Mobile Media

With Google, every second of load time counts against you

19.01.2018 11:47

Google is getting serious about the Google Speed Update. Slow websites are the fastest way to lose customers A recent report shows that 53% of visitors close a mobile website that takes at least three seconds to load.* As a page's load time increases, the user's attention span quickly decreases. If you just let mobile users wait 5 seconds instead of 1, they are 90% more likely to interrupt loading and close the page.

What Google Speed Update means

Although speed has been a factor in Google rankings for some time, it has previously concentrated on desktop searches. Google has now announced that from July 2018 onwards, a page's loading speed will specifically be a ranking factor for mobile search queries as well. Find out more here:

The "Speed Update", as Google calls it, only affects pages that offer users the slowest experience. It applies the same standard for all pages, regardless of the technology used to create the page. The purpose of a search query is still a very strong factor, so a slow page can still rank high if it has a lot of relevant content.

Using various empirical values, Google is encouraging developers to think about how performance impacts the user experience. Although there is no tool that directly indicates whether a page is affected by this new ranking factor, there are some resources that can be used to evaluate a page's performance:

  • Chrome User Experience Report, a public record of key user experiences for popular web destinations, as indicated by real-word Chrome usage;
  • Lighthouse, an automated tool and part of Chrome Developer tools for checking the quality (performance, accessibility, and more) of web pages;
  • PageSpeed Insights, a tool that shows how a page functions in Chrome UX Report and suggests means of optimising performance. 

How do mobile websites in Europe currently work?

Google is constantly testing websites’ performances using smartphones, as is demonstrated here:

In one study, landing pages of Google Speed-tested mobile ads were examined across 17 European countries and 11 different industries. It showed that the average load time is currently 9.124 seconds – more than 6 seconds slower than the 3-second best practice standard. The best performing websites were:

  • Classified and local adds with an average load speed of 8.148 seconds;
  • Financial pages with an average load speed of 8.227 seconds;
  • Education and government sites with an average load speed of 8.600 seconds;
  • Perhaps ironically, given the often-impulsive nature of online shopping, retail sites were the slowest performers, with values in the area of 10.290 seconds;
  • The only area to perform worse was automotive, at 10.259 seconds. 

In summary

It can't be emphasised enough: The importance of mobile optimised pages is clear. This wake-up call from Google is significant and should be the final push in encouraging all sectors to get on board. Maximum 3(!) three seconds load time: This is the goal for all companies in order to reach and undercut user expectations. Find out which industries and companies are already achieving that, here:

Discover how companies check and improve their mobile performance, and how mobile websites and apps are evaluated here:

*A current discussion underway in Germany unfortunately also shows that operators’ loading times are not always optimal.

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