What Google’s Speed Update Means for Small Businesses

Google’s just announced a new speed update, set to impact all of their mobile traffic by June of 2018. Is your business website ready?...

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    If you follow marketing news, you may have heard of Google’s speed update. But what does it really mean for small business websites?

    What is the Google Speed Update?

    Page load speed is important. We’ve talked about that in our post on image optimization, as well as our trends to look out for in 2018. So this isn’t exactly a new concept. Google rankings are influenced by how quickly pages load because load speed is an important factor for most every website visitor. So what’s different?


    Google is explicitly adding speed as a factor to all mobile searches coming in July. This is a response to the fact that mobile search has been becoming more and more important to users, taking precedence over desktop searches by 60% over the past few years.

    And many mobile sites are slow.

    The fact of the matter is, 53% of visitors abandon a site if the load time is longer than three seconds. The average mobile site? It takes 22 seconds to load.

    Google’s Study

    To address this, Google put together a study to determine just how slow things are in the mobile world. They reviewed 900,000 landing pages in 126 countries, and found that:

    • For 70% of the pages analyzed: it took 7 seconds for visual content to load
    • They found that the average file sizes of websites were slowing things down:
      • 70% pages were greater than 1MB in size, 36% were greater than 2MB, and 12% 
        were greater than 4MB.
      • On average, 1.5MB can take 7 seconds to load on a fast 3G connection, and 70% of pages are greater than 1MB in size, most websites move slower than desired.
    • As page load time goes up (from 1 second to 7), the probability of a mobile visitor “bouncing” from the site increases by 113%.
    • This is a result of the file size of the page, which is determined by the size and number of elements on a page.  (By ‘elements’ we mean text, titles, images)
      • As the number and size of these elements increase, the probability of conversion decreases 95%

    What does this look like practically?

    The status that determine mobile drivers

    So Google’s speed update, they will be ranking faster sites, the ones people are less likely to leave before they finish loading, higher than the slower ones.

    Can you test your site to see where you rank?

    Well, sort of. There isn’t a cut-and-dried way to know exactly where you rank when it comes to your mobile speed. But keep in mind: Google’s speed update only impacts mobile searches, and it’s targeted toward the worst offenders on the load time scale. So the best way to ensure that your ranking isn’t adversely effected is to make sure the elements of your page load quickly and efficiently.

    These things, we can test. Using tools like Pagespeed InsightsLighthouse Chrome DevTools, and Testmysite, you can get an idea of how well your website is performing, and whether you need to optimize your pages for speed.

    What does this mean for small business websites?

    Small business owners often make the mistake of thinking that targeting mobile devices is something that’s above their pay grade. But this is a mistake.

    Keep Mobile In Mind

    40% of mobile searches have local intent. Those are people looking to purchase something or locate a business in their area. That’s a huge factor when it comes to driving traffic to small businesses. So how can you harness the power of those searches and optimize your site for mobile speed ranking?

    Compress File Size

    Make sure the HTML, CSS, JS coding for your pages are optimally compressed to cut the fat when it comes to file size. A well-compressed page will load much quicker than one that isn’t.

    Optimize Your Images

    Another way to prepare for Google’s speed update is to use good caching. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN.) Compress image size to make things quicker. The smaller and smarter your images are, the more they impact your speed. (We talk about this in our post on how images boost web performance.)

    Something else to consider: lazy loading. This means holding off on loading images until the visitor actually hits the section of the site where the images are located. For example, if there’s an image at the bottom of a page– it won’t be loaded until the visitor scrolls down to that section of the page. Since it delays loading the content until the user scrolls to it, it reduces the initial file size of what must load, without actually eliminating any content. This will make a huge difference in the initial load time.

    Consider AMP Pages

    If you have a blog, consider moving your content over to Google’s accelerated mobile pages (AMP) to help increase speed. This won’t be a night-and-day difference when it comes to your ranking, but Google does tend to favor AMP content when given the chance.

    Hone Your Content

    The more content you have on a page, the longer it will take to load. This means being smart when it comes to what content you put where.

    Check for unnecessary content. You don’t need a bunch of text and images on every page. Make sure that they are distributed among pages in a way that is efficient and easy to navigate. (Check out our post on Content Hierarchy to get a good idea of what we’re talking about here.)

    That being said, good content will always help your site. Even if it’s slow. Google’s speed update won’t change that. Getting rid of relevant and helpful content is never a good idea, so don’t try the slash and burn approach. We’re going for efficient content, not less content.

    Watch Your Speed

    As we mentioned before, a key factor in staying on top of your site’s speed is monitoring it with tools like the ones mentioned above. If your site isn’t performing well in these tools, check to see where it’s falling short and get back on track.

    Be Aware Of Changes In Advertising

    Mobile ads can be a disproportionately cheap means of advertising, and a great way to generate new customers. But if your pages are slow, expect to see an increase in your pay-per-click rates, or even have your ads fail to be served.

    Google doesn’t want to send traffic to slow sites that visitors are likely to bounce from, even if you’re willing to pay for that traffic. So to reap the benefits of mobile advertising, be sure to follow the above tips and get your website moving efficiently.

    So to stay on top of Google’s speed update, stay quick, stay nimble, and you’ll drive more mobile traffic to your business.

    Duke Kimball

    Duke writes words, good. When he's not crafting content for The Pros, he's crafting stories, enjoying craft beer, or gourmet coffee. He is Portlandia.

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