The SEO world, ruled by Google, is constantly undergoing reforms to its algorithms. Some are routine fine-tuning but others, like Panda, Penguin and RankBrain rattled quite a few webmasters. Another change from the tech giant will take effect in July 2018. It says page speed will now be a factor in the ranking for mobile searches.
For many, the announcement came as no surprise. Some surmise Google’s update was long overdue. Users had been migrating to mobile in the past few years and in October 2016, global mobile web browsing surpassed the volume of desktop traffic for the first time, according to StatCounter, a web analytics company.
Site speed first figured in Google’s search ranking algorithms in 2010. But the signal applied only to desktop searches. Now it is expanding to mobile search. In 2015, the mobile-friendliness of a website became a factor in SEO, giving it an edge over the unfriendly ones, or those that do not adapt to screen size.
The forthcoming “page speed as a factor in mobile search” has tremendous implications on the following:
Search Engine Optimization
Although Google has clarified that “a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content,” you as a business owner shouldn’t take chances. Quality content, keywords and backlinks aside, you must consider page speed seriously enough to do something about it before your ranking suffers. If you’re on page 5, users will discover your competitors ahead of you, and that’s several potential customers lost.
Internet users want results fast. Data from Google show that in 2016, 53% of users leave a site that doesn’t load in three seconds, and the most recent study from Google found that for a mobile site to fully load, it would take 22 seconds.
You will want to give your visitors a smooth user experience to make them stay longer and purchase your product, and site speed is an influential element in that aspect.
One way to fix a slow loading website is to upgrade to VPS hosting from shared hosting. It will be more expensive but way more technically superior in all aspects. Expect to spend more for VPS, around $20-$60 per month compared to shared hosting’s $5-less than $10 per month, at current rates. One test on page speed done with WordPress in 2016 showed that page load took almost five seconds in a shared hosting environment, and a little over one second in a VPS.
A slow page speed can have long-term consequences for your site, and if it’s a business or ecommerce website, page or site loading can spell doom for your business. Users who remember that your site loads slow are not inclined to come back unless there’s a compelling reason to, like you have a unique product, and they won’t recommend you to others. On the other hand, a satisfying user experience leads to the third reason for site speed:
A powerful incentive to getting your website to load fast is conversion, the bottom line of which is to get your visitors to purchase. Users look for instant gratification. They want immediate results when shopping or booking a flight and hotel. That’s why even the big companies like Amazon place put a priority on site speed. Jeff Bezos’ ecommerce site estimated that a one-second slowdown of its loading speed could result in $1.6 billion loss in sales in a year.
Bounce rate also increases as page speed decreases. From one second to three, bounce rate increases 32 percent, and from one to ten seconds, it’s a 123 percent bounce rate increase. This may also be the reason why mobile conversions are still lower than desktop, even if mobile usage is higher. Slow speed is one way to lose a lot of clients or direct them to your competitor.
Work on your page speed will be an ongoing thing, for as long as your website is up. Your server performance counts a lot, so no matter how you try to speed up your site’s load time, a mediocre web host service will bring you down. The server’s location also matters. If your site is in Asia and your server is in the United
States, the connection has farther to travel in physical miles. Extra large images, heavy formats and unnecessary codes are additional culprits that slow down your site speed. Test your site on PageSpeed Insights on a regular basis to keep up.