Google’s Speed Update is currently being rolled out for all users following its arrival in July 2018. This means that Google now uses web page speed as a ranking factor for mobile search results. Even if your website loads really quickly on your end, visitors with somewhat older smartphones may find their experience is considerably slower. If this is the case, your speed score could suffer and your website’s rankings could take a beating as a result. It’s more important than ever to prioritise your site’s speed optimisation. Today, we explore ways to optimise your website in order to meet Google’s need for speed.
What is the Google Speed Update?
Google’s ‘Speed Update’ is a new ranking algorithm which went live in July this year that specifically targets the mobile experience. In a recent announcement, Google said that only web pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users” will be impacted by the update, adding that this new algorithm will only impact a small percentage of queries on the search engine. However, it is clear that Google is pushing for a faster mobile experience, stating on their blog that data suggests “people really care about the speed of their webpage”. If you want to ensure none of your web page rankings drop due to poor speed performance on mobile, it’s time to consider how your website performance affects the user’s experience.
How can you check your speed?
To check you page speed you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, a suite of tools created by Google which are designed to help a website’s performance optimisations. You simply enter your website URL and click ‘ANALYZE’ and Google runs the test for you.
You get a score and helpful report which details any key issues on both mobile and desktop and Google’s optimisation suggestions. Here is an example of a PageSpeed Insights report excerpt for an eCommerce website:
Google has also released an updated version of the mobile Test My Site tool which provides you site’s load time on mobile in seconds and provides a report which shows you how your mobile site performs compared to industry standards.
We used this tool to test our favourite biscuit brand’s website and were surprised at the results. The Arnotts website achieved a load time of 16 seconds. That might not seem like a lot but the recommended load time is three seconds or less. Any longer than that and you stand to lose over half of visitors to your site before they’ve even had a chance to engage with your content.
A lot of visitors simply won’t wait a few extra seconds for a site to load, especially on their mobile devices. This Google mobile test allows you to compare your site speed performance with top performers in your industry. In this case we can see that Arnotts has some real catching up to do if they want to rival top performing sites with regards to speed performance. You can request a free report from Google which then details the recommended optimisations for making your site faster to load.
By improving your scores in the above Google tests and your site speed in general you will improve your chances of meeting Google’s need for speed on mobile, meaning your pages will be more likely to rank higher in mobile search results. What’s more, faster pages will lead to better conversion rates: reducing the number of visitors you lose due to poor speed performance will mean more people stay on your site and continue along the path to conversion.
There can often be a significant amount of optimisation work required to achieve decent site speed scores on desktop and mobile. However, let’s take a look at 3 key steps you can take to improve your speed performance.
Optimise your images
As images often represent most of the downloaded bytes on a page, optimising images can often be the easiest way to achieve speed performance improvements. One of the best ways to reduce the size of an image is compression. There are many different tools you can use to compress your images. One thing you need to consider when compressing images is that modifications can result in reduced quality so your main aim when formatting your images should be to strike the balance between the lowest file size and acceptable quality.
If you use the content management system (CMS) WordPress you will find there are lots of image compression plugins readily available for your website if you do a search under Plugins.
Other key considerations when optimising your images:
- there are two types of compression you can use, lossy and lossless. Lossy is a filter that eliminates some of the data meaning it will degrade the image so you need to be careful not to reduce the image size too much. Meanwhile, lossless is a filter that compresses the data without any quality loss. You end up with larger files though than if you were to use lossy compression. You can carry out a lossless compression on your desktop using a tool like Photoshop. The widely used WordPress image compression plugin “Smush Image Compression and Optimisation” allows you to optimise your images using lossless compression techniques.
- it’s important to choose the right file format. For example, PNG produces higher quality images but has a larger file size. JPEG uses a combination of lossy and lossless optimisation to reduce file size of the image. Different image formats support different features.
Our team of graphic designers and developers ensure that the best image formats and compression techniques are used to get optimum image quality while maintaining the file size at an acceptable level. In some cases you are better off getting professional help to ensure that the images on your website look great but aren’t compromising speed performance.
Leverage Browser Caching
If you have a WordPress site you will find they have a number of handy plugins to help with this process. Otherwise, you need to edit your HTTP headers to set expiry times for certain types of files in order to enable browser caching. If you don’t know what this means, we recommend getting a trusted developer to help you out.
The easy way to optimise your website speed
These are just a few of the steps you can take when determining how to optimise your website speed. There may be many more listed in Google’s report when you test your site using their Test My Site tool. The amount of work required to implement all of their recommended optimisations may seem overwhelming. At Balmer Agency, speed on both desktop and mobile are two of the key metrics we monitor as part of our SEO services we carry out extensive speed optimisations as required to ensure your speed performance is maintained at benchmark levels. Our SEO specialists have collectively optimised thousands of websites so they can ensure safe and sound SEO practices are used at all time to deliver the best results.
Contact the Balmer SEO team today for a free initial consultation to find out how we can optimise your site for speed, mobile friendliness, rankings in search engine results and conversions.