On January 17, 2018 Google announced that the loading and functioning speed of a page would now be a factor when determining the page rankings in mobile search results. They stated that this update would only affect the slowest search results, and even then it would only be a small part of the algorithm that determines result rankings. This means only a small number of pages should feel the affects of the “Speed Update”. Content is still going to be the greatest factor in determining search result rankings though. So if a mobile web page runs slowly but the content is still excellent and relevant, the web page will still appear at the top of the results list.
The idea behind this update was to encourage web designers and websites to think about convenience factors for their uses. One of the biggest frustrations mobile users deal with is slow loading times for web pages. Despite the popularity of mobile devices, may websites are still designed primarily with a desktop or laptop in mind, and these pages are not always converted into a mobile-accessible page very well. Google has said that speed has been a factor in ranking search results in the past, but that this was primarily confined to desktop searches. Now, with the January update, these speed factors will be applied to mobile searches as well. This is done in an effort to streamline the search process for mobile users. This will allow Google to still display the best, most relevant and usable results to search inquiries while also encouraging web developers to consider mobile users more when building web pages and websites.
Originally, Google claimed that the new mobile speed search algorithms would only affect a small number of queries. On July 9, 2018 they updated their original post without much fanfare to state that “the Speed Update is now rolling out for all users”. It is unclear if this means more searches and pages will now be affected by the algorithm, but at the very least all mobile users now running searches through Google will receive results where page speed has been taken into consideration.
Google has been unclear about how exactly their algorithm works to determine the speed of a web page and how that factors into the overall results. Instead, they are encouraging developers to consider a number of factors which influence user experience to make their pages more accessible and enjoyable to use overall. While Google’s specific speed results are not available, those who wish to know how Google ranks the speed of their web pages should look at the metrics from resources such as the Chrome User Experience Report, Lighthouse, and PageSpeed Insights.