Google, the tech giant that is estimated to control about 90% of the global search market, plans to make the download speed of mobile web pages a key part of its method for ranking search results. The company’s “Speed Update” will take effect in July and will only affect a small percentage of pages: the ones with the slowest user experience, per a blog post.
Google said the update applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used for developing them. The most important consideration will remain the intent of the user’s search, which means a slow page may still rank high if the content is considered most relevant.
The search company recommends website operators use a variety of diagnostic tools to help measure a user’s experience. While the tools don’t indicate specifically how to game Google’s algorithms to get a better ranking, its Chrome User Experience Report has public user experience metrics, Lighthouse helps audit a website’s quality and PageSpeed Insights suggests ways to improve performance.
The upcoming “Speed Update” is another reminder that marketers need to carefully consider the experience they provide to a mobile audience, and to be prepared for mobile-first indexing from Google, which is currently rolling out, to ensure they rank higher in search results. Considering that Google is unrivaled in its power to control how web users find internet content, any change to its method of ranking search results is a key concern for mobile advertisers and publishers. Google recognizes that internet users are more likely to use a mobile device to browse content, either on mobile websites or in apps, than on desktop computers.
Google has made mobile page speed a priority for the past couple of years. It introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages in October 2015 as part of a broad initiative to speed up web browsing on mobile devices. The following year, the company emphasized websites that used AMP more prominently in its search results and on Google News, per TechCrunch.
Google last month started the next stage of its previously announced plan to shift toward mobile-first indexing based on several criteria, the company announced in a blog post. The company said it will increasingly rely on the mobile version of a website's content when indexing and ranking search results. Mobile-first indexing is a major shift away from the current practice of using computer programs to crawl, index and rank websites by first looking at the desktop version.