Google Page Speed and SEO

By Adam Baer

Google, like all of us, prefers things done quickly. The company is a major advocate for websites that load in a rapid fashion, especially on a mobile device.

In July, Google will be rolling out its “Speed Update,” which will make mobile page load speed a ranking factor for searches taking place on a mobile device. If your website doesn’t load quickly on a mobile device, your organic search rankings may suffer. What does all this mean? Google cares about—and wants you to care about—user experience.

Back in 2010, Google included site speed as a determining factor in its ranking algorithm. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests. (An example of a web request is when someone enters your bank’s website address into their web browser address bar and the web server is called upon to serve your bank’s homepage to the user on their desktop or mobile device browser.)

This was Google giving web users what its internal testing showed they wanted: a faster web experience. Google’s research found that “when a website responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.” These studies determined that when a website responded quickly, users had a better experience. User experience is something that is at the forefront of Google’s ranking algorithm, and speed is a top determining factor.

So this latest update is consistent with Google’s longstanding goal of providing the best possible web experience to users. Because an estimated 48% of buyers start searching on a smart phone, it’s important that your website can perform on a mobile device and give people the information they want as fast as possible.

You’re probably wondering how fast is “fast.” Google has defined benchmarks for all major industries in several metrics.

Here is how each industry ranks against Google’s benchmarks:

Speed: Average Speed Index – How quickly the mobile page displays content to users (lower is better). Best practice is under 3 seconds.

Speed: Average Time to First Byte – How fast and responsive a mobile web server is in a specific category (lower is better). More simply, average time to first byte measures how long a browser has to wait before receiving its first byte of data from the server. Best practice is under 1.3 seconds.

Optimize: Average Request Count – The number of individual pieces of content needed to display the entire mobile page (lower is better). Best practice is fewer than 50.

Weight: Average Page Weight Bytes – The total size of a mobile webpage, measured in bytes (lower is better). Best practice is fewer than 500kb.

As you can see, per Google’s analyses, all industries are slower than they should be. The finance industry is closest to Google’s best practice in two of the four categories, but some of us still have work to do. The good news is that Google says there are plenty of easy fixes, like compressing images and text, to improve page load speed.

Optimizing your bank’s website is a technical task, and it’s important to have someone on your team, or your website administrator, test your website to determine areas in need of improvement and give yourself an edge against competitors. For an inside look at where improvements can be made, you can use Google’s page speed tool. This is a great resource that will tell you exactly what you need to fix.

It’s important to note, per Google, that this update effects pages that deliver the slowest experience, and only a small portion of search queries may be impacted. The intent of the search is still relevant and slow pages could continue to rank highly if they have strong, relevant content. However, most search engine optimizers agree that page speed—on both desktop and mobile devices—is a major factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. It should have strong consideration when you’re evaluating your SEO strategy.

Adam Baer is the digital marketing manager at Pannos Marketing based in Bedford, NH. Pannos Marketing is an award winning, full service communications firm specializing in strategic marketing, branding, digital marketing, social media, e-commerce and website solutions for financial institutions. Email: abaer@pannosmarketing.com. LinkedIn.

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