Speed Matters: Google Rolls Out Ranking Factors Update
Website speed has always been an important metric for marketers. After all, it impacts conversion rates when people click through to your website, whether that's from an organic search or by clicking on an ad. It's one of the many metrics that Google has always kept an eye on and which they'll be able to do more with thanks to the recent evolution of Google AdWords.
Now, though, and hot off the back of an upgrade to its Google Maps API, Google has rolled out an update to its ranking factors which confirms that the speed of your website has an impact on where your website ranks in the results pages, and for mobile devices in particular. That means that it's more important than ever for you to keep an eye on the loading times for the pages on your website.
The good news is that if your website is loading too slowly, there's plenty you can do to improve it. You can check that your website itself is well optimized with compressed image files and tight code, or you can increase the amount of server resources that your website has access to. You can even look into using caching or specifying which order files are loaded in.
Why Speed Matters
Well, the reasons vary, and not just because it's confirmed as one of the factors that has a direct result on your organic search engine rankings. That's because website speed also has an effect on user experience, and if your visitors have a poor experience on your website then they're not going to come back again. It could make the difference between whether they decide to buy from you or not.
In fact, 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, while 40% of people abandon websites that take longer than three seconds. A one second delay in your website's loading time can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions, which works out as $2.5 million in lost sales every year for an e-commerce website making $100,000 a day. You can check how to increase your e-commerce website conversion rates using our free guides.
Simply put, when your website is running slowly, it means that it's not at optimum efficiency. It's a bit like going to the effort of launching a retail store and then hiring cashiers who sit around playing with their phones instead of serving customers. And now that Google has updated its algorithm, those customers won't even be able to find you in the first place.
Other Ranking Factors
Of course, it's not just about speed and so while it's important to spend time optimizing the load times of your website, that's not the only thing that matters. In fact, Google uses hundreds of different metrics to determine where pages and websites rank in their results pages.
It's also interesting to note that Google has been switching to a mobile-first index over the last few years, thanks predominantly to the increase in mobile device ownership and usage all over the world. Google built its index on the desktop-first web and now that we're all switching to portable devices, they're being forced to reinvent the way that they rank pages to stay relevant.
Search engines are constantly evolving in their fight to show their users only the most relevant results. In the early days, they relied on keywords alone, before Google came along and reinvented the game by switching to an authority-based system that looked at inbound links and the authority of the websites that they came from. These latest changes, which place increased emphasis on the speed of websites, are just the next step in the evolution of search.
The Growth of AMPs
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are a type of web publishing technology that's designed to make web content and accompanying advertisements load faster on mobile devices. By February 2017, a year after their launch, AMPs accounted for 7% of all web traffic. And while the push towards AMPs was initially spearheaded by Google, they've now been picked up by various other search engines and social networking websites. You can quickly check an in-depth article about AMP here.
AMPs can be displayed in most web browsers and are easily discoverable by search engines. Built on top of existing web technologies, they're easy to set up and can have a big impact both on your mobile search engine rankings and on the user experience when people click through to your website.
AMP content can easily be tracked through Google Analytics, while webmasters can add structured data to enable AMP-specific functionality within search engine results pages. Google even has an AMP Cache, which can help to take the load off your server and make AMPs even faster.
Using AMPs is like putting your website on a diet. It's essentially a stripped-down version of HTML, which focuses on delivering the site and the information that it contains as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Checking Your Mobile Website
There are plenty of different ways to check your mobile website, but the best place to get started is probably Google's own tool, which allows you to enter a URL and to test it on different types of connections. Google will analyze your website's data and provide recommendations on how to improve it. You'll be provided with estimated loading times and the percentage of visitors you're likely to lose if your website is slow.
You can also look at your website's analytics to see how long pages are taking to resolve and to identify any bottlenecks. If you're using Google Analytics then the data is stored there, and Google also offers a tool called PageSpeed Insights so that you can analyze individual URLs and see what's working and what isn't.
Google has a vested interest in helping webmasters to improve their loading speeds, particularly on mobile devices. That's why they provide tools like these, but they're also not the only provider on the market. You can find all sorts of different website speed tools, from diagnostic tools to monitoring and maintenance tools, caching services and more, all of which will be designed to help you to improve the performance of your website.
Of course, another option is to work with a third-party company like Zfort Group, which can carry out an analysis of your website, identifying areas of improvement and carrying out the updates on your behalf. Too many companies give important admin tasks like streamlining the speed of their website a low priority, but with the new updates to Google's algorithms, if you leave it then by the time that you notice an impact it could already be too late. It's better to future-proof your website now than to leave it until you disappear from the results pages.
Speed Up Or Lose Your Rankings
The speed your website loads is one of the most important metrics for your business, even if you're not aware of it. Remember as well that loading times can vary depending upon where the server is located and where the visitor is. Don't make the mistake of assuming that just because your website loads quickly from your office, it also loads quickly everywhere else in the world.
The good news is that Google has a range of tools to help you to measure your website's speed and to identify ways to speed it up. They now give you access to a new metric called the mobile speed score, which gives your website's pages a rating out of ten based on how quickly they load on mobile devices. It's a good idea to check that, especially when you consider that the average mobile web page takes 15 seconds to load.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that you have a choice: you can either make sure that your website is loading as quickly as possible or you can risk dropping off the rankings. It can make a big difference to your business and cause major problems if you're relying on mobile traffic to make money. Although let's be honest – it's unlikely that your mobile visitors are converting anyway if your website is slow.
The good news is that you don't need to do it alone. There are plenty of companies out there who have the skills, the experience and the resources needed to make your website faster, stronger and more durable. Being fast isn't enough if your website experiences outages or other glitches. This is particularly true if you make money through your website (such as with an e-commerce store) or if most of your traffic comes from mobile devices.
If you're struggling with slow website speeds, don't suffer in silence. Here at Zfort Group, we're used to helping clients to improve the speed of their websites through a variety of techniques: from upgrading their infrastructure to streamlining their website and reducing the load on the server. Get in touch with us to find out more!