Page Speed Confirmed as Part of New Mobile Algorithm

Mobile continues to be the main growth point for internet traffic, so it’s unsurprising that search engines are focusing their efforts on providing their users with the best experience on their pocket-sized devices. Indeed, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes recently confirmed a slew of changes due as part of the next update to Google’s forthcoming mobile algorithms.

Speaking at a conference in Sydney, Ilyes confirmed that page speed would be a factor in the company’s new mobile algorithm. However, the analyst would not be drawn on when the update would become effective. The move to concentrating on speed is a continuation of recent work on enhancing the user experience once a page has been loaded.

 

What is AMP for Mobile Web Pages?

Many sites, including BBC News and The Guardian, are already preparing for this change by complying with Google’s AMP programme for Accelerated Mobile Pages. This format is a stripped-down version of the mobile web that runs in a form of HTML.

AMP HTML strips out most of the elements that cause web pages to load slower on mobile, like JavaScript and third-party scripts. Google claims that a page created with AMP HTML can load anywhere from 15 to 85% faster than the non-AMP version. Whilst faster, the loss of certain tracking codes is an issue, however, built in replacements are available as part of the setup that will replace most of the common web tracking, remarketing and analytics elements.

A tutorial on the format is available at https://www.ampproject.org/, however, if you are a publisher using a non-Google platform to serve ads it is worth investigating to see if your ad server platform is compatible with AMP before undertaking work to move your site to the new format.

However, with Kissmetrics research showing that 40% of web users will abandon a page if the loading time exceeds three seconds it is well worth investigating the cause of any slowdowns.

 

Other Factors Affecting the Mobile Web Experience:

Many developers are still adapting to the UX changes on mobile, so the changes to improve speed may take longer than Google anticipated. In the meantime it is worth checking that the UX is up to standard by looking for the following:

Removal of Flash Content:

Mobile devices do not support flash natively; IPad and iPhones have never supported the format, whilst Android devices have dropped their limited support. Few consumers download an additional browser to view this content.

Viewport:

A viewport is a meta tag that gives the browser instructions on how to adjust the page dimensions and scaling to different device widths. This should appear in the head of your webpage.
If the tag is missing, mobile browsers will default to rendering the page at the width of a desktop screen. The viewport will also give information on scaling fonts on mobile devices.

Tap Targets:

Ensure buttons are widely spaced so that consumers do not have to zoom the page to ensure that the correct button is being pressed.

Pop-Ups:

Interstitial screens are bad news for mobile users, as are pop-ups that cover the entire screen or leave you searching for the close button.  Google Webmasters now recognises the problem

With these tips in mind, you will probably find that your site is running faster, and will be more likely to be ready when the speed testing becomes part of the mobile-friendly algorithm.