Are we losing the Page Speed battle? And if so, who are the losers?

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djbaxter

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Google Losing Page Speed Battle - And Nobody Wins
by Roger Montti, Search Engine Journal
Nov 26, 2019

Google has been encouraging publishers to increase their web page speed for at least ten years. Google has created resources for helping publishers make their sites faster. Yet a comparison of year over year metrics shows that web pages are getting slower.

HTTPArchive data shows that the average first contentful paint for mobile at the beginning of 2019 was 6.3 seconds. It took an average of 6.3 seconds for a site visitor to see content while viewing in a mobile device.

first-contentful-paint-5ddcff79bcfce.png

By October 1st, 2019, the mobile experience was slower.

The average score for mobile went up by nearly two seconds to 8.0 seconds.


Did Mobile Internet Become Slower?
According to a report by Speedtest.net, a comparison of mobile Internet speed for the first two quarters of 2019 and the same period of 2018 shows that mobile Internet speed actually increased.
  • AT&T +45.1%
  • Verizon Wireless +9.5%
  • T-Mobile +9.4%
Did Mobile Websites Became Slower?
If the major mobile Internet service providers have increased speeds then that may indicate that mobile web pages became slower.

According to Google’s developer page, things like render blocking external stylesheets and scripts and other factors related to minizing file sizes can impact the First Contentful Paint metric.

This is what the developers page says: First Contentful Paint | Tools for Web Developers | Google Developers
  • “Minimize the number of render-blocking external stylesheets and scripts upon which the page depends. See Render-Blocking CSS and Loading Third-Party JavaScript.
  • Use HTTP Caching to speed up repeat visits.
  • Minify and compress text-based assets to speed up their download time. See Optimizing Encoding and Transfer Size of Text-Based Assets.
  • Optimize JavaScript bootup and reduce JavaScript payloads with tree shaking or code splitting. The goal is to do less JavaScript work on page load.”
....

The SEO community is aware of Page Speed, probably because it’s a (very small) ranking factor and because of the well known benefits such as increased revenue.

But for some reason, page speed keeps increasing. One would think that the carrot of higher conversions would be enough. But it’s not. The takeaway here is that there may be an opportunity to take advantage of slow competitor speeds by besting them with a faster website.

It may help increase sales and brand loyalty and all the rewards that come with that.

The takeaway is that while Google is losing the battle for increasing the speed of the Internet, it’s the web publishers who are losing the revenue war by not trying hard enough to focus on page speed.
Read more...
 

SkyWriting

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Roger Montti seem to be alone suggesting load speed is a small ranking factor.
All other sources say it is in the top 5 to top 10 in importance.
 

djbaxter

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Roger Montti seem to be alone suggesting load speed is a small ranking factor.
All other sources say it is in the top 5 to top 10 in importance.
Sources?

Nonetheless, there is little doubt that load speed is a ranking factor and, perhaps more importantly, a UX factor which translates Google ranking into visitor behavior, either clicking away to a faster loading site or remaining on your site and potentially becoming a customer. Let's not forget that mobile visitors continue to increase and that's where poor load speed suffers the most.

And, as I noted elsewhere, no matter what you do, mobile speeds are always lower in my experience, sometimes considerably lower.

Mobile carriers may have increased maximum download speeds in the past three years but that is easily overridden by location (how far to the nearest cell tower? how may buildings or trees or hills are in the way of that tower?), traffic density (number of users hitting that tower), and even weather conditions and atmospherics.

We can't do anything about factors such as those so we're left with the task of making our pages load as quickly as we can, if only to get a jump on webmasters who don't bother.

This is a decent and recent (October 2019) discussion of the issues:

 

djbaxter

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The 10 Essential SEO Ranking Factors You Need to Rank #1

Never even heard of this author. Even leaving that alone, nothing about it being a large factor:

Google announced a search engine algorithm update focused on mobile page speed that will start to affect sites from July 2018. If your site doesn’t load fast on mobile devices, then it could be penalized.
Top 10 Google Ranking Factors For 2019 - yellowHEAD

Nothing about it being a large ranking factor:

With a mobile-first indexing approach from Google, page speed has become more crucial than ever. Websites with slow page speed will have a harder time ranking at top results. Google’s goal with these updates is to provide users with search results which include sites that provide the best user experience.
Google's 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List (2019)

"The Complete List"? No one outside of the Googleplex knows the complete list. Many inside the Googleplex don't know the complete list. What we do know is that the list is over 300 ranking factors and climbing.

