Google is Increasingly Pushing Website Speed
Now those speedy people at Google have even made website speed a ranking factor. In other words, how fast your website loads could affect where you rank in search results.
Additionally, speed is a factor in how much people like (or don’t like) your website, so even if we leave Google out of the equation, speed is important.
To help website developers to this end, Google offers a free tool called PageSpeed Insights (here’s a link to it) to help you test how fast your site is. Recently Google has enhanced this tool with a new feature to make its results more realistic.
This video will
- Walk you through using the tool
- Explain the new feature it offers
- Tell you some of the limitations and how best to interpret the data it gives you
- Link you up with some other complementary link tools
Below the video we’ve also provided a transcript for you skimmers.
I hope you’re ready for a Google speed test, that’s what we’re going to be doing today and so stick around, I’ll be back in a minute.
Hi, I’m Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and the Horizon Web Marketing Academy. Now you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been paying attention that Google is a pusher. You know you could say they push many things but I’m talking about how they push speed. Not the drug speed. They’re pushing website load time speed. In other words, they want your webpage to go faster and the way they’re trying to encourage you to do this is by saying that speed is a ranking factor. Let me tell you what a ranking factor is. A ranking factor is simply something that might affect how high or low you show on Google’s search results page. So if you’ve got a website, if you’re in business, if you depend on the internet, you want to show up in search results, you have to take into account anything that’s called a ranking factor and we have to take into account speed.
Take a look at this quote from Google’s latest Webmaster Central blog post. Now this just came out day before yesterday. It says, “Using page speed in mobile search ranking.” And you’ll notice this quote just in the first paragraph, they say that they’ve been using speed in ranking for some time but the signal was focused on desktop searches. Well, now they’re saying that they’re making that a more important factor not just on desktop searches but on mobile searches as well. Now Google recognizes that it’s kind of hard for somebody who owns a website to know exactly how fast their website is for everybody and so they’ve made available some tools to help you out.
One of those tools is something called PageSpeed Insights and that’s the tool we’ll be digging into just a little bit today. Now this is really relevant to us particularly since we’ve recently released a resource called our SEO audit checklist. One of the first items that we have for you to check is site speed and then we break that down into both desktop and mobile site speed. This is kind of gets into a touchy area and so I thought it was helpful or would be helpful if we had a video that explained site speed just a little bit more.
The way I’m doing this and the way I’ve framed this particular video is I started with a search using a pretty competitive, pretty commercial search phrase called best hotel sheets and this is probably top of mind for me because in our consulting business we do have a client who operates within this space and so we’re always looking at their competitors. Let’s take a look at how our client fares when we subject them to Google’s PageSpeed Insights tools.
This is how it lays out. You type in a website address, you can do it for the homepage of your domain or any of your internal pages. And then they’ll give you some results and they’ll be broken down into mobile and desktop results and it’s a tab interface so I’ve got mobile right here, I can click on desktop and I can go back and forth and compare these. The part that’s new, as a matter of fact just within the last month, they’ve introduced a new metric here called speed. In the past we’ve always had this metric that I’m pointing to on the right which I optimization. Now optimization, I’m going to cover that first because it’s a relative scale. It’s from one to a 100 where one would be the worst and 100 would be the best. And so naturally everybody wants to chase a 100 on that scale ’cause that means they’re the best.
And this is a technical measurement. In other words, Google can take any page and just look at the code and say, “Is this page theoretically built for speed or not?” Now in this case, our client scores kind of middle of the road, medium, 77 out of a 100. And the reason Google has added this speed metric on the left is because they realize that there are theoretical measurements and then there are real world measurements. Speed is tied to something called the Chrome User Experience report and this is basically where Google has their analytical stuff installed in their Chrome browser and millions of users either wittingly or unwittingly are sending information back to Google about their browsing experience including how fast webpages load for them. Google is basing this number here, the speed number, on data they’re getting back from people who are actually visiting this site and you can see these numbers line up pretty well. Speed is average, optimization is medium.
If I take a look at the desktop version I do have an optimization number which is still in the medium range but the speed is unavailable. Well why is that? It’s simply because not enough people have visited this particular website, this particular webpage for Google to be able to get any sort of a realistic measurement. At times, particularly if you’re looking at a lightly traveled website, you’ll see this unavailable showing up. Now I don’t really know whether these numbers will become more robust as Google gathers more data but for right now there’s a number of pages out there and yours might be one of them where those numbers are unavailable.
But what to do they mean? Okay, it says optimization medium. If I go back to this, speed average. Well how’s that really affecting me? Let’s first of all start by taking look at a few of our competitors to see some of the limitations that I run into doing SEO for clients when it comes to Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Here’s another one of their primary competitors for that search term that I showed you a moment ago and in this case it’s a publisher, nymag.com. They’re showing numbers that are pretty good particularly on the mobile they show an optimization of 81 out of a 100, now that’s just about four points above our client. Their speed is showing very fast. Let’s take a look at the desktop version and here you see where we’re starting to get a little bit of a discrepancy because notice their optimization on the desktop is showing as 66 out of a 100, now that’s even below our client’s website but Google does have some data show here and they’re showing that their speed is very, very fast.
