Google rankings: How to increase your mobile site speed

google search engine pageWhen you’re going to look something up on Google, how many of you go find the nearest laptop to enter your query versus pulling it up on your phone?

If you’re like 55.79 percent of Americans, you’re probably using your smartphone if you’re out and about, while the other 44.21 percent are still checking things on their desktop when they’re using one. While users tend to spend more time on websites while using a desktop, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches in 2015.

Because of this growth in mobile usage and its predicted expansion, it’s not really surprising that Google has announced its plans to change how it ranks websites for mobile searches.

The new element Google will be considering in the order of search results is mobile page speed, which the search engine has dubbed the “Speed Update.”

“Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches…Starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches,” Google said in its blog post about the update.

The goal of this update is to provide users with results as fast as possible, and while Google says slow pages with relevant content will still rank highly, this does not mean you shouldn’t bother trying to have a quick-loading mobile site.

For one, most visitors will abandon sites and not return if they take too long to load. Even though Google says the update will only affect those that “deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percent of queries,” now is a good time to evaluate your mobile site and improve it before the update goes into effect over the summer.

“Google’s decision to begin using performance statistics in mobile search result rankings means that organizations that previously paid no attention, or mere lip service, to the mobile customer experience must quickly get serious,” said Gabriel Coelho-Kostolny, VP of product marketing at Instart Logic. “This represents an amazing opportunity for mobile-first or mobile-focused organizations to leverage their improved search positions to take market share from incumbents who have not prioritized the mobile customer experience.”

How to check if your site will be affected

While your site is more than likely to be unaffected by this change, there are several tools available to gauge where your company’s website stands. Some of these tools Google suggests using since there is no specific way to determine if your page is affected by the new ranking factor.

These include Chrome User Experience Report, Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights. The experience report tool provides key metrics as experience by Chrome users in real-world conditions, and Lighthouse is an automated website auditor that can check the performance, accessibility and quality of webpages.

PageSpeed Insights is probably going to be the most useful for determining your mobile site’s speed. All you have to do is insert the URL for the webpage and you will receive an analysis of how well-optimized your page is. Also, thankfully, it doesn’t leave it at that. It will list out optimization suggestions and the optimization methods you already have present.

These tools do not require administrative access, and you can also use PageSpeed Insights and similar sites like GTMetrix to gauge your competition as well.

How to improve your site speed

If the analysis is coming back that your mobile site is slow, there are actually a number of steps you can take to help improve this. Be sure to check what suggestions are being made and focus on those areas, but if you’re just wanting to be ahead of the curve and further improve your optimization, here are some of the areas to consider:

  • Optimize images – One of the quick and easy options available, properly formatting and compressing images can save bytes of data. You can scale these images with tools like ImageOptim or WordPress plugins like WP Smush.
  • Minify code – Minification refers to removing unnecessary or redundant data without affecting how it is processed by the browser. Every request to your site slows its speed, so minifying allows you to reduce these requests. HTML, CSS and JavaScript resources should all be minified. The PageSpeed Module can automatically optimize your site and minify these resources. There is also the plugin WP Rocket that can handle minification.
  • Browser caching – Items saved in the cache allows the browser to only have to load new or dynamic content when a user visits again, improving the speed. This can also be handled by WP Rocket.
  • Reduce redirects – Redirects occur when a visitor is sent from one requested page to another. This happens when the requested page is moved or deleted and can slow your site down. To prevent this, strive to make direct links and remove those that point to deleted posts that would require a redirect.

All of this may sound a little overwhelming and if the technical side of websites isn’t your thing, but don’t be afraid to reach out to a web developer for some assistance. After all, just as you are a professional in your field, they are an expert in matters such as mobile website design.

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