Ever since Google announced the upcoming launch of their Mobile First Index, there has been much speculation about how exactly this new ranking system would affect website owners. While Google still hasn’t specified when their Mobile First Index will begin to be implemented, on 22 March they announced that page speed would be a determining factor in mobile ranking results.
Page speed has already been used as a ranking factor by Google, but until now only desktop speeds were used as part of the overall ranking algorithm. This caused some concern and was generally perceived as unfair or irrelevant, since the current system does not penalise sites that have fast-loading desktop versions but at the same time are slow to load when it comes to mobile view. With the inclusion of a mobile-specific ranking algorithm that takes into account page load speed, Google is signalling its willingness to differentiate between two different user experiences: mobile and desktop.
Mobile-friendliness has been a ranking factor on mobile since March 2016, but mobile speed has never been a separate ranking parameter. The Mobile First Index is a reflection of changing browsing habits and puts emphasis on mobile searches, which currently account for over 50 per cent of all Internet search queries. Adding page load speed to the Mobile First Index also highlights the close link between mobile speed and user experience. A recent study revealed that up to 47 per cent of mobile web users expect a page to load in 2 seconds, and 40 per cent will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Moreover, mobile page load speed affects not only ranking, also bounce and conversion rates, and can therefore have a negative impact on a business bottom line. The following data quantify the real cost of slow-loading websites:
- From an SEO point of view, a 1-second delay in page load time equals an 11 per cent drop in page views
- Conversion rates can be reduced by up to 7 per cent for every 1-second delay
- A 2-second delay can cause a 4.3 per cent loss in revenue per visitor
- On the other hand, reducing page load times by half can boost conversion rates by 9 per cent and may result in a sales increase of up to 13 per cent
Overall, the inclusion of page load speed in the Mobile First Index is a clear message to SEO specialists, digital marketers and web developers: we need to be aware of the upcoming changes and focus on optimising mobile page load times in order to provide a consistently satisfactory user experience across all channels. The incentive to provide a better and faster mobile user experience is also clear: with superior web performance come higher conversion rates, improved sales, and higher user engagement.