If you’ve been paying attention over the last few months, you already know that page speed is about to be a much bigger website ranking factor. Google has already made it thoroughly clear that its planned algorithm updates for 2021 are going to put more weight on how fast a website is and how quickly it can deliver its content to visitors.
This is not a test—it’s happening, and it’s happening soon!
There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that the vast majority of our clients’ websites WILL be affected by Google’s page-speed changes. If your website is more than a year old, you are going to need a redesign to match Google’s new expectations. Even if your website is less than a year old, you STILL might need a few updates to speed up your website before these changes hit.
Feeling a little panicky? Take a deep breath, and keep reading. The good news is that we’ve been busy in the background developing new upgrades and a new website version that will get you up to speed before those changes wreck you.
No time for details? Sign up on this page to speak with us directly about what we can do to get your website ready for 2021.
What Is Page Speed and Why Do I Care?
“Page speed” is more or less just what it sounds like: it’s how fast the pages on your website load. It’s been a well-known fact for quite some time that website visitors are not willing to wait around while pages or page elements load. If it takes more than a few seconds, those visitors will be gone before it’s done.
Now, why else should you care? The short answer is “because Google cares.” Google has been using page speed as a ranking factor since 2010. Up to this point, only pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users” have been impacted. BUT that’s about to change—big time.
In May 2020, Google introduced Core Web Vitals and announced that those new measures will become a part of its ranking factors sometime in 2021. Once these changes are live, Google will be looking at things like how fast your website loads, how long it takes to become “interactive” for the user, and how long elements are visually shifting around on the page as they load. These kinds of considerations will carry much more weight in the rankings than before—and, all other things being equal, a faster site will score higher than a slower site.
Now, the good news:
Google has promised us at least a 6-month warning before using the new criteria in its ranking factors, and that 6-month announcement has not yet been made.
But don’t waste the time Google has given us to get ready.
What Is Google Doing in the Meantime?
To help developers prepare for the upcoming shift, Google has updated Lighthouse. Lighthouse is an open-source Google tool that analyzes the performance of web pages. It’s the backbone of PageSpeed Insights, and it’s the same application our SEO tool runs to obtain mobile-optimization and page-speed scores.
While the Lighthouse update did nothing to your website’s actual page speed, you may have noticed that your page-speed scores have dropped. Rest assured that your site loads just as fast as it did before the update, and you’re probably okay for now. Part of the issue is that you’re currently seeing scores based on “lab data,” which gives an intentionally poor simulation to show developers how their sites might perform under poor conditions. Next year, ranking factors will instead be measured against real-world data, which always scores higher than lab data.
To put it in perspective, as of writing this, CNN.com is scoring a shocking 0 in PageSpeed Insights, but we doubt Google is going to stop looking at them as a major news source just because of a soon-to-be-added ranking factor. Scores dropped for all kinds of websites when the updates to Lighthouse rolled out.
However, if your site scores have dropped since Lighthouse incorporated the new set of scoring criteria, then you know you’re probably going to get hurt when the official page-speed algorithm updates go live. So, definitely take it as a warning, but don’t panic yet.
Yikes! What Can I Do Now to Protect My Website From These Page-Speed Changes?
Since the May announcement, we have been looking at the new measurements and ranking criteria to determine what will work best for all our clients and their sites. We have explored and implemented several global updates that will boost everyone, but we’re finding that the new changes Google is looking for are very site-specific. These are not things we can necessarily roll out across all of our clients’ sites. Instead, each client will have to individually upgrade or redesign their current websites to meet these changes head on.
This gives you a few options, depending on the age of your website:
- If your website is more than a year old, you will need a new “version 5” (V5) website. Our V5 websites are the latest and greatest, and all sites built on the V5 framework will score between 80–100 on Google PageSpeed Insights.
- If your website was built between 2018 and 2020, you may be able to skip the redesign and do a simpler page-speed upgrade. This needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some of you may need a bigger upgrade than others to get into shape.
- If you are an existing client that just can’t budget a redesign or a page speed upgrade right now, we understand that you still have to do something. Put in a ticket, and we will work with you to retrofit any alternative page-speed enhancements that are compatible with your website version. This will be covered by your DSS Digital Marketing Suite at no additional cost. Please keep in mind that page-speed score gains from this option are small compared to an upgrade or redesign. This is really just a slap-on bandage to hold you together for right now. Eventually, an upgrade will likely be unavoidable.
Click here to learn more about each of these options or schedule a time to speak with us about it.
Beat These Changes Before Your Competitors Even Know They’re Happening
A lot is going to change with Google’s ranking factors in 2021. While these page-speed updates are important, they’re not the only changes that are coming. So, your website won’t be judged on page speed alone.
Instead, all the ranking factors that you’ve been working on all along will still matter—and some of them will matter even more than ever. If you have stellar content, a tight SEO strategy, and lots of local buzz, you’re still probably going to rank well, even as these new algorithm updates roll out. Fixing your page-speed problems NOW means you won’t have to worry about that negative impact or compensate for it. You can just keep working on the other, more labor-intensive things that will impact your rankings next year and enjoy the full benefit of the work you put in.
Ready to learn more about your options and get your page speed up to warp speed? Fill out the contact form on this page, and let’s get it going.
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