Google’s upcoming Speed Update will make page load speed an important factor in determining a site’s mobile search rankings. However, a study from search and content marketing platform Searchmetrics indicates that it’s already playing a bigger role than you might think, so there’s no reason to wait for the update to start exploring ways to improve your site’s load speed.

Searchmetrics researched the load speeds of the pages that appeared in the top 15 organic mobile search results for thousands of terms, and they found that there was a significant correlation between page rank and speed within the top five results. Nearly a third of the sites found in the top five loaded within just a second. Perhaps not surprisingly, the sites that ranked higher had faster average page speeds.

In fact, they discovered that the average load time for the pages in the top 15 was under 3 seconds. The top five pages loaded faster on average than those ranked 6th through 15th across the board.

However, they did find some interesting differences among various verticals. For example, the pages that appeared in the search results for media and ecommerce were a bit slower to load on average than those in health and finance.

What does this mean for webmasters? Searchmetrics’ Director of Marketing and Communications, Cliff Edwards, believes it’s take to take note. He said that “webmasters need to be continually testing and finding ways to optimize their web pages for speed. Overall this is going to mean plenty of work for many sites as even in the top five positions 32% of search results took longer than three seconds to load.”

AMP’s growing presence in search results

Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, is a set of open-source standards that help webmasters create pages that load faster on mobile devices. Although Google has claimed that the use of AMP won’t give a site a boost in the rankings on its own, it’s worth noting that the superior user experience and lightning-fast load times it lends does help sites significantly.

Searchmetrics’ analysis found that at least one site using AMP appeared on the first page of results in 61 per cent of the searches they studied. Moreover, at least one AMP-enabled site is appearing on the first page of results in 87 per cent of media-related searches, which is the area for which the standards were originally intended.

Its popularity has extended beyond media and news searches, however, with the same trend holding true for 67 per cent of finance searches as well as 59 and 56 per cent of ecommerce and travel searches, respectively.

With Google reporting that visitors are 32 per cent more likely to bounce away from a page as the load speed rises from one to three seconds and 53 per cent of mobile site visitors will leave a page that hasn’t loaded within three seconds, speed has never been more important. Google might not apply its Speed Update until July, but sites that don’t take speed seriously now could be facing an uphill battle.

Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews


Writer at Fourth Source.