Google recently announced that, beginning in July 2018, “page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches”. While the company notes that this “Speed Update” will “only affect a small percentage of queries”, Google processes more than 40,000 search queries every second (on average), or about 3.5 billion searches per day. So, the “small percentage” of queries that are set to be affected by the pending change will actually include a significant number of sites.
Why is Speed So Important?
Site speed is basically how quickly a site responds to web requests. Google rightly notes that “faster sites create happy users” and that speed matters. In fact, Google expects pages to load in two seconds or less. As such, the speed of a site has always been important to Google and has been used a ranking factor for some time now. Google employs a variety of resources to determine what the speed of a site is relative to other sites.
However, up until the Speed Update was announced, site speed as a ranking signal was only focused on desktop searches, not mobile searches.
How Will the Speed Update Impact Sites?
Based on information currently available:
- The Speed Update mainly impacts those pages “that deliver the slowest experience” to users (no benchmark has been provided as to how to judge whether a site would be considered to deliver a slow experience);
- The same standard is applied to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. For instance, the speed of an AMP page would be taken into account, but if a page built with AMP provides slow user experience, it may rank lower;
- There is no tool that will directly indicate whether a site has been affected, and no notification will appear on affected sites. The change is “completely algorithmic”;
- While Google notes that there is no one single tool that directly indicates whether a page will be affected by the Speed Update, some resources that may be helpful in gauging the impact of this new ranking factor are Chrome User Experience Report, PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse;
- No changes have been announced for desktop speed factor, and the desktop index remains the same.
Content Still Trumps Speed
At the end of day, content will still trump speed. Google has noted that the Speed Update:
…applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.
While it is important to ensure that your site is built to provide optimal user experience, including making sure it ranks well for speed on both desktop and mobile, high-quality content continues to be one of the most important factors that can affect your page ranking, and conversely, how easy you are to find online.
At Umbrella Legal Marketing, we pride ourselves on the sites we build and maintain for our law firm clients. Our web team designs each site with a strong technical foundation aimed at maximizing SEO and pays close attention to the constant changes in Google’s algorithms that could affect ranking. Our team of writers are all former practicing lawyers who understand Canadian & US law and produce in-depth, relevant content tailored to your target client and referral base. As a lawyer, you are a professional and understand the value in hiring a professional. Contact us online or at 416-356-4672 to learn more about what our outstanding team can do for you and your website.