From July it will be more important than ever for website owners to ensure that their sites load quickly on all devices as Google will start penalising sites that load slowly for mobile users.
The planned update has been dubbed the “Speed update” by Google. Once it goes live in July pages that are slow to load on mobile devices will be downgraded in the search results. A similar approach has been in place for desktop results since 2010.
What will the impact of the speed update be?
Page speed is just one of many ranking factors. Sites with slow pages will not disappear from the results, but will likely rank lower in search results. Pages that are slow, but still offer a better result than competing pages may well still outrank faster competitors.
This new mobile ranking factor will be applied at page level, so publishers do not have to worry about a single slow page bringing their overall site rankings down.
Google say that only the slowest pages will be impacted, so it will not be a case of “the faster the site is the higher it will rank”. Only a small percentage of searches will apparently be affected. [Edit, July 2018 : Information from Google released since this blog post slightly changes the context of this statement. View more recent post here]
Desktop search results are unaffected by this change.
Testing page speed
There will be not notice in Search Console about impacted pages, so it is important that publishers are aware of pages that load slowly on their sites. The most important pages to focus on are those that are popular landing pages from Google organic search. These can be found in Analytics by running a landing pages report with a filter in place for mobile devices and the source being Google search.
There are a number of tools that are useful in measuring the performance of pages, including: