Google today announced a new project to improve its mobile search results: factoring page speed into its search ranking. As the company notes, page speed “has been used in ranking for some time” but that was largely for desktop searches. Starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches on Google as well.
In November 2014, Google started labeling sites as “mobile-friendly” to denote pages optimized for phones. The company then spent the next few years experimenting with using the label as a ranking factor, ultimately pushing those changes in April 2015 and increasing the effect in May 2016. The label was removed in August 2016 as the company noted that most pages had become “mobile-friendly.”
Google now plans to wield that power again to make mobile pages load faster. Here is how the company explains it:
The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.
The move is part of a bigger push at Google to speed up the mobile web. Earlier this month, the company started rolling out its new Search Console to website owners globally. The tool lets web developers analyze their site’s indexing on Google Search, view analytics, peruse inbound links, submit and remove content for crawling, monitor malware, and so on.
Google will not be offering a tool that directly indicates whether a page will be affected by this new mobile ranking factor starting in July. Instead, the company points to three of its own resources that developers can use to evaluate their mobile page’s performance: Chrome User Experience Report, Lighthouse, and PageSpeed Insights.
Interestingly, the announcement doesn’t mention Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. At its I/O developers conference last year, the company shared that AMP pages now load twice as fast from Google Search, and just last week the team announced that AMP URLs will be getting a makeover. It doesn’t look like implementing AMP is enough to get a boost from this upcoming Speed Update — Google wants developers to improve their mobile site performance across the board.