What is the Google Speed Update?
Google recently announced a new ranking algorithm designed for mobile search called “Speed Update”. In July 2018, Google will officially include page loading times in how it ranks sites for mobile searches. This update shouldn’t be surprising news from the search engine giant who changes its algorithms over 400 times per year. The emphasis on page speed only makes effective optimization that much more challenging.
Why is Page Speed Important?
A site’s page speed is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users.
Site speed is an important factor in user experience and a confirmed SEO ranking factor for desktop and mobile searches. According to research Google released in February 2018, the average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, and 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
What Does This Change Mean for Me?
Many organizations and government agencies are grappling with technical debt where they must try to make older, complex content management system’s more mobile friendly. Technical debt also makes improving site speed especially challenging.
The Connected Government Act issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires federal agencies creating or redesigning a public website to ensure it’s mobile-friendly. While it’s important to comply with the OMB mandate, it’s particularly important for government agencies to ensure their mobile sites are not only mobile friendly – but also fast, in light of Google’s speed update. Sites that are not mobile friendly, or fast, are at risk of ranking lower in Google. A lower rank means that your users could have trouble finding your website in mobile search results if Google decides to rank other sites with more mobile-friendly and fast content above yours.
How Does this Impact Government Websites?
According to MetroStar Systems’ Google Analytics Web Analyst, Freddie Blicher, “In April 2018, organic search accounted for 38% of all traffic to federal government websites participating in DAP. 40% of this organic search traffic was on mobile and tablet devices.” Blicher highlights that organic search is not only one of the federal government’s most important traffic drivers, but mobile devices account for a large percentage of organic search traffic. If your agency does not improve page speed, your site could languish in Google search engine results and experience ranking degradation, and receive less traffic as a result.
What Can I do?
“Mobile-friendly” means that a website is configured in such a way that it may be navigated, viewed, and accessed on a smartphone, tablet computer, or similar mobile device. According to the U.S. Digital Services Playbook, “we need to understand the different ways people will interact with our services, including the actions they take online, through a mobile application, on a phone, or in person. Every encounter — whether it’s online or offline — should move the user closer towards their goal.”
To help site owners and their developers gauge their website’s performance, Google has resources to help evaluate current page performance:
You can also leverage a free Google Analytics custom report template built by our team for the GSA DAPS program. Apply the template to your view in Google Analytics to identify under performing, slow pages. The report also shows the average page load time and bounce rate for organic search traffic from smartphone and tablet devices landing on your site.
Where Can I Get Help?
Contact us for more information on our offerings for crawling and auditing your mobile site to identify mobile friendliness challenges and pinpoint specific, slow pages impacting your organic search presence.
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