party libraries, and minifying HTML, JavaScript and CSS resources, to name a few. There’s a list of articles and tools at the end that will help you here.

How does Google measure page speed?

While it’s not openly advertised, it seems that page speed data is crowd-sourced from Chrome users who have opted in to share data with Google. This is interesting because it means that Google is measuring speed based on real user experience, rather than from Googlebot crawl data, and this in turn means that you should optimise your site for real users, rather than for the Googlebot.

Relevance vs page speed

According to Google, content relevancy is a stronger ranking factor than site speed. So, even a slow site with more relevant content to a search query will rank better than a fast but irrelevant site. The message: page speed is important, but content is king.

Web performance articles

Here are some articles that will help you improve page speed and web performance:

Page speed testing tools

Here are some sites you can use to test the performance of your site:

Main image: ian dooley / Unsplash

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