8 Experts On Why Google's "Page Speed" Update Makes Sense
After months, maybe even years, of hype from both SEOs and Google themselves, Google’s page speed update started rolling out in July. That means if you hadn’t gotten your site’s speed up to acceptable standards already, it’s officially starting to impact your mobile-first index rankings.
Since this update is only expected to impact the slowest of the slow sites on the internet, for most marketers, this signals less of a need to overhaul their websites and more of a chance to look at how your overall digital strategy is prepared for algorithm shifts like these when they make their way down Google’s pipelines.
For example, look at the parallels between the past rise of mobile search in recent years and the current rise of voice search.
Mobile page speed might not have been an official ranking factor until a few weeks ago, but proactive marketers have been optimizing for it for years because that’s what’s good for the user. Since a good user experience is Google’s end goal with search results as well, it’s long been able to impact your rankings in other ways.
The same would be true for any new search method, like voice search.
So how do you make sure you’re fully prepared for the page speed update? How should your business and SEO strategy adjust to new search experiences like mobile and voice? And most importantly, how can you prioritize all the work it involves?
I spoke with eight SEO experts to find out what you do and don’t need to worry about. Here’s what they had to say:
1- Brendan Hufford, SEO Director of Clique Studios
Google’s number one goal is to serve the best possible search result, both in terms of content and performance. Designing websites that are fast on all devices makes the internet better for everybody.
As Google continues to think about multiple search indexes, they have to consider why a result would be better in one method and not another. The merge puts more work on Google but provides a better result for consumers.
In SEO, optimizing for one search type also benefits the others. A smart SEO will look at what their current visitor percentages are by device, so as to assess whether or not it would serve business goals to optimize for the other (in the hopes on increased traffic), or to continue playing to their current strengths.
If you want to future-proof your SEO across all search types, start focusing on your content.
All of the content and design should serve a purpose. Consider how fast is fast "enough" and find your balance between content/design and speed. If making it faster doesn't help your business goals, then reconsider why you're focused on this particular effort.
2- Simon Thompson, CEO and Founder of Content Kite
Mobile UX for web browsing is clunky enough as is, and slow page speed is bad for the user, especially on mobile. Anything Google can do to ameliorate that and make the experience better for users in their search for the best content will help. Favoring faster mobile pages is one way to do that.
The SEO community should definitely prioritize optimizing for mobile. Responsive design should be the first thing (obviously), but creating a mobile site, completely optimized for mobile, is going to be more and more important in the future.
Let’s keep in mind that what we’re seeing now is just the beginning of Google’s journey into different search indexes. I think it's inevitable that there will eventually be different indexes for voice search and traditional text-based search. People speak differently from how they write, which means that the meaning of the search changes, and therefore so should the results.
3- Itai Sadan, CEO of Duda
Google consistently points out that slower sites lead to high abandonment rates directly from search results. It’s a message that the company has been sending with AMP, PWA, and now this speed update. Website speed is one of the core components that make up the UX of a website – giving visitors the content they want faster is the best thing an SMB can do to improve their web presence today.
Prioritization of SEO tasks really depends on the specific needs of the business and who their main audience is. People looking to optimize for search will have to deeply understand search and come with crafted, strategic and quality content to rank for these queries. High-quality content and a solid link building strategy will always improve SEO.
The SEO community needs to put a few things into perspective. Many are using a single tool to try and understand their site speed. Google itself has been quite confusing here, releasing Lighthouse and PageSpeed, and even using WebPageTest.org too. SEOs must leverage all of these (and more) to inform and prioritize their work going forward. We don't know what Google ranks as a "slow" or “fast” website — we can only guess.
Providing the right information to users and solving problems that searchers have are still the best approaches to SEO. The focus should be on providing the right answers and helping searchers, rather than unnecessarily optimizing for the wrong things. Links and content are still the fundamental ranking factors for Google.
If I had one recommendation, it would be to work with a platform that takes care of a lot of the technical optimization for you, so you only have to worry about finding the right SEO tactics for you.
4- Sean Si, CEO and Founder of SEO Hacker
The "Speed Update" is something that all webmasters should strive to optimize for because speed allows them to better serve the users that come into their websites. I can see Google’s approach to the search industry as a move toward the improvement of user experience.
