As reported back in March, Google’s “Speed update” is being rolled out this month. With publisher sites having to deal with the extra (and not unsubstantial) load of ad serving, this is an important update for those sites relying on Google search for traffic.
Google has penalised sites that load particularly slowly on desktop since 2010, but this update is different in two important ways:
The Speed update affects all device types
The long-standing penalties for slow sites only affected those that loaded slowly on desktop browsers. The changes being made this month mean that mobile and tablet browsers will need to be served quickly too. With many developers still only testing on desktop this is going to be an unwelcome surprise to some.
The speed update brings an incremental reward/penalty
Historically, Google has considered speed as a binary state: A website was either slow (and therefore penalised) or wasn’t. In a Webmaster hangout on July 29, Google’s John Mueller explained that the new update used “more of a gradual scale” then went on to elaborate “So the faster you can make your pages the more we can take that into account. And it’s not so much that it’s like it’s too slow or it’s faster”. The embedded video below starts at the relevant part.
This is a significant change, and different from the information we had back in March. It certainly does make a compelling case for publishers making whatever speed improvements they are able to.