Yesterday, Google announced a major upcoming change to its mobile ranking algorithm.
In a short blog post entitled ‘Using page speed in mobile search ranking’, it explained that starting in July 2018, page speed will officially be a ranking factor for mobile searches.
The catchily-named “Speed Update” (a feat of inventive naming on a par with “Assistant”) is set to only affect “pages that deliver the slowest experience to users” and, in Google’s words, will only impact a “small percentage of queries”.
However, given that Google processes around 3.5 billion search queries per day (per Internet Live Stats), a “small percentage” can still amount to a lot of websites.
So for any website owners and SEOs who might be concerned about how this affects them, let’s examine what we know about the update so far, and what it means for mobile SEO.
Speed as a ranking factor: coming to a mobile update near you
Google has used page speed as a ranking factor on desktop since April 2010, but although having a fast mobile site has always stood companies in good stead for ranking well in search, it hasn’t been an official ranking factor in Google’s algorithm until now.
However, this announcement is far from coming out of left field. As far back as June 2016, Google webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes confirmed that the next mobile algorithm update from Google would use page speed as a ranking factor.
Google has also frequently emphasized the importance of speed in mobile user experience in its advice to webmasters, and Google initiatives like Accelerated Mobile Pages and Progressive Web Apps have aimed to furnish site owners with the tools to make their websites fast and streamlined on mobile.
The “Speed Update” announcement doesn’t give all that much new information about how website owners should improve their sites in order to rank well on Google, but here’s what we do know:
- Speed Update will mainly impact the websites which deliver the “slowest experience” to users, although Google hasn’t given a benchmark by which webmasters can judge whether or not their site falls into this category.
- It applies regardless of the technology used to build the page – so it would still apply to, say, AMP websites. If an AMP website for some reason delivers a slow experience, this would impact on its ranking.
- Content relevance still trumps speed. In Google’s words, “The 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.”
- Google wants developers to “think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics.” This means user experience matters as well as speed – we’ll come back to that in a bit.
- There is no tool or notification that will tell webmasters whether their site is being affected by the update, but Google recommends using Chrome User Experience Report, Lighthouse or PageSpeed Insights to evaluate a page’s performance.
Spotlight on mobile user experience
As highlighted earlier, the language used by Google in its blog post indicates that the search engine is looking at not just speed, but overall mobile user experience with this update.
Google went so far as to spell this out in a Q&A with Search Engine Land, saying that, “The intent of the signal is to improve the user experience on search.”
In other words, site owners who want to score highly here need to pay attention to more than just page load time. This is underscored by Google’s recommendation of the Chrome User Experience Report as a tool to evaluate webpage performance in light of the update.
A lot of improvements to mobile page speed also improve the wider user experience on mobile – for example, videos and audio set to autoplay are annoying and inaccessible to users, and also slow the page down by loading unnecessary content – meaning that site owners can kill two birds with one stone.
Other steps that site owners can take to improve mobile UX include disabling annoying full-page pop-ups and interstitials (which Google is liable to penalize anyway) and implementing a slimmed-down, task-based design that allows users to quickly navigate to the functionality they need.
Above all, a mobile website should enable users to efficiently accomplish what they came there to do, without being bogged down by unnecessary bells and whistles. If you achieve this, you should be able to stay on the right side of the Speed Update algorithm both in terms of page performance and in terms of mobile experience.
Here are some more guides we’ve published that will help you get to grips with mobile SEO, site speed and UX ahead of the July update:
- How to carry out a mobile SEO audit on your site
- The 5 best tools to develop a mobile-first SEO strategy
- Mobile SEO: The 3 areas that really matter for SEO performance
- How do I make sure my site is mobile friendly? A checklist
Mobile site speed
- How to optimize your mobile site speed: Testing for issues
- How to reduce the impact of images on your mobile site speed
- How to optimize images for mobile: Implementing light, responsive, correctly formatted images
- How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed
- How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio
- How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues
- Why mobile commerce sites should be designed for context
Google has announced that, starting July 2018, page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile search.
The post Google to Use Page Speed as Ranking Signal in Mobile Search by @MattGSouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Follow these tips to optimize your page speed and boost your traffic and conversions.
The post How to Improve Page Speed for More Traffic & Conversions by @jeremyknauff appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
The HTTP/2 protocol was published in 2015 with the aim of creating a faster, more secure Internet. Adoption has been gradual and is ongoing, but there are clear benefits for marketers who make the upgrade. So what exactly is HTTP/2 and how does it affect SEO?
The variety and quantities of information transferred on the Internet have changed dramatically in the past decade. Content formats are larger and more complex, mobile usage has increased significantly, and there is a growing global population of Internet users on a daily basis.
