One factor that always matters to both search engines and their end users is how quickly a particular page loads once a real-world user clicks on a result. Google has been acutely aware of this issue for years, and the search giant has regularly taken measures to see that visitors are sent to pages that load the fastest. The simplest way to accomplish this goal is to test the load times of all pages and to prioritize the ones that perform best in search results. In the mobile sphere, however, this has been treated as a somewhat lower priority. As of July 2018, though, Google has announced that page speed will be a factor in ranking results delivered to mobile users.
The Speed Update, as Google is calling it, will only target the worst performers. For example, if one site is performing lightning fast while another is doing good enough, that won’t lead to prioritization. The favor in that instance will still be tilted toward the most informative site that also provides the best mobile experience. Severe underperformers, however, should take the time to see how their sites are doing and to perform remedial actions.
As is always the case with Google’s algorithm, the specific weight that’s given to page speed for mobile devices is not disclosed to the public. Likewise, the threshold for where the performance cut-off will be for the penalty to be applied is not divulged. You can, however, use several freely available tools to get a sense of where problems might be. If you have any concerns about the specific issues your site is facing, it may be worth your time to talk the situation over with someone from an organic SEO company.
Identifying the Trouble
First, developers and website operators should check to see if there even is an issue. Google offers a host of tools that do a wonderful of job of spotting where trouble is happening. You’ll like want to take a look at your site’s Chrome User Experience Report to go through key metrics. Once you’ve gotten a sense of what the key metrics are, you can utilize Lighthouse, an open source tool, to automatically audit performance and accessibility concerns. It’s also wise to compare those results against the ones provided by PageSpeed Insights.
There are a lot of levels where page speed optimization issues can pop up. At the base of any stack, the inability of a server to keep up with load can lead to speed problems. You may also see a number of code-level or on-page troubles that can impact speed. Should you have any concerns about what’s what, an organic SEO company can help you form a better understanding of the issue.
Server-level performance problems can be especially difficult to ferret out. Generally speaking, it’s wise to go through all on-page and coding issues before you get too fixated on solving problems by tweaking your servers. If you have eliminated page elements and code as likely culprits for a slow-down, you’ll need to make some decisions about your server. The simplest solution is to offload items like images to a content-delivery network. Unless you have high confidence in your ability to fiddle with server configurations, it’s not wise to play around with them. When in doubt, ask an organic SEO company for help.
Fortunately, there’s a pretty good chance that the Chrome User Experience Report will spill out a number of potential problems that can be quickly remedied. It’s not unusual, for example, for CSS elements to create page speed problems on mobile devices. In many instances, it may be as simple as minifying your CSS sources. If a specific element is causing loading trouble, the report should flag it and point you toward the lines of CSS code that are causing trouble. Similar issues may occur with poorly formatted HTML.
Once you’ve sorted through all potential on-page problems, you’ll want to run the Chrome User Experience Report again to see how much improvement you’ve achieved. If everything is humming along nicely, you’re welcome to declare victory. Should you happen to be more of a stickler, you may want to look at possible code-level problems. For example, many sites operating on WordPress suffer from an overload of plug-ins. It’s often fairly easy to identify components that aren’t serving a purpose in order to disable them.
Page speed continues to grow in importance as a ranking factor in search. Developers should heed the warnings of Google and take the time to get their sites functioning properly. Putting in a few hours of effort today may yield a greater number of visitors in the near future.
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