The internet has been buzzing recently about K Neeraj Kayastha’s discovery of red “Slow” labels implemented on select Google Mobile search results. Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land’s News Editor, brought attention to Kayastha's insights and explained that this new label is related to how long a site takes to load. Schwartz also mentioned that this appeared to be similar to the “Mobile-friendly” tags that appear under title tags in search results.
At this time, the “Slow” label does not appear to be an official update. When asked to respond to the sighting of the new label, a Google spokesperson said, “We’re always experimenting.” If this label does become a mobile mainstay however, sites that earn a “Slow” tag would likely experience a decreased click-through rate, similar to the effect rich snippets can yield on CTR (just in reverse).
While Google may not choose to make the “Slow” label a permanent part of mobile searches, this new label suggests an increased focus on site speed for Google in the future. Google first incorporated site speed into its ranking algorithm in April 2010, but this update was only expected to affect less than 1% of search queries at the time.
Whether site speed begins to play a larger role in Google’s algorithms or not, it will still play an important role in user experience and improving user experience is never a bad idea. Here are a few helpful hints for improving site speed and page speed:
- Check to see what Google thinks of your site—try out PageSpeed Insights, which is a tool provided by Google to help you measure your website’s speed. This tool shows results for mobile and desktop versions of your site and gives suggestions for what should be fixed.
- Google has communicated that it prefers mobile pages show above-the-fold content in less than a second because this helps users to stay focused. This recommendation provides a concrete marker that can be measured against when optimizing sites.
- Having too many redirects can cause slower mobile page speed. Since redirects can be a useful SEO tool, this must be addressed on a case-by-case basis, determining where the value of a redirect is worth the impact on speed.
- In addition, server response time can improve mobile page speed. Google prefers servers to respond to queries in less than 200 milliseconds.
Whatever you do, always keep your focus on the true goal: user experience. Keeping your site speed in top shape will keep your visitors happy and the search engines happy. If you need more assistance on measuring and optimizing your site speed, contact our digital strategy team.