Now, just a few short months later, it looks very much as if our crystal ball gazing was spot on, after Google announced that page loading speeds would be included as part of its new Mobile First indexing policy.
Ok, let’s back up a little and unpick what we are talking about here. Back in September, Google announced that it had started testing a new page ranking system which for the very first time prioritised mobile content over desktop content - so called Mobile First Indexing.
This was big news for digital marketing because of the knock on effect it would have for SEO. Up until now, Google and its fellow search engines have always claimed their algorithms treated mobile and desktop sites equally in page rankings. Mobile First Indexing essentially creates a two tier internet for SEO purposes - if you really want to get on top of search, you have to focus on mobile.
That was always going to have a lot of businesses reviewing and revising their SEO strategy this year.
Need for Speed
Our second prediction related to another project involving Google, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP seeks to solve the problem of slow loading pages when 3G/4G or WiFi bandwidth is not at its best by advocating the use of new ‘light’ HTML and CSS scripts. Google is involved hosting a cache system for pages which use this protocol, helping to achieve load speeds of up to 30 times faster than normal.
Now, not to say we told you so, but... we predicted that mobile loading speeds would play an increasingly significant role in SEO back in December. This was despite Google claiming that page loading would not be a factor in Mobile First Indexing. Although it does not reference AMP directly, Google has now backtracked and said clearly that yes, the time a page takes to load on mobile will affect search engine rankings.
Enhancing Mobile Experiences
So what does this mean for you? Well the idea of optimising for mobile is nothing new - with so many people now using mobile devices to get online, the need to cater for positive mobile browsing experiences has long been understood. That means optimising your websites so they look good on a mobile device, they navigate properly - and they load in a reasonable time. If someone has to wait 30 seconds for your site to load on mobile, they are unlikely to come back very quickly.
Customer experience is the first reason to optimise for mobile. Google’s Mobile First Indexing just adds an added incentive from an SEO point of view. The same now applies to the inclusion of mobile page speeds. You should want your sites to load quickly and smoothly on mobile to give your customers the best possible browsing experience anyway. The fact that this now looks like affecting search engine rankings just confirms it as a necessity.