Trends Analyst Gary Illyes confirmed the impending change to mobile rankings and said that businesses should expect to see the impact of this within months.
The rise of smartphones and tablets has overhauled the way we access information, with millions of us consuming hordes of information on the go every hour. Although this trend has been growing for quite some time, many companies have been falling behind by failing to create a mobile-friendly version of their website. If not developed specifically for mobile devices, standard domains accessed on a tablet or smartphone can be slow to load, difficult to navigate and poorly laid out.
As part of a push to streamline mobile browsing and improve mobile user experiences, Google has stepped up its efforts in recent months.
The plan to factor in mobile page load speed is one of a series of measures the search engine has unveiled in the last few months. It gave a hint of what was to come back in March, with Google Software Engineer, Klemen Kloboves saying, “Last year, we started using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on mobile searches. Today we’re announcing that beginning in May, we’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that increases the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.”
Confirmation that mobile page speed will be a ranking factor came at the Search Engine Summit earlier this month. In its announcement, the search engine alluded to the fact that it wants to dramatically improve performance of the mobile web. It highlighted the importance of good, clean mobile sites full of rich, valuable content which made it easy for mobile users to find the information they sought, whether they were on a phone, tablet or other device.
At present, Google doesn’t separate desktop signals in mobile SERPS, so if a company’s desktop site is fast, yet their mobile one is slow, they do not get penalized. The introduction of mobile-specific page speeds as a ranking factor means results pages will take into consideration both desktop and mobile site load times. This change will mean those who invest time and money in creating a suitable mobile user experience will be rewarded with better rankings and increased Google visibility.
Up until a couple of years ago, desktop searches exceeded mobile ones by a fairly hefty margin, however the proliferation of tablets and smartphones has seen a sea change in browsing habits in the last 12-18 months. As mobile browsing continues to go from strength to strength and dominate search engine traffic, it’s likely that Google will introduce even more tools and incentives to push for a better mobile experience for its users.
In addition to the mobile page load speed update, Google also confirmed that it is working on a wholly separate mobile search index, likely to be launched when their next updates – including the mobile-friendly algorithm – come into force. However there are still some problems to overcome before the new index can be rolled out. One of the biggest issues is a loss of ranking signals when converting parts of the current Google index into a mobile one.
For those who haven’t yet fully embraced mobile with responsive design functionality, Google has also revamped its mobile-friendly testing tool. The original tool has been expanded and linked from Google Search Console – simply type in a web address and the tool will check how mobile friendly the site is. It suggests next steps, flags up any areas of concern, creates a site-wide mobile usability report and has useful links to things like Google Webmaster information and discussion forums.
The mobile friendly web page test can be found at: https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly