Google’s Speed Update

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Google’s Speed Update Rolls Out: What are the effects?

New speed update will apply to all users, as Google ups its User Experience game.


Bounce Rates & Organic Rankings

It sounds trivial, but a website’s speed really is paramount.  Yes, that’s how fickle the average user is, and how little patience people seem to have.  Bounce Rate is defined as “the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.”  When too many visitors of site “X” are returning straight back to the search results page, Google considers that particular webpage to offer a poor user experience.  Google’s speed update puts even more emphasis on this.

Figure that the difference between a 1-second and a 3-second page load time inflates bounce rates by about 31%.  Bring that number to 5 seconds and it’s death (bounce rates rise about 88%).  Besides how strictly Google views these numbers, every bounced visitor might also represent a new customer down the drain.

Google views bounces as a big no-no in terms of User Experience and introduced site speed as a prime ranking factor about 8 years ago.  At the time, it spoke strictly to desktop user searches, and Google estimated that barely 1% of searches would be significantly impacted.

Things have changed since then, and speed has taken a far more important place in ranking a website’s user experience.  In early 2018, Google proclaimed site speed to be an important ranking factor for mobile browsing (in a partial roll-out).  By July they unveiled that this update would become applicable for all users.

The internet giant again told us that the changes to their formula would only impact a small portion of online searches, and again without an accurate percentage forecasted.  It’s not uncommon for Google to disseminate ambiguous and head-scratching information that just creates more questions and leaves people wondering.  So just how will Google’s speed update affect your business in its quest for enhanced SEO?


Something to Lose, Nothing to Gain

One important perspective is that Google’s new speed update will only matter for very slow pages.  A website owner should be worried if they carry pages with slow load times, in particular those that have enjoyed strong organic traffic in the past.

Google’s speed update is not, however, a chance to improve the rankings of speedy pages that are already optimised.  There’s no additional visibility to be gained for those, even if they manage to load even faster now.   That could sound unfair, but really it’s just focused.


What’s the Speed Cut-off Point?

Google (as you might expect) didn’t spell it out clearly for us, as far as what’s considered “slow”.  But here’s what we can infer from their testing tools so far:

  • PageSpeed Insights classifies a page load as “slow” when it takes 3 seconds or longer to deliver the “First Contentful Paint”, or when over 4.2 seconds is needed to load the “DOMContentLoaded event”.
  • This tool will also reveal approximately where your page ranks compared to other pages. Landing in the bottom 33% is a sure sign that action is needed.

PageSpeed Insights is a fantastic resource but it permits only one page at a time to be checked.  Because of this, some Digital Marketers can commit the error of only checking their homepage.  In reality, all their pages are important.  One smart approach is to test your problematic pages using PageSpeed Insights, since it will actually advise you on necessary action to speed that page up.

As an alternative, third-party tools such as GTMetrix and Pingdom can make monitoring the speed of multiple pages easier, but there’s a price to their services.  If you don’t want to pay for this resource, Google Analytics remains very suitable.  The Site Speed tools that it offers (such as Analytics) make identifying underperforming pages possible.  They also facilitate pointing out your website’s ongoing trends (positive and negative) instead of just a snapshot view.

More intriguing page speed metrics include “average document content load time” and “average document interactive time” figures.  These metrics tell you more about when content becomes available to the user and when the page is considered useful.  The average users is less prone to bounce away if they are able to view progress in the page load.

What Next?

After understanding Google’s speed update, how it might impact you, and singling out the pages that will be penalized, what comes next?  There is lots that can be done, but much of it gets dismissed as unimportant on a daily basis, so it never takes priority.  Don’t make the mistake of just sending a list of suggestions –copied from Google– to your developers and expecting changes to be made right away.  Be organized and spell things out in a way that makes speed deficiencies seem “real” to your people.

The simplest and most significant instant change to make is optimizing your online images.  Easy and efficient because you can easily do this yourself without distracting your in-house techie people.  When you’re ready to get really serious, enlist the services of a pro Digital Marketing Agency.


Strong Content Still Takes Precedence

One helpful tidbit that Google offered about the speed update reads

 “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content”

In keeping with common sense, flimsy weak content will never help your pages rank high, even if they load lightning-fast.  Content marketing strategy just takes precedence over speed, no matter how you look at it.

Still, if you do post strong content that registers well but your overall site speed is a sore spot, you may need to search for a balance that allows for speedier load times.  This might mean less rich content, but there’s always a way to finesse your way into a happy medium.

Need more guidance on Google’s Speed Update and how it impacts your business? Call 514-360-2187 or e-mail today for a free consultation!



At MW Inc., we take pride in listening, setting goals, and building a digital platform that is truly a mirror of your brand. Innovating strategies that help you achieve your goals is what we’re most passionate about. If you succeed, so do we.

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