Let’s take another one, this is Travel and Leisure, a major, major website. Here, they show that they really have some developers working on their website that are very focused on speed because in the optimization category on the right, and remember this is kind of a technical assessment of how the site is built. On paper, this site looks really good, 84 out of a 100 is pretty high number. But the speed is only average. Let’s take a look at the desktop version of this. Now we get something that’s really starting to look a little goofy. The optimization for their desktop version of their site is 43 out of a 100, now that’s really low. So in other words, their desktop website was not really built for speed. It was more like built like a delivery truck lumbering down the road. But at the same time, take a look at the speed, it’s showing as fast. So obviously right here we’re seeing that real world data does not always line up with theoretical data.
I’m going to take a look at one more and this is a really big website because the discrepancy here is really great. This is macys.com, not exactly an unknown site, not exactly a small budget operation. But notice their optimization is good, 83. I mean, again, that’s one of the highest numbers out there but take a look at the speed. 3.1 seconds. Now that FCP stands for first content full paint and that’s pretty much geek speak but it means it takes a long time for the visual experience of the customer who is looking at the site. Now Google has said that page speed is a factor, ranking factor in search but I know from looking at Macy’s they are very, very strong in search. So there’s other stuff going on here not just page speed when it comes to search. Going to take a quick look, their desktop we don’t see that kind of discrepancy.
All right, so now if we go back to the real world implementation of this best hotel sheets, I’m not going to scan down here and show you all the results but I will tell you this, if you go back to our customer’s website, we were getting average numbers remember, so middle of the road. Not horrible, not great but we rank number one for most searches on that page whereas a lot of these much faster sites are ranking further down the page. Why is that? Part of this is going back to Google’s blog post if I can find it here. If I go back to that Webmaster Central blog post, let’s take a look at what they say also in this page.
Notice down here in paragraph two, the last sentence. It says, “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal.” What do they mean by that? The intent of the search query. What they mean is what the person wants is still the important thing to them. What that person is looking for. So a slow page may still rank highly if it has “great relevant content.”
Now I don’t have some magical window into Google but I can tell you what this tells me and from what I see in working with other clients as well, I would never tell you don’t worry about speed. Speed is a factor. It’s important to build your website to load as quickly as possible, it’s important for good user experience, right? But it is obviously not something you should slave over.
For example, we would not advise our client if we go back to our numbers here, we wouldn’t advise our client that thousands of dollars be poured into trying to get this medium number up to a 90 or a 100. But I see that some people do. I see comments online and I’ll see guys that are basically have devoted dozens of hours if not hundreds of hours to trying to move this number up and I’m going to tell you my suggestion would be, don’t worry about it. Now if you on the other hand, go to this tool, and by the way, a link to anything I’m talking about to a lot of this stuff and a few other resources I’m going to show you are all going to be in the show notes down here in the description. That’s just a digression there to let you know about that.
Let me go back to Macy’s for example. If I had these numbers, I have to tell you, I’d be taking a look at why my mobile site was loading so slowly. I wouldn’t be ignoring that. But if your numbers are middle of the road, here’s what I suggest you do. First of all, check for the search queries where you want to rank or where you are ranking and take a look at your competitors. You can plug anybody’s webpage into PageSpeed Insights. Take a look at how they’re doing. If you’re more or less in a reasonable range, move onto something else. That’s why going back to our audit tool here, you notice how we phrase the question, “Site speed acceptable?” We don’t say, “Site speed a 100. Site speed really terrific. Site speed better than every other competitor.” That’s not what we’re going for here. Site speed acceptable. Now if you see some numbers that really give you some concern, then I’d also double check those numbers. Google doesn’t make perfect tools any more or less than anybody else out there.
Here’s one that we use all the time. It’s called Pingdom. They have a website speed test and they rank Macy’s pretty good on their speed test. Then I go to, if you’re really have somebody who likes to geek this stuff out, I love this tool, it’s called webpagetest.org is the address. And it has page after page, after page of highly let’s say, extremely geek content. This is the page if you’ve got a developer that wants to dig into this stuff, by all means, send them to webpagetest.org and say, “Have at it. Go through it.” You can often get really good suggestions for improving page performance.
Well that pretty much all I wanted to cover for now. Bottom line, the takeaway from this is pay attention to site speed but once you have it in an acceptable range for your industry and compared to the people that you’re competing with, move onto to something else. It would be much better if you put your time into creating great content and convincing other people to link to your site.
Again, my name is Ross Barefoot here at the Horizon Web Marketing Academy. We like to publish videos that will help business people understand SEO and make the most for their website. So definitely if you’re interested in that, if you want to do better, as good as you can in search, hit that red subscribe button down below. If you’d like to see us cover stuff that we haven’t on our channel, leave us a comment. Give us a suggestion. Offer your own experience. It is a discussion. So that’s it for now and I hope to see you back here next time around.
Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.