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After months of warnings, Google is officially rolling out its “Speed Update” for all users.

Google updated its original blog post to say the new ranking factor would be rolling out for all mobile search results throughout the day – though it is unclear exactly how long the Speed Update will take to fully go into effect.

What is Google’s Speed Update?

Essentially, Google’s Speed Update is just a mobile version of the speed-based algorithm used on desktop search results for years. Rather than rewarding the fastest sites, the update is better described as punishing the slowest sites online. This is particularly important for mobile-based search results because numerous studies have shown that people are likely to leave a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

What this isn’t, is a large-scale algorithm shift. The majority of sites are likely to see little to no change after the roll-out. However, it is unclear just how harshly it will penalize the slowest sites out there.

Will you be affected?

Google refuses to give an exact estimate of just how many sites will be affected by the rollout, but they have said it will “only affect a small percentage of queries.”

Still, if your business’s website is notoriously slow, you may be at risk for a loss in search ranking and traffic. If you’re afraid you may be on the chopping block, you can see how your site stacks up using a number of Google’s tools, such as the Chrome User Experience report, the Lighthouse tool, or the Page Insights tool.

As always, it is recommended that you take steps to make your website as fast as possible. This can be done a number of ways, including reducing image file sizes, finding faster hosting, or reducing the number of widgets or the amount of content on a single page. Even if your site is safe from the Speed Update, you don’t want to risk losing potential customers while they wait for your page to load.

Google has been encouraging webmasters to make their sites as fast as possible for years, but now they’re making it an official ranking requirement.

The company announced this week that it will be launching what it is calling the “Speed Update” in July 2018, which will make page speed an official ranking signal for mobile searches.

Google recommends checking your site’s speed using its PageSpeed report, as well as using tools like LightHouse to measure page speed and improve your loading times.

As Google’s Zhiheng Wang and Doantam Phan wrote in the announcement:

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. It 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 Google says the update will only affect a “small percentage of queries”, it is impossible to tell exactly how many will be impacted. Google handles billions of queries a day, so a small piece of that could still be a substantial number of searches.

This is the first time page speed will be made a ranking factor for mobile searches, but it has been a ranking factor on desktop since 2010. It makes sense to expand this to mobile since there is a wealth of evidence showing that mobile users prioritize loading time when clicking search results. If a page doesn’t load within three-to-five seconds, they are likely to leave the page and find another relevant search result.

Google Accelerated Mobile Pages

Since their launch, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) has been gradually growing in popularity and functionality. More than 2 billion pages now utilize the stripped-down and sped-up content system, and a new survey shows users are also responding very well to AMP.

A poll conducted by 9to5Google indicates that more than half of all internet users prefer to click on AMP content over regular links to full content hosted on your website.

The question posed by Justin Duino from 9to5Google asked: “Are you more inclined to click on an AMP link than a regular one?

With almost 1500 responses so far, 51% of people say the “Yes, I prefer the stripped down versions of websites when reading something.

The other responses include:

  • No, if I want to read something, I will open the link whether it’s AMP or not – 24%
  • No, I prefer loading the entire website – 13%
  • Yes, but only when my device is using mobile data and I don’t want to load a full website – 9%
  • Other – 2%

Of course, informal online polls are hardly considered incontrovertible proof. The results are open to interpretation and informed by numerous factors. For one, the people who frequent 9to5Google’s site are more likely to be tech-inclined and informed about the latest news and features in search. They also likely view Google in a more positive light than the average person.

Still, there is plenty of evidence that content producers and brands love AMP, but there’s been little effort to actually ask users how they feel about the format. Based on this, they are largely in favor of the stripped-down content that lets them get straight to what they clicked on with as little loading time as possible.

In an increasingly mobile world, the speed of your website can be a major make-or-break point for any business. Estimates suggest most sites lose half or more of their visitors just while their page is loading because people aren’t willing to wait around.

So, how can you fix your site and make it lightning-fast? Google can tell you specifically what you need to do with its Test My Site tool, which just received a new set of features this week.

Now, the tool can tell you a number of things about your site, including:

  • Your site’s mobile speed
  • The number of visitors you may be losing
  • How you compare to the competition
  • Specific recommendations about how to make your site faster

To show just how effective it can be to make your site faster, Google points to a case study from a Nashville fencing company. According to Google, Yard Dog Fence Company managed to double its sales just by following the recommendations suggested by the Test My Site Tool, such as reducing image size.

The days of waiting around for minutes while a website loads are gone. These days, people are likely to leave if your page hasn’t rendered in five seconds or less. It may seem like a tough challenge to speed your site up that much, but the Test My Site Tool will give you an actionable list made specifically for your site. With that as a roadmap, you’ll be able to make the changes you need to supercharge your site, improve your traffic, and increase conversions.

How long does your website take to load? If it takes more than three seconds, you’re likely losing more than half of your visitors.

It is no secret that everyone wants everything as fast as possible. That is especially true on the web. The faster your page loads, the more people will stick around and the happier they will be with their experience.

What you might not know, is that your site speed can directly affect your conversions and sales.

Data from Kissmetrics shows that up to 79% of customers who aren’t satisfied with your site’s performance say they are less likely to buy from the same site again. Taking that a step further, many first-time customers may leave before they ever get a chance to see what you have to offer in the first place.

