Google Bomb Warning: Fast (Not Slow) and Steady Wins the Mobile Race!


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Google is planning to drop its next bomb – a mobile site speed algorithm. A few months ago at SMX Advanced, Google’s Matt Cutts gave a clear signal that a new search algorithm update is coming. He basically said don’t be surprised if page loading times start factoring into rankings for mobile websites. Though Matt didn’t specifically mention loading time as a demotion factor, he certainly warned webmasters to keep a close watch on the speed of their mobile sites.

Indeed site speed, determined by page timing and user timing, has been a metric in Google Analytics for some time, but this is the first instance where Google has officially spoken to the public about plans to factor site speed into mobile search rankings. It makes sense. Arguably, mobile site speed should outperform desktop considering the nature of searching for anything on the go.

Image Credit: Snippit of an infographic made by Kissmetrics

How do you know if you’re too slow?

Do you know how much times it takes for your mobile website or blog to render when mobile-device-users click on it? What about across different mobile platforms like iOS versus Android or phone versus tablet? As Adobe points out in this 8-point plan for tablet optimization, if your mobile website was worth developing, it’s worth measuring.

According to a recent blog post by G-Shift Labs if your mobile website is too slow you will lose almost half of the traffic that comes to it. Kissmetric backed this statistic and reported that “73% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load” and that 40% of people will leave a website if it takes more than 2 seconds to load.

You can find out if potential customers are leaving your site by installing a mobile survey on your website or by measuring your site speed using more technical tools and considerations.

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Image Credit: KO Marketing Associates LLC

Technical Considerations to Improve Mobile Page Loading Times

There are several considerations and techniques for improving website speed in general. For example, this article gives practical how-to advice on how to improve page loading times using style sheets and JavaScript, caching, compressing text and image files and Apache fine tuning.

Additionally there are several tools to measure your current site speed as far as the download time is concerned. The tools will provide you with adequate details including the average KB loaded, average loading time and average objects. In addition, you’ll also come to know about the ratios of images, scripts, style sheets and documents used by your site. A few examples of such tools include Web Page Test, Web Page Analyzer and Load Impact. You can also use this ‘Make the Web Faster’ tutorial put together by Google herself (yeah the whole if god was a woman and google being god to SEM’s – go ahead and call me on it) helps webmasters or web developers with the process of site speed testing.

According to mobile consultant, Dimitry Zolotaryov, many of the same considerations and techniques that are used to improve desktop page loading times can be applied to mobile. However he explains that there are unique considerations for mobile page speed. He says:

Desktop page load speeds are seldom increased by latency, whereas this is a big concern on mobile device where cell phone reception is spotty and the radio takes longer to connect to a tower. Reducing the number of resources on a single page (i.e. images, scripts and styles), and reducing the number of hosts (i.e. individual domains) these resources are hosted on, reduces the overall time it takes to load the page in a pronounced way. Any non-essential external resources should be avoided. In the case of a responsive website, extra care must be taken to exclude resources that apply only to the desktop experience.

Once you’ve tested your site speed and reduced or removed resources on a page, you’re going to have to follow Google’s Mobile Analysis in PageSpeed Insights. Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Round Table took the liberty of summarizing these mobile page speed guidelines as seen here:

  • Server must render the response (< 200 ms)
  • Number of redirects should be minimized
  • Number of roundtrips to first render should be minimized
  • Avoid external blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content
  • Reserve time for browser layout and rendering (200 ms)
  • Optimize JavaScript execution and rendering time

If you’ve watched the last one or two years closely, you understand that search-engine-authority Google is becoming stricter about websites and blogs that deserve higher search rankings. After Google launched its Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, a number of large web properties had to face the music. I don’t think anyone will soon forget the very-public spotlight on Rap Genius’ ban by Google. While some webmasters are still trying to recover from previous search penalties, others have started running at optimal speed to prepare for what’s coming next.

Jason Laloux
Jason is a freelance writer and marketing strategist that specializes in social media and content strategy. His work has traditionally focused on B2B products, such as web hosting and ERP solutions, but he also has a strong background in travel writing.


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