A Need for Speed Will Drive Mobile Search Rankings This Summer

January 24, 2018 - 4 minutes read

mobile app development, mobile app developer

Mobile developers, we hope you haven’t gotten too comfortable with the current status quo. Google recently announced it will revise the rules for how websites rank in mobile search results. Known as the “Speed Update,” this change will become effective in July 2018 and could affect the ranking for your websites, depending on how fast they load.

Looking for Outliers

Speed will play a more important role in determining where your page ranks in search results come July, but in most cases, there is no need for alarm. After all, it won’t be the only factor that Google uses to rank search results. In fact, there will still be scenarios where slow pages top the charts. This will be the case when a page still has the content most relevant to the search query.

As Google puts it, this update to ranking rules is really aimed at outliers that “deliver the slowest experience to users.” In these rare instances, the offending website will be downranked. While this is news for mobile searches, Google has been doing this for quite some time with desktop searches. This recent announcement most likely has to do with the fact that the majority of Google searches done today are completed through mobile devices.

This shift from desktop to mobile searches occurred in 2015, and mobile’s share of the search market has only increased since then. With this taken into account, it’s actually surprising that Google hasn’t revamped the search index to reflect this fact before now. Recent third-party research estimates that approximately 60 percent of Google searches are mobile. Statista estimates that roughly 95 percent of mobile searches in the U.S. were done through Google.

Accelerating the Inevitable

If you’ve been paying attention to Google, you know that this prioritization of speed has been a long time coming. During 2016, it began to emphasize mobile sites utilizing its Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) technology in both search results and Google News.

If that wasn’t enough, Google also recently rolled out its mobile-focused search index to highlight its priority of mobile sites over their desktop counterparts. In turn, this compelled many websites to ensure that their mobile and desktop versions contained the same information and quality, which was usually not the case a few months ago.

A Road Paved With Good Intentions

For mobile developers out of the loop, it’s understandable if these new rules feel like orders given from the San Francisco development version of Mount Olympus up high without any explanation as to why it was being done. But in reality, Google’s main goal is to improve the overall mobile search experience for users.

While no tools were rolled out alongside the announcement of rules to cushion the blow, a few resources were mentioned that could help those in the tech community prepare for the upcoming change. Among them were Lighthouse, an automated site performance auditing tool; PageSpeed Insights, which measures your page performance and offers suggestions to improve it; and of course, the Chrome User Experience Report, which gives an array of valuable metrics for popular sites.

It will be interesting to see how the mobile web responds and adapts to these changes when July rolls around. As is usually the case with the tech community, the most appropriate mantra for this situation is to “never stop learning.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,