Act now or lose traffic: Google’s speed update and mobile-first index are coming.

In 2013 eConsultancy emphasied mobile as the “most exciting digital opportunity” that year.

Five years later in 2018, if businesses still to act on providing a frictionless mobile experience need more incentive to get started, Google is not only beginning to test their mobile-first index but a major speed update is coming in July.

“Eventually, Google plans to have only one index, one which is based on mobile content, to serve listings for both mobile and desktop users.”

“Starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.”

Browsing on mobile has been steadily increasing since 2009, officially overtaking desktop in 2015. It’s no secret that an under-performing mobile website has a negative impact on a customer’s perception of a brand with a significant number abandoning sites due to slow loading. In fact, mobile pages that are just 1 second faster can experience up to a 27% increase in conversion rate.

But marketers are facing ever-growing demands on their budgets for digital. So, is it worth investing more money into your mobile website in 2018, and how do you go about making a case for it?

Let’s first take a look at how Google views mobile.







Google cares about mobile, so should you.

At Google’s 2017 Premier Partner Summit in New York, Mary Ellen-Coe, number 4 at Google, reiterated the importance of mobile in 2018. With more than half of internet traffic coming via mobile, Google rammed home the importance of being relentless about removing friction. Google say that if a mobile site takes more than 3 secs to load you will lose 33% or more of your customers. If you think of this in relation to ad spend, that’s 33% of your budget wasted.

We therefore expect the adoption of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to increase this year as speed becomes more of a benchmark for the marketing industry. AMPs are an open-source cut-down html version of a webpage and were introduced as a way of speeding up certain pages of a website when viewed on mobile – without the need for a full website redesign.

When it comes to page speed Google are raising the bar further with a ‘Speed Update’ due to come into effect in July. According to TechCrunch the update is “about the page performance in general, with the goal of offering mobile users a better overall experience when searching via mobile”. Google say the update will only affect pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users” and it will only affect a small percentage of queries”.

For a few years Google has been talking about a mobile-first index. This means that Google will be indexing and ranking search listings based on the mobile version of a website rather than desktop. This is a big change but it’s not clear when it will be fully implemented – although early 2018 has seen an increase in testing frequency.

Making a business case for enhancing your mobile performance

Sounds obvious, but there’s no point in investing in your mobile website if you have a low number of mobile visitors. Businesses within the B2B sector for instance tend to have fewer visitors via mobile. You should also analyse how your customers use your website, are they in discovery mode, or are they going right through to purchase? This will influence where you should focus on making improvements.

You also need to know how fast your website currently is on mobile. One simple way of finding out how fast your website loads via mobile is with Google’s ‘Test my Site’ tool. This quick test will give you an indication of how big the problem is. If your site load time on mobile is above 3 seconds and the number of visitors to your website via mobile is over 4000, you should be investing in improvements this year.

Well implemented AMPs are one way of speeding up parts of your mobile experience but be aware that if you cut corners you run the risk of negatively impacting the performance of your website. You can also improve how fast your website loads with some basic on-page optimisation such as image compression and browser caching.

Another way of looking at performance on mobile is through the number of conversions. As discussed earlier, ‘frictionless’ is the name of the game for 2018. Conversion Rate Optimisation is a relatively low-cost method for improving the performance of your mobile website. It is also one of the three most important things to consider for ensuring a successful digital marketing campaign.

In summary, go to Google’s mobile site speed checker to find out the % of customers you are losing through mobile due to poor site speed.

If you take the number of mobile visitors from analytics and your mobile conversion rate, you will see how much business you are losing each month. By calculating these losses, you will be in a strong position to consider the business case for improving your mobile site speed.

26 March 2018

By Marcus Hemsley

Marcus Hemsley

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