Desktop search and mobile search are equal. Voice search is still in its early stages, and our SEO efforts are better utilized with desktop and mobile search. I don't think that they'll merge semantic and voice indexes, but more updates will be slowly rolled out by Google for an improved search experience.
There is no "future-proofing" for SEO because Google constantly rolls out updates and algorithms. This means that anything you apply or change in your website will, one way or another, be affected by a new algorithm or update.
One best practice tip that I’d convey to SEO pros is that mobile page speed is important. If your page loads for more than three seconds, users will abandon the page or site in search of a better and faster one. Invest in your mobile site to avoid 301 redirects, and optimize your HTML code.
5- Brodie Clark, Senior SEO Specialist at Optimising
Google’s "Speed Update" makes sense for mobile search, although site speed should be in check across all devices anyway. Google has suggested that the update will only impact sites that are "the slowest" and that as long as your site is “reasonably fast,” your rankings shouldn’t move too much.
In my opinion, the SEO community must stop obsessing over PageSpeed score, and worry about getting the actual file size, number of requests, and load time down. If an SEO pro has limited resources and can only optimize a website for desktop search, mobile search or voice search, I definitely wouldn’t select voice search in 2018. It’s impossible to pick between mobile and desktop, though. Depends where your traffic is coming from.
Some recent studies have shown that the uptake in voice search isn’t as great as it has been hyped up to be, but the recent introduction of "speakable" markup on schema.org is a step in the right direction. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for getting access to more voice search data through Google Search Console and Google My Business query insights.
6- James Norquay, SEO Director at Prosperity Media
Speed is a major factor in organic search and conversion, so you do need to get it right, and you do need to follow key guidelines. Mobile UX and desktop UX are different from each other. On desktop you can use more icons and use more text, whereas on mobile, you need to use less text and ensure links are easy to click.
To future-proof your SEO strategy, you need to focus on high-quality SEO tactics that are going to be here in five years time. No point in quick win tactics that will only provide a short-term win, especially if you are working on a large website.
I am also interested in accessibility and how it impacts SEO. Using tools like Tenon to scrape your website for accessibility issues is an important area SEOs should be thinking about.
One area that site owners get wrong is using large images and not making use of CDNs such as CloudFlare and MaxCDN. You see websites where they do not compress images which are 5 MB in size and load slowly. It does not just impact SEO – it also impacts conversion for the page.
7- Boaz Sasson, Director of SEO at Quandoo
For mobile users, speed is an important part of the user experience, especially in countries where slow internet connections are common.
But there is no clear indication of what "speed" really means to Google’s algorithms. Will a large page with many assets and features be judged by the same standards as a small page with only text? Taken to the extreme, the demand for speed can push site owners to invest less in features that might have enhanced the user's experience.
Another often overlooked aspect of speed as a quality indicator is that you are effectively judged on your server's speedy replies to Google bots – not just users. So, speed impacts your crawl budget. You need to be fast for requests coming from Mountain View, CA, and not just for human users.
Google historically tends to aim for one single index. Old-school SEOs will remember the supplemental index, which was folded into the main index, then the mobile index suffered the same fate. Multiple indexes are less efficient, so it’s safe to assume that the new indexes are formed out of necessity, but the long-term trend is one index to rule them all.
Future-proof SEO always involves obeying the spirit of Google's dictums, not the letter. And what they want are satisfied users. If PPC is a CTR game, then SEO is all about the task completion rates of your users. A modern SEO is nothing more than a technically inclined user advocate. Our job is to represent users, and their best interests, within the organization.
8- Mario Peshev, CEO of Devrix
Since mobile users in 2018 exceed the number of desktop ones, treating the mobile-first index as a first-class citizen only makes sense. Google leads the AMP project as well, aiming for blazing fast load times on progressive web apps too.
Voice search is already pacing rapidly through Google Assistant, which is planned to support 30+ languages by the end of the year. Semantic search is also heavily influenced by Google RankBrain, the latest (and smartest, as far as AI is concerned) ranking update by the company.
Analyzing the target audience is important. Targeting 65-year-old accountants in governments or old-school corporations will result in 99%+ desktop views, primarily using Windows and probably Internet Explorer. Selling to teens directly translates to mobile and gives some precedence to voice search in some cases. All other things being equal, I would default to mobile.