A Rapid Review – Google Site Speed Changes
With customer attention spans and patience levels at an all-time low and competition at an all-time high, site speed now plays an extremely significant role in how well (or not) your brand performs online – particularly on mobile devices.
To help us all out, those kind people at Google have released a number of changes and updates so you can make sure your site is the fastest it can be.
We’ve taken a look at these changes and updates to give you a quick overview of what they are and show how you can use them to get your site in tip-top, gold-medal-winning condition.
Page speed will be a major ranking factor for mobile.
After being a desktop ranking factor for 8 years, the move to a mobile first index has led Google to announce the “Speed Update” which will prune the slowest pages from mobile search results too.
This update, to be launched in July, will focus on weeding out the sites which offer a frustratingly slow performance to users due to fixable issues such as weighty images and inefficient code.
Site speed has been mentioned specifically and persistently by Google for a good few years now, and with the rise of Accelerated Mobile Pages and PageSpeed Insights, the weighting of load times as a ranking factor will only increase.
How can I speed up my website?
To prepare for July we recommend looking at the key things that are liable to slow sites down; image dimensions and file sizes, video and audio auto-playing, hosting provider throttling, and site code containing unnecessary scripts – which is particularly worthwhile looking at if your site uses a theme on a platform such as WordPress, Magento or Shopify.
Google has also stressed that content relevance still takes precedence, so creating relevant and useful on site copy and rich media can help overcome any shortcomings in your site speed.
Google PageSpeed Insights. Now using real data
What’s the PageSpeed update all about?
Google’s push towards rapid search results has seen an evolution of their PageSpeed Insights tool.
Having previously relied on best practice suggestions the tool now uses metrics from 2 billion real world Chrome browser users. This means that rather than having just a single instance of your speed results from PageSpeed Insights you now see data on how long it took real life users to load your page and an average across the industry.
How does Google use PageSpeed to categorise my site?
Google has two ways of looking at page speed – how long it takes to load the first useful bit of the page, and how long it takes for the page’s source code to load.
Having access to real world data from Chrome users has also resulted in a rework of how Google classifies your page as Fast, Average or Slow. For more on how this is calculated here is an explanation from Google themselves.
What does the Optimisation Score mean in PageSpeed Insights?
The optimisation score uses the same kind of comparison as PageSpeed to judge a page as Good, Medium or Low based on how many best practices this page is following compared to others in the same category.
These best practices are taken from PageSpeed Insights Rules regarding page redirects, the size of image and script resources, the order in which the page loads, how many requests have to be made to the server and whether all resources are properly optimised. If a page is not following a particular practice these suggestions will be visible in a summary.
What does the Page Stats section of PageSpeed Insights mean?
The Page Stats section describes how much back and forth is required between the server a site is on and the device a user is browsing with to load the crucial resources a page requires to function (such as the page layout and content) before the additional extras (such as scripts and styles) can start being fetched.
It also assesses how many megabytes of data are needed to load the page and compares this to an industry average. The fewer round trips required and the smaller the page footprint, the faster it will load.
How can I make my PageSpeed Insights scores Fast or Good?
As well as following our top tips in the “How can I speed up my website?” section above there are handy suggestions in each section of the PageSpeed Insights tool itself. You can also give yourself a pat on the back by checking out the “Optimisations already present” section to see what you’re winning at already.
Google Chrome Performance Audits
How can I use Google Chrome to look at page speed data for my own site?
The first update of Google Chrome this year includes several features built in to the browser to audit and benchmark your page performance.
With each Chrome update there are new abilities for both DevTools and Lighthouse. With these tools you can learn more about how your pages are built and rendered and how search engines access and read your pages.
This is a great way to get instant feedback on what is affecting your site performance and what could be improved at a detailed level. As an added bonus you can also run a basic SEO audit within Lighthouse to take a look at how your website compares to fundamental Organic Search best practices.
Where can I find out more about Google Chrome DevTools?
Check out Google’s official documentation on how to access the DevTools on your browser, gain insights into your code and see real life web page loading in action.
An overview of Chrome DevTools: https://developer.chrome.com/devtools
New Updates in DevTools for 2018: https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2018/01/devtools#audits
The new SEO audit category in Lighthouse: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2018/02/seo-audit-category-in-lighthouse.html
What are some good examples of fast websites?
You can use PageSpeed Insights and Chrome developer tools on these sites to uncover the techniques and optimisations each uses to deliver a quick experience. Just put them through PageSpeed Insights and speed related DevTools to view their scores
https://www.mozilla.org/en-GB/ – The download site for the not-for-profit web browser Mozilla Firefox uses graphics rather than large images and has light, clean code.
https://www.gov.uk/ – The UK Government website portal even claims to be “simpler, clearer, faster” and loads images last after all of the crucial code has been loaded.
http://www.fixya.com/ – The Product question site has minified code, prioritises visible content and is hosted on a fast responding server.
https://www.indeed.co.uk/ – The Job Search site is free from large images and focuses on functionality.
https://www.reference.com/ – The question answering service speeds up its answers by compressing everything and minifying code.
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/ – A great example of a fast eCommerce site, loading in under 2 seconds with a fast server and lightweight code.
Not sure where to start with optimising your site speed and organic visibility? Have a chat with our Organic Search experts.