Google Introduces Penalty For Slow Websites

Last week Google announced that a major update to its mobile ranking algorithm will take place in July 2018. Page speed (the speed with which a web page loads) will become a consideration when Google ranks pages for any given search term. Page speed has been a ranking signal for some time, but only for desktop searches until now.

Google's announcement detailed how studies show that people "want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible" and that "studies show that people really care about the speed of a page". In fact, a one-second delay in mobile load times can impact conversion rate by up to 20% according to SOASTA's The State of Online Retail Performance.

How Will This Affect Your Website Rankings?

According to Google's announcement, the new ranking signal "will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries". However, Google processes billions of searches every week, and this small percentage could encompass millions of searches and websites.

Even if you think your website is pretty fast, you need to be sure that Google thinks the same by checking their Page Speed Insights tool or their new Test My Site tool. It's likely that your website will be revealed to have "average" speed, but if the tool shows that your website is slow, you or your web designer will need to take remedial action by following the tips provided. Google's John Mueller clarified in July that unless your website is considered slow, "tweaking won't change things" - meaning that increasing it's speed will not improve your search engine rankings.

While rankings for any given web page depend on a myriad of factors, in this announcement Google once again stressed the importance of quality content. According to Google, even if your website is slow, it "may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content". That said, after this update competitor websites with equally great content will rank more highly on mobile searches if their websites are also faster.

Last updated: 7th March, 2019