What You Need to Know About Google’s Speed Update

Just a few weeks into the new year, Google announced its upcoming algorithm update, due out this July. Here’s how marketers can plan ahead.

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The Speed Update will finally add mobile page speed as a factor in mobile search rankings. This is coming 8 years after page speed was factored into desktop searches. Recent data shows 46% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine, so how your mobile pages rank is an important focus. As with most Google search updates, companies affected by the Speed Update should start now to prepare for the coming changes. Here’s what you need to know about the Speed Update, who it impacts, and what you need to do before it rolls out.

Your mobile page speed: Google recommends using PageSpeed Insights to measure your page speed and identify areas for improvement. The PageSpeed tool was recently revamped to give marketers a more accurate view based on real user data, drawing from the Chrome user experience report. Using this tool will sort pages into one of three categories: fast, average, or slow.

The importance of mobile page speed: While the Speed Update incorporates mobile page speed as a ranking factor for the first time, the update may not make or break a site’s ranking. Page speed is one of many factors used in the search ranking algorithms, so slower sites with high quality content and high engagement may still rank high in search results.

Who will be affected: Come July, Google says most mobile pages will not be impacted by the Speed Update. The new algorithm update, according to Google’s blog, “will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries.”

Super small sites: Google admits it may not have enough data to reliably measure speed for smaller mobile pages. In these cases, PageSpeed Insights may not be able to report on mobile page speed, but it will still provide the optimization scores page owners can use to influence decisions about updates.

Desktop vs. mobile searches: According to a Google spokesperson, the Speed Update will only affect mobile searches, while desktop searches will continue to utilize the existing algorithms.

What about AMP pages? If you’re using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to create mobile-friendly pages, those pages will be evaluated for speed the same way other pages will.

Although mobile page speed is just one ranking factor, it’s worth taking the time to evaluate your mobile pages. Not only should you aim to get pages out of the “slow” category, but Google’s algorithm update may also be a good time to audit mobile pages for content quality, visual content, and other factors that could increase your search engine rankings.