Web Development agency Skilled collected 12 case studies from real businesses in an infographic showing just how powerful page load time really is. If you’ve ever doubted the importance of keeping your site optimized to be as fast as possible, you’ll likely be a believer after seeing these:

Page Speed

Accelerated Mobile Pages

The celebrate the one year anniversary of the rollout of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs), Adobe Analytics released data showing just how much the stripped-down ultrafast mobile pages have grown in use.

Accelerated mobile pages are designed to deliver content to viewers as quickly as possible. Instead of loading within full versions of the website (with all their ads, navigation, and extra content), AMPs use a stripped-down version of HTML to make speed the top priority.

According to the data, AMPs account for 7% of traffic to all top US publishers as of December 2016. While this may not sound that great, the report shows this is an 896% traffic increase to AMPs from April to November of last year. It also indicates the number of AMPs on the internet has spiked by 405%.

The report from Adobe Analytics is based on an analysis of over 1.7 trillion visits to over 16,000 mobile web pages from January 2014 to January 2017. The data on AMPs specifically is based on traffic to top US publishers between April 2016 to December 2016.

The unsteady growth of accelerated mobile pages is likely due to a disorganized rollout. While the technology first became available in February of last year, the pages were not included in organic search results on Google until September. During this time period, AMP was slow to catch on. However, once Google started indexing organic AMPs, the pages quickly rocketed up in use and traffic.

As AMP continues to be further integrated into organic search results, the pages are likely to continue to rise in prominence. I predict we will be seeing a lot more of them as the year progresses.

accelerated-mobile-pages

The Accelerated Mobile Pages project says it has made its stripped-down superfast mobile pages even more versatile with the ability to support forms in AMP HTML.

AMP uses a simplified version of HTML to provide pages faster than usually possible on mobile devices – where speed matters most to users. However, the format offers limited features compared to full-fledged web pages. Until now, one of those limitations was the lack of ability to include forms.

Now, AMP users can include everything from the standard e-mail address capture form to more complex forms or even interactive polls. In addition to making it easier to communicate or gain information from your visitors, the support for forms can help with allowing customers to select colors or other details on e-commerce product pages.

form-error

As the AMP project says in its announcement, support for forms “enables building experiences ranging from a product color picker on an e-commerce detail page to an email field to capture newsletter signups to an interactive poll to engage readers within an article.”

If you want to start running your own AMP pages to deliver content faster to on-the-go users or you want to start adding forms to your already existing accelerated mobile pages, check out the AMP project’s official guides and documentation.

You can also see live examples of what the forms may look like on your site at AMP by Example.

The AMP project says it plans to continue to expand the functionality of AMP pages and AMP forms based on user feedback, but the overall focus is still on providing functional and engaging web pages to users as fast as possible.

FacebookVideo

Your site’s speed on mobile devices will soon be a factor deciding how many people see your Facebook ads, according to an announcement from the social network this week.

In Facebook’s words:

“Over the coming months, we’re working to improve ad experiences for people by considering website performance and a person’s network connection in our ad auction and delivery system.”

While it isn’t clear exactly how site speed and page performance will be implemented into Facebook’s algorithm for displaying ads, the social network is already introducing features to help brands deliver content more quickly across Facebook.

In addition to the use of Accelerated Mobile Pages, Facebook is introducing prefetching to help users see the content they are interested in as quickly as possible. This week’s announcement explains that prefetching starts loading mobile content in the Facebook in-app browser before a user ever clicks a link.

According to their estimates, this speeds up mobile site load time by as much as 29 percent and decreases the rate of site abandonment during the loading process.

The new Facebook help page dedicated to prefetching goes a bit more in-depth about how the system actually works:

“For each News Feed mobile ad, Facebook attempts to predict how likely a person is to click on an ad. If the prediction score meets the requirements, we prefetch the initial HTML page when the story first appears on a person’s screen. This content is cached locally on the person’s device for a short amount of time. If the person clicks on the ad, Facebook loads the initial page from the cache. The initial page then makes regular web requests to the publisher’s server to load the remainder of the page. We currently only cache the initial HTML page. Keep in mind that the CSS, Javascript or images on the website are not cached.”

Ultimately, Facebook’s changes are aimed at improving their overall ad performance and increasing engagement with ads. Advertisers with slow-performing sites tend to also underperform in many ad metrics.

While Facebook’s new feature will improve content delivery speed across the board, the company also offered five tips for tuning up your site:

  • Minimizing landing page redirects, plugins and link shorteners
  • Compressing files to decrease mobile rendering time
  • Improving server response time by utilizing multi-region hosting
  • Using a high-quality Content Delivery Network to reach audiences quickly
  • Removing render-blocking javascript

Google Logo

While loading speed is a crucial issue for most mobile internet users, Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Algorithm” isn’t currently using it as a ranking factor for mobile pages. However, that is likely to change when Google releases their next mobile-friendly update.

According to reports from the recent Search Marketing Summit in Sydney this week, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes confirmed Google would be including page speed as a factor in the next mobile update. But, it may be months until that update arrives.

The inclusion of page speed seems like common sense. The majority of mobile users are likely to leave a page if it doesn’t load within five seconds, and some are even more impatient. From Google’s perspective, including page speed as a factor means they are more likely to help users find a site they will be happy with on the first click as often as possible.

It also makes sense considering Google introduced their version of Accelerated Mobile Pages recently.

Want to know how your site stacks up in terms of page speed or other mobile friendly factors? Google has also released updated versions of their mobile-friendliness and page speed tests for both desktop and mobile in one place.

The new tool, available here, combines all the free site evaluation tools Google offers in one easy-to-read report. You can also get a more extensive report emailed to you for deeper analysis.