The need for speed is coming to the web

Posted by George Nicolaou

On 19 Feb, 2018
George Nicolaou - Senior Software Developer

The need for speed is coming to the web

by | Feb 19, 2018 | Web Development 101 | 0 comments

It has been all the craze for a while that mobile has a priority over desktop in terms of search engine rankings. Well, Google is not changing that any time soon but there is a new factor that is coming into play.

I must note that I came across the fact listening to a web developer related podcast which is a fast and dirty way to keep up with trends while you are doing client work. So, let’s talk about what I researched after the mere mention that speed will become a factor for search engine rankings.  Google has announced that starting in July this year, page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile search.

Let me try and list out a few things we know about the update below based on an interview with a Google Spokesperson to Search Engine Land. Also just so I define any unknown abbreviations AMP is an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.

  1. Is Google going to be using the desktop speed factor for the desktop index?

Yes, nothing changes for desktop.

  1. Will desktop rankings use mobile page speed and not desktop page speed?

No, this change is about the mobile search results.

  1. What about the sites that get the “unavailable” message in the PageSpeed Insights report? How do they properly prepare for this?

The official answer is that “Developers are encouraged to think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics. Google encourages developers to use all the tools that make sense to them.” Which basically means don’t stress if your site shows “unavailable” in webmaster tools, it just means you weren’t included in the dataset they are currently using.

PageSpeed Insights uses data from the Chrome User Experience Report. For sites that are not in the Chrome User Experience Report data set, Google recommends using Lighthouse to evaluate the performance of a page. But again, don’t stress too much in my opinion

  1. Did Google give us a percentage of queries impacted by this?

This will affect a small percentage of queries was the answer.

  1. Will there be a significant drop in ranking if the site is impacted?

Speed is just one of many signals that are used to rank pages. Keep in mind that 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.

  1. Will there be a notification of some sort in Google Search Console, or it is completely algorithmic?

This is completely algorithmic. There is no tool that directly indicates whether a page is affected by this new ranking factor.

  1. Is the algorithm using the same data used in the PageSpeed Insights tool? The Chrome User Experience Data?

The intent of the signal is to improve the user experience on search. While Google did’t comment on the types of data, they do encourage developers to think broadly how about performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics when improving their site.

  1. What if the site has AMP URLs but the canonical URLs are super slow? How does a site with AMP get impacted by this?

The same standard is applied to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The goal of this change is to improve the search user experience. In this example, since users from Search would be seeing an AMP page, the speed of the AMP page would be taken into account. However, if a page built with AMP provides a slow experience to users, it may also rank lower in the results.

In conclusion, I honestly think that Google will always value unique and relevant content but to be frank the way internet speeds are today if a site takes a while to load I personally exit fast and hard

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Web Development 101The need for speed is coming to the web