by Joshua Phillips, Inbound Marketing Strategist
Let’s say you’re out and about searching for a place to pick up dinner for your family on your smartphone; you’d like to get the best search result fast. You most likely would also want the website you clicked on to load fast, too. But let’s say the local, hipster, Neapolitan pizza shop you clicked on in the Google search results has a web page load speed of eight minutes. You don’t have time for that – especially if you have hangry children in your back seat.
Chances are, you’ll return to Google, type in a national pizza chain and their website loads faster than a Cheetah’s top-flight speed. Before you know it, the pizza is ready for pickup and your family is happy again. Now we all like to tout that “we’re patient people,” but when it comes to pizza websites loading over mobile devices, we become impatient. Google realized this and has started making changes to fix their search results of websites that take what seems like forever to load.
As it turns out, Google makes updates to its algorithm daily, weekly, monthly, to ensure that it is providing the best result to match the searcher’s intent. Over the last couple of years, a big talking point in the SEO World has been about mobile webpage load speed becoming a factor for rankings, and if these faster loading web pages also match the searcher’s intent. Google has openly admitted that this “Speed Update” is now available for all users and “will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.”
You may now be asking yourself, “Does this mean that I have to have the fastest loading website of all time to beat out the competition?”
The answer is … No!
Stop panicking! Don’t hire a huge team of developers to make your web pages load faster than how fast Google churns out search results.
The “Speed Update” will only affect pages that take the longest to load, and if your web pages already load fast, making huge improvements for page speed load time will not drastically improve your search rankings. This was confirmed by Google’s own Webmaster Trends Analyst John Muller via Twitter.
A good Inbound Marketing Strategist will start by looking at your most important web pages that help lead to getting more students enrolled in your programs. Next, they should test webpage load speeds for mobile devices on a variety of tools, including Google PageSpeed Insights. Your SEO/Inbound Strategist should even test from their mobile device (disconnected from Wi-Fi) so that they can see firsthand mobile download speeds for those web pages.
After enough research has been completed, a plan should be established that determines which pages and how those web pages should be improved in mobile webpage speed. To get a handle on that, you first need to know the definitions of a couple of key concepts:
• First Contentful Paint – Metric that marks the point, immediately after navigation, when the browser renders pixels to the screen. (https://developers.google.com/)
• DOMContentLoaded – The event that is fired when the initial HTML document has been completely loaded and parsed, without waiting for stylesheets, images, and subframes to finish loading. (https://developer.mozilla.org/)
Now, according to SearchEngineWatch.com, Google’s PageSpeed Insights considers a page load time to be slow if it takes 3 seconds or more to deliver the First Contentful Paint or more than 4.2 seconds to deliver the DOMContentLoaded event.
This was probably confusing, so let’s say that Google PageSpeed Insights views a webpage load speed to be slow if it takes more than 3-5 seconds to load. Thus, slow page load speed is a factor for an increased bounce rate, leading to fewer people frequenting your website and a potential loss of enrollment. An important next step would be to have the Inbound Strategist work with a Website Developer to create and implement AMP pages.
The AMP Project, also known as “Accelerated Mobile Pages”, helps web pages load faster on mobile devices. Working with a website developer on creating AMP webpages can help slower web pages load faster. Some CMS platforms, such as WordPress, have AMP plugins to help with loading web pages quicker. It is highly recommended for your website to have already migrated over to HTTPS prior to creating AMP webpages. HTTPS protects site visitor privacy, secures web pages and is another ranking factor of Google.
There is a way to tell Google to crawl and index your web pages so that Google can display search queries with what your web pages are displaying. Your SEO/Inbound Strategist should know how to go into Google Search Console (formerly “Webmaster Tools”) and ask Google to “Fetch and Render” the web pages that have been updated with AMP webpages. Then they should request indexing from Google. This will help speed up the process for Google to review those web pages and fix what they originally thought was a slow webpage.
Searcher’s Intent is and will continue to be more important to Google. Though it doesn’t hurt to speed up web pages that take longest to load as another added measure for ensuring that your website appears under the right search results.