Page Speed: The Next Big Thing

June 2, 2020

Google has always been obsessed with speed.

Dating as far back as 2010, they've maintained that speed matters in their search engine page ranking -- and that makes sense. The speed of a site directly affects how quickly they can crawl and index sites. The faster websites were, the more they could index, the more you'll use Google. Plus, when you click to the site you searched for, it was probably faster than most.

In a very tangible way, speed affects user experience.

Think about it. If a website is slow, chances are you'll get frustrated and leave. If a site is fast (assuming it's also well organized and the information is good), you're more likely to perceive it as a higher quality website, which in turn translates to a good brand experience.

Check out how speed affects a simple metric like bounce rate:


Source: Think with Google

Google's Influence Over Time

If we step back for a moment, Google has been shaping the Internet for years. When they announce new ranking signals for their search engine, brands follow or drop in the rankings (when's the last time you looked at page 2 of a Google search?) This massive amount of influence has allowed Google to impact everything from security to content quality to how designers and developers approach creating websites. Examples include:

In 2014, HTTPS became a ranking signal (pushing encryption and web security).

In 2015, mobile usability became a ranking signal (pushing mobile/responsive design).

In 2016 content development became more of a factor with RankBrain taking a larger percentage of the ranking weight (pushing content quality or what Google referred to as "awesomeness").

In 2017 and 2018, there were additional security pushes. First, in 2017, HTTPS became a stronger ranking signal and in 2018 the Chome browser started marking non-https sites as insecure right in the address bar.

Now, it's mobile page speed

In July 2018, Google announced they were moving to mobile-first indexing initiative. As part of this, mobile speed would become a major ranking signal for mobile search. Google states that Desktop search is unaffected by mobile speed, but some SEOs think it may be part of the mix.

In any case, mobile searching surpassed desktop search in 2015, so dropping in Google's mobile index will certainly motivate brands to focus on mobile page load times the same way brands focused on security, responsive design, and content quality when Google pushed in the past.

And there's a lot of room for improvement. According to MachMetrics, in January of 2020, the average page speed is 4.7 seconds on desktop and 11.4 seconds on mobile. 

The following are Google's new standards for mobile performance (assumes a 4G network speed):

  • Less than 1 second: Excellent
  • Less than 2.5 seconds: Average (Acceptable)
  • More than 2.5 seconds: Poor

They offer the following advice:

”We encourage developers to think broadly how about performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics.”

Those metrics include things like

  • Server response times (faster is better)
  • Number of redirects (fewer is better -- usually)
  • Payload size (smaller file sizes download faster)
  • Number of requests (fewer than 50 is best practice)

They also suggest

  • Prioritizing "above the fold" content and use using "lazy loading" for images
  • Removing "Blocking" scripts (those that must be fired before anything else happens)
  • Minimizing and compressing payloads
  • Using next-gen image types, etc.

Google has provided tools for developers and webmasters to test sites, including Google Search Console and Page Speed Insights. We use these and other tools to optimize our Web CMS platform and the websites we manage.

Web CMS was fast already, but using these and other diagnostic tools, we've been able to get our websites even faster! Animus Rex clients can rest assured that we're on the case.

Because... well... speed matters!

How is your website's speed? How about security? Give us a call. We migrate WordPress and Drupel sites to our fast and secure Web CMS easily and inexpensively.

Cheers!
~Your Friendly Animus Rex Team

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