It is within this ever-changing landscape that a group of developers built SPDY (pronounced ‘speedy’, aptly enough), to build on the syntax of the original Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
As the name suggests, SPDY was developed with the core aim of finding faster ways to transport content on the Internet that would reduce page load speeds. SPDY was primarily developed by a group of Google engineers and it provided the platform for HTTP/2, towards which Google has now shifted its support.
HTTP/2, with the aid of some of those SPDY developers at Google, is an initiative driven by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to build a more robust platform for the Internet that is in keeping with the needs of modern users. It was published in May 2015 with the aim of refreshing the HTTP protocol, which has not seen any real radical overhauls since HTTP 1.1.
Most Internet browsers support HTTP/2, as do a growing number of servers, but according to W3Tech, only 13.7% of the world’s top 10 million sites have moved to this standard, as of May 2017.
That number is on the rise, however, and marketers should be aware of the implications of this significant upgrade.
What makes HTTP/2 different?
HTTP/2 is built on top of the same syntax as HTTP 1.1, so it serves more as a refresh than a complete overhaul. That is quite a purposeful decision, as the onus is on making this a smooth transition that brings benefits for Internet browsers, servers, and end-users.
- HTTP/2 is binary, instead of textual
- It is fully multiplexed, instead of ordered and blocking
- It can therefore use one connection for parallelism
- It uses header compression to reduce overhead
- It allows servers to “push” responses proactively into client caches.
At a conceptual level, this means that HTTP/2 reduces load times by improving the efficiency of communications between browsers and servers.
Rather than a sequence of exchanges between the server side and the client side, one connection can host multiple exchanges at once and, quite importantly, the server side can proactively make responses without waiting to be called.
Site owners can compress some of these resources to increase load speeds, but we require a fundamental change in browser-server communications to resolve these issues in the long term.
That’s exactly where HTTP/2 comes in.
On a practical level, these interactions between browsers and servers start to look as follows:
This simplified example serves an illustrative purpose, as we can see clearly how effective the HTTP/2 approach would be at a grander scale.
It does this by both making and receiving multiple calls simultaneously through one connection, rather than making them one at a time.
How effective is HTTP/2?
Given the stated importance of making the Internet faster for users, we can quite readily make comparisons to see how effective HTTP/2 is.
A HTTP Watch study compared different versions of the same page, in particular drawing a comparison between standard HTTPS and HTTP/2.
This waterfall chart shows the difference from a technical standpoint, and also the assumed benefits for a user.
The page loads 22% faster, providing a significant improvement to the end-user’s experience.
The comparison was made on quite a simple page, so the benefits can be extrapolated out to a wider data set containing more complex assets.
What does it mean for SEO?
As with so many website improvements nowadays, the SEO impact will be felt indirectly. Google does not factor HTTP/2 readiness into its algorithms, but it does reward sites that provide a slick user experience. That includes page load speed, so it is fair to say that moving to HTTP/2 will have a positive effect on a site’s SEO performance.
Mobile has been the focal point of efforts to increase speed recently and undoubtedly, mobile performance will be improved by the shift to HTTP/2.
Nonetheless, it is worth considering that a move to HTTP/2 has benefits across all devices and all digital channels, whereas new coding languages like AMP HTML have limited applications. The two can work very effectively in tandem, of course, but the benefits of HTTP/2 are particularly widespread and long-term.
As such, we should view HTTP/2 as a platform for faster, more secure digital connections, which can only be a positive for SEO.
What do marketers need to do to upgrade to HTTP/2?
First and foremost, your website will need to be on HTTPS. In fact, this is the most laborious part of moving to HTTP/2, as once your site is secured the process is really rather simple. There are hints at the importance of this move, as HTTP/2 is often referred to as a “faster, more secure” protocol for the modern Internet.
If your website is already secured, you may only have to update your server software to the latest version.
In fact, you may already be on HTTP/2 without necessarily knowing the switch has happened as part of a server update. You can use SPDYCheck to verify this.
There is a list of known HTTP/2 implementations on Github too, which is pretty exhaustive and is updated regularly.
Look at your analytics data to see where your visitors come from, but they most likely come from HTTP/2 friendly sources such as Google Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. Most browsers already support the new protocol, so the onus is on websites to make the switch.
It is also worth noting that if a site is on HTTP/2 and makes a connection with a resource that is still on HTTP 1.1, they will simply communicate in the latter language.
As such, there are no significant drawbacks to making this upgrade for site owners, but the rewards are long-lasting and will provide a better user experience. The SEO impact may be indirect, but it will still be felt as Google makes on-site engagement signals an increasingly important part of its ranking algorithms.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.