Google Speed Update Rolled Out

It has taken six months to prepare, but the Google Speed update is now here and rolling out to all users. It currently only has an impact on mobile search rankings of the internet’s slowest sites. Google has been including page speed in to its ranking factors since 2010, however it was focused on desktop searches. Previously, the desktop page speed algorithm was only able to take into account whether a site was extremely slow or not.

We wrote about the new Google Speed Update quite some time ago now, however Google has finally updated its announcement, stating that the update is now “rolling out for all users.”. This morning they have begun incorporating the Speed Update algorithm into mobile search results as a ranking factor for search.

In summary:

  • Only affects the slowest mobile sites
  • Incremental improve to your site can make big impacts in speed
  • Fast sites that go faster won’t see a ranking improvement

To clarify, this update only really effects the absolute slowest websites on the net. Google’s original announcement said this will “only affect a small percentage of queries.” What that means is — if a site is already lighting fast, but a competitor’s site is a tenth of a second faster, it’s unlikely that will make a difference in the long run. Shaving a few microseconds off of an already fast site will not lead to a ranking improvement.

Back in January 2018, Google’s Zhiheng Wang and Doantam Phan wrote:

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. 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 is, however, unclear about how it actually determines whether your website is “slow” or “fast”. They have given us a hint, however, suggesting that webmasters use tools such as the Chrome User Experience report, the Lighthouse tool and PageInsights tool.

This Speed Update is independent of the mobile first index, and at this stage, it is unclear as to whether the desktop page speed algorithm will also be affected in the future, however as usual it is always good practice to ensure your users have a good experience across all devices, and that includes serving your pages as quickly and smoothly as possible regardless.

Relevancy is key, as Google always says. So if a slow loading page happens to contain the most relevant content, according to a user’s query, then it may still rank favourably in search results.