Nothing about whether speed is a big or small ranking factor:

Both Google and Bing use page speed as a ranking factor. Search engine spiders can estimate your site speed fairly accurately based on your page’s HTML code.
The 10 Essential SEO Ranking Factors You Need to Rank #1

This is a repeat, cited as your first example above.

Ranking Factors Home - Moz

No information about how large a factor speed is:

Note that these factors are not "proof" of what search engines use to rank websites, but simply show the characteristics of web pages that tend to rank higher. Combining this understanding with both experience and knowledge of search engine algorithms can help lead to better SEO practices.
On the other hand, from the article I cited above, these are direct quotes from Google insiders on the issue:


How Much is ‘Website Speed’ a Google Ranking Factor in 2019?

Screenshot-2018-01-25-19.02.16.png
‘How much is a very slow site a negative ranking factor’, historically, has been a more useful interpretation of the claim that ‘website speed is a Google ranking factor‘.

A SLOW SITE can be a NEGATIVE Ranking factor.

I have clearly witnessed very slow websites (of 10 seconds and more) negatively impacted in Google, and second, from statements made by Googlers:
QUOTE: “We do say we have a small factor in there for pages that are really slow to load where we take that into account.” John Mueller, GOOGLE
Google might crawl your site slower if you have a slow site. And that’s really bad – especially if you are adding lots of new content or making lots of edits to content on the site.
QUOTE: “We’re seeing an extremely high response-time for requests made to your site (at times, over 2 seconds to fetch a single URL). This has resulted in us severely limiting the number of URLs we’ll crawl from your site.” John Mueller, GOOGLE
John specifically said 2 seconds disrupts CRAWLING activity, not RANKING ability, but you get the picture.

John Mueller recently declared:
QUOTE: “RE: [the speed of a page] So we do say we have a small factor in there for pages that are really slow to load where we take that into account.” John Mueller, Google (2015)
and
QUOTE: “Make sure they [web pages] load fast, for your users. I aim for less than 2-3 secs”John Mueller, Google (2016)
and from another Googler when asked about a site that was loading in 5 seconds:
QUOTE: “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Make it as fast as you reasonably can.Gary Illyes, Google 2016
and
QUOTE: “I guess there are two aspects here when you look at server speed. On the one hand there’s the kind of perceived speed in the browser, in the time it takes to render a page, and that is something that is definitely a ranking factor, it’s probably not the biggest ranking factor. And usually we try to differentiate between sites that are really slow, and sites that are kind of normal. So just optimizing on a millisecond basis is not going to affect anything in the search results…. the other part of server speed is more in regards to crawling, so how quickly we can crawl pages from your website, and that’s not directly a ranking factor, but it does affect how quickly we can pick up new and changed content on your site.John Mueller, Google (2016)
In 2017 Google has stated, with regards to crawling and indexing your site:
QUOTE: “For Googlebot a speedy site is a sign of healthy servers, so it can get more content over the same number of connections. On the flip side, a significant number of 5xx errors or connection timeouts signal the opposite, and crawling slows down.” Google 2017
QUOTE: “[Google is] announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches. 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.” Google 2018
 

djbaxter

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Very good! We will call that "Very Important" for the time being.
As I mentioned.
Uh no. You didn't mention that at all.

And there's a big difference between "a slow site can (i.e., may) be a negative ranking factor" and your previous claim that "all other sources say it (page load speed) is in the top 5 to top 10 in importance" .

From one of the quotes from Google in my previous post:

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.
 

SkyWriting

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And there's a big difference between "a slow site can (i.e., may) be a negative ranking factor" and your previous claim that "all other sources say it (page load speed) is in the top 5 to top 10 in importance" .

Somewhat correct. I do use very relevant websites that are slow as molasses.
But if somebody provided the same value faster, I'd dump the slow ones in
a heartbeat. And I do use two similar websites for research, one fast, one slow. So while it's true that agonizingly slow loading pages can rank well.....
so it is true as well that very slow restaurants will continue to get rave reviews,
"Quick serve" restaurants are growing in popularity and the steak houses
are not. And there will always be a handful of slowpokes still existing
online and off.
 

SkyWriting

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Google's search guru and SVP of Infrastructure, Urs Hoelzle, explains why speed is of the essence when it comes to search results. Search, video and internet users in general are quick to click away if anything takes too long, even by fractions of a second. He discusses some of the ways this informs product development at Google, emphasizing the need to eliminate anything that can slow results down.
 

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