So, what's happening in July?
Page load speed is increasingly becoming one of the defining characteristics of a great user experience. Google are looking to further cement this with their imminent algorithm update announced on the Webmasters blog back in January. Whilst the page load speed of desktop websites has long been a ranking factor, Google's organic rankings will take into account mobile website speed from next month.
The update is significant because it comes at a time when Google is already revising their entire search engine index to be mobile-first. Although the restructure is confirmed to be separate from this mobile speed update, by doubling down on their mobile-orientated approach, Google is honouring its commitment to improving the mobile web. It's great to see one of the largest search engines rewarding brands that adopt this future-facing mentally with a boost to its search results.
This move is also a more accurate reflection of general internet trends. As of April, mobile device browsing overtook desktop, according to Statista. However, looking specifically at website design and development, "mobile first" was adopted for wireframes, designs and templates a few years ago.
How will mobile data be factored into the Search Engine Results Pages?
There's been a significant amount of speculation around the Chrome User Experience Report. In fact, in a recent blog post, an industry expert confirmed that Google's use of this data source is contributing towards a picture of page load speed. Ultimately, the measurement will be well beyond a simple timed threshold for landing pages to cross. It is more about an amalgamation of factors such as the first render, largest visible image load and final page render time that, when combined, give a rounded measurement of the perceived and actual load time.
How will this update impact brands?
We tend to see page load speed performance factors impact brands in two different ways. At the top end of performance, we've increasingly seen it as a disruptor when other ranking factors are relatively equal. A website that invests in page load speed can see its organic performance nudge ahead of closely matched competitors. Whilst at the lower end, we tend to see page load speed acting as a barrier to those brands looking to break into the top five results. With a page load speed of more than 10 seconds, exceptional performance across all other factors can only take a landing page so far.
For brands looking to adopt a strategy around improving page load speed, it's important to follow a structured process. It's first about defining performance, then establishing a benchmark as well as a target, followed by testing and iterating on learnings. The tactics for improvement that you can adopt are broad and therefore, cover everything including image optimisation, reviewing the render process and assessing the manner in which page content loads. The most vital component: that you're testing the impact of everything. This allows brands to maintain a revenue-driven focus and keep the wider business bought into the value of page speed optimisation.
In summary, the upcoming algorithm update for Google is another step towards raising the profile of the mobile experience, as well as aligning Search Engine Optimisation, Conversion Rate Optimisation and User Experience. For brands, in particular those in competitive and aggressive markets, it presents an opportunity to improve organic performance at the same time as delivering a market-leading experience for users.
iProspect is committed to staying ahead of the digital curve which is why our experts have crunched the numbers and produced the Performance UX Index. Our data scientists analysed more than 10,000 data points, 401 websites and 307 brands across 14 verticals to provide businesses with four total scores against key metrics that lead to an optimised user experience.
Download your copy of iProspect's Performance UX whitepaper and check out the UX Performance Index tool to find out how your website ranks against other brands in your industry as well as competitors.
Update: The original blog post from Google has now been amended to confirm that this is currently rolling out for all users.