A Ranking Boost? What Google isn’t telling you

by Jim March 23, 2016

Newsflash people. Another update from Google is coming. The workers in Google’s update division must be the hardest workers in the company! So it’s a mobile update this time. Now regular followers of my blogs and videos will know that we had a massive update from Google last year, April 21st if memory serves, and it was called ‘Mobilegeddon.’ Not the official name from Google of course, just everyone else’s.

There was lots of hoo-hah and tumult about it (admittedly I contributed my fair share!) but when it arrived, it arrived with a whisper, silently integrating itself with little fanfare and lots of crickets. Maybe this one will be bigger. So Google has announced that in May they’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that will help users find more relevant and mobile-friendly pages, by increasing the effect of the ranking signal.

So What Is Mobile-Friendly?

Well, if you go to your site and it’s mobile-friendly, you should see an attractive green announcement confirming that your site is indeed mobile-friendly. Great right? Job done. Well maybe not quite. Apparently mobile-friendly isn’t always so mobile-friendly. So what’s deemed unfriendly to a mobile user? The pinch-zoom thing apparently. I’m a big fan as I wear reading glasses and it’s a big help.

Google on the other hand, doesn’t appear to have the best interests of its hyperopic users at heart. I’m sure the UX people out there would disagree, but apparently they would be at odds with Google. Pinch-zoom is out. Another thing that isn’t mobile-friendly is lack of speed.

The Importance of Speed

I talk about speed a lot. You can use the page speed test from Google to monitor site speed. Our sample site passed the speed test and the user experience test with flying colours. However, it stumbled and fell awkwardly when it came to the speed test. A score of 52/100 is not great, which is reflected in the slow load times for mobile and desktop. However it ranks really well in desktop. One’s and two’s in competitive phrases, which was a great surprise that we got them there so quickly. But they are nowhere to be found in mobile, even though the site has been indexed by the mobile-bot. I think it’s down to speed.

If your site has bucket loads of existing problems, don’t expect a ranking boost on mobile-friendly when the update happens. An error-strewn site will still contain those errors after a mobile update, therefore being of little benefit to your site.

Booktopia Speed & Conversions
Booktopia Speed & Conversions

So What Should You Be Doing?

To quote the Scouts motto, “Be prepared.” Before May rolls around, begin speed tests on your site. “But how fast should I be, Jim?” is a question I get asked a lot. Simple, be faster than your competitors. It’s the old story of being chased by a lion. You don’t have to outrun the lion, just the guy next to you! The faster the better.

As an example, we’ve just finished upgrading a client’s hosting. He was paying around $20 per month and has increased that to $100 per month. Not a huge leap in expenditure, but his site has gone from a 3 second load time to around 46 milliseconds. That’s insane! That extra speed has resulted in a huge rankings boost. For another client, their upgrade in hosting had a direct benefit of about $50k per month to the bottom line over a five-month period.

Money Well Spent

It’s definitely worth the investment. While it may sound difficult, it’s worth switching if your current host is slow. Just don’t overlook many of the existing problems that may be slowing your site down, such as poor design and coding, or a database that isn’t optimised. I would highly recommend cleaning and optimising your site before considering a hosting switch to take advantage of a speed boost.

I use webpagetest.org to check page speeds at the moment. I then crosscheck that with the Google Search Console and what the download page stats are telling me.

Some people have asked again about AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for speed on mobile. As we’ve discussed previously, it’s great if you’re a big publishing or blogger, but not so effective for eCommerce sites.

Check your competitors using the webpagetest.org site, as being faster will have a great benefit to your conversions. Remember, it’s not just about ranking; it’s about more money in the bank. Phil Leahy from the Internet Conference (It’s in May and is the best retailer’s conference in the country bar none. Get there. It’ll be my ninth year this year. I think.) was at a Booktopia presentation recently. He said that they increased site speed by one second, which in turn increased revenue by $688,000.

 

Extraordinary. Google does state that if a page takes 3 seconds or more to load, 60% of visitors will leave. See ya later. Or not, probably.

Parting Easter Advice

So speed isn’t just about ranking, it’s about conversions as well. So keep updated on your competitors. You need to be faster than them. If you already have a speed advantage, get on it anyway as it will only benefit your business.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy your Easter long-weekend break and eat as much chocolate as you possibly can. I will. Catch you next week. Bye.

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