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Google Updates Their Page Speed Algorithm

Are you prepared for the newest Google Algorithm Update? Hopefully this is not the first you are hearing of it, but if so iProspect has you covered. On July 9th, 2018 Google announced that their long-awaited update to the Page Speed Algorithm is officially in the wild. This is one of the only algorithms that Google identifies and assists us as marketers to take advantage of so it’s a big deal. Up until now the page speed algorithm has been using Desktop data, not accounting for your Mobile site speed. This means that brands that have not been optimizing for the mobile web are sitting on a ticking time bomb if they have a sub-par mobile experience. Over the next few days this algorithm will begin to penalize the worst offenders, causing immediate ranking and revenue decreases for those brands in Mobile Google search.

If you are not already consistently tracking page speed, now is the right time to start. The average page speed time globally is 15 seconds, which is pretty awful considering that 53% of mobile users leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.  If watching your rankings is not enough to make you emphasize site speed, then concerns over people bouncing from your site instead of converting should.

We have put together an easy checklist to help identify if you have been negatively impacted by this algorithm update, and how to prioritize immediate fixes to get things turned around quickly. This checklist is focused around two sets of data: 

  1. Field Data – Ranking Impact

  2. Lab Data – Conversion Impact

Field Data: Google Page Speed Insights Checklist 

Field Data is information from real world page speed that comes from actual users. The one most commonly referred to by Google is the Chrome User Experience Report. Google’s Page Speed Insights tool is powered by this data and is rumored to be the source of truth that the Google Speed Algorithm is based on. This makes it very helpful to investigate if speed is impacting rankings. Follow this six-step process using Google Page Speed Insights for identifying if a page has been negatively impacted by page speed: 

  1. Pull a ranking report for mobile devices, focusing on a pre-post timeframe.

  2. Identify the URLs that saw the largest decrease.

  3. Run those URLs through the Page Speed Insights Tool.

  4. Provide immediate updates/attention to URLs that are red.

  5. Set up a medium page priority to update URLs that are Orange.

  6. Remember that URLs that are Green are not being impacted by this algorithm.

Lab Data: Chrome Lighthouse Checklist

Lab Data is information from a tool that can control variables like browser, load time and location. For pages that are showing Red from the Google Page Speed Insights tool and have seen rankings decline you will want to do immediate triage. A custom Google Lighthouse report will provide a list of common errors and recommendations for increasing page speed. As you are prioritizing recommendations we need to get under three seconds, there won’t be a ranking boost if you’re already fast. These are the steps you should take:

  1. Run a Lighthouse report for your Red URLs from the Field Data.

  2. Compile all the recommendations together in one format (Excel, PPT, etc).

  3. Organize these recommendations by file size and complexity to identify which ones will bring the site to a sub three second load time with the least amount of work.

  4. Identify which items apply to all pages and which are unique.

  5. Recommend moving the pages to AMP if it is less costly.

  6. Compile the results for your Development team and use the Google Revenue Impact calculator to show possible Conversion benefits. Putting things into a dollar amount always helps.

Your Game Plan For the Update

As SEO has evolved over the years Google is introducing more user experience-focused components into its ranking algorithm.  Google is now rewarding brands that have a better speed-based mobile experience with a small ranking boost.  If evaluating mobile page speed is not a standard practice with your teams, make sure to fix that with the above Checklists as a first step. You will want to consistently set-up monthly reviews of both field and lab data to identify areas of improvement as a best practice moving forward. User experience features like speed are only poised to take more prominence as search engines refine their algorithm. Don’t lose out on ranking with great content because of neglecting the importance of site design and speed.