I love it how Google names its major search algorithm releases so adorably—“Bad news is, this algorithm change is capable of crippling your online business and costing you a fortune in potential revenue, but hey it’s not so bad, look at the bright side—we <3 PANDAS!”
Whichever lovable creature Google lands on this time (hopefully they weren’t banking on Meerkat, my money’s on Starfish, Turtledove or Mockingjay) with their upcoming algorithm change on April 21st geared towards mobile optimization (a.k.a. Mobilegeddon), I wouldn’t underestimate its potential business impact.
Google’s “Mobileggedon” Announcement
Back in February, Google gave a nod to the significance of the change when they publically announced the mobile algorithm update:
"Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results."
Google is finally drawing a line in the sand with this ultimatum—the world is going mobile. Either you are in, or you are out.
Amen! As a marketer in the tech space, I for one am pumped to see Google steering us head on into the mobile universe. But as we race to optimize our sites with responsive designs in preparation, there’s a critical factor that a lot of folks are overlooking that needs to be top of mind, especially as it pertains to this particular algorithm change—web speed and performance. I’ll explain.
Impact of Web Speed and Performance on SEO and Conversion
Website speed and page load time have been factored into Google’s search ranking algorithm since 2010, for which they published patents in 2012 and 2014. The speed and performance of your website impacts SEO—this fact is not news (hopefully), and can be expected to have an increasingly large impact as the wheels of the connected, digital world spin faster and faster, and people’s patience for slow web experiences wanes.
Here is where it gets really interesting; there is a lot of data out there that indicates that responsive design has a negative impact on website speed and performance. In 2014, Internet Retailer published the results of a study which found that on average responsive design homepages took a staggering 18.24 seconds to load on smartphones—this, compared to the average 3.15 seconds it takes a regular homepage to load on a PC. In the same report, Internet retailer adds perspective:
A 1-second delay in web site page load time translates into a 7% loss in conversions, according to research firm Aberdeen Group Inc. So if an e-retailer makes $100,000 a day from its mobile site, a 1-second page delay could mean around $2.5 million in lost sales every year. If that's the case, what does an 18-second page load time mean?
Could this mean that when the Google search algorithm factors in both responsive and speed that being rewarded for one may get you penalized for the other? I don’t know. But regardless, the more important point here for all you digital marketers, web masters, IT/operations and online business owners out there rushing to responsive with “Mobileggedon” inching closer on the horizon, don’t forget to keep an eye on speed and performance—having the best mobile design in the world won’t save your conversion rates if your site is not working.
Google is sending us a clear and simple message about the future of online search—be mobile, be fast and be found.
Are you taking the hint?
Be Prepared with the Right Tools
Here are three helpful free tools that can help you make sure performance is not impacting SEO and conversion that we use at SmartBear:
- Instant Web Page Performance Test Tool – Enter any URL and instantly get web speed and performance grade, detailed waterfall report of all of the objects and scripts on the page that may be slowing your page down, and a benchmark comparison of how your site is performing against others.
- AlertSite UXM FREE Web Performance Monitoring – Monitor web pages or a multi-step emulated user interaction—i.e. visits homepage, clicks call-to-action, visits landing page, fills out form, visits thank you page—24x7 and receive detailed performance dashboards and reports over time with custom alerting to notify you and your team if you experience any issues that could hurt search rank or conversion.
- AlertSite UXM Advanced Web Recorder (DejaClick) – Real browser plug-in for Chrome and Firefox that allows you to quickly and easily record an emulated multi-step user interaction on your site, run an instant test on speed and performance, which can then be uploaded into the AlerSite UXM FREE platform for monitoring.