It’s been two years since Google announced that it would be slowing rolling out their mobile-first index, a change that rewards sites for being mobile-friendly by ranking them ahead of desktop versions. That rollout has been underway for some time to the major sites on the Web, and is now making its way down to local, small business sites. (See my tips on how to ensure your site complies with Google’s mobile-first index.)
Earlier this week, Google rolled out Speed Update for all users, and sites that are slow to load will see a drop in their rankings as a consequence. While speed has played a factor in desktop rankings for some time, it’s the first time Google has used speed as a major ranking factor for mobile sites.
To improve page speed on your mobile sites, you will need to:
Optimize images. Large, high-definition images can really slow down your page unless the images are optimized. This is easiest to do by using a CMS plug-in that automatically compresses images on mobile sites while still delivering a high quality user experience.
Get rid of redirects. Every millisecond counts on mobile, so when a user clicks on a link that redirects them to another URL, there is a tiny bit of load time added to your page speed. Those can really add up if you have lots of redirects on your site. This is especially problematic for sites with lots of content that has been archived in order to direct users to top-level pages. You can check your site for redirects using this tool.
Reduce server response time. To improve server response time — the time it takes for your server to return a requested page — you need to be sure there are sufficient memory and CPU resources allocated. You may need to improve your server software or configuration as well.
Make visible content a priority. Not many people get newspapers anymore, but if you will remember, anything “above the fold” was considered more important than what was below the fold. On your mobile website, the content that appears first on your most important pages should all be “above the fold” content. It needs to be served up first and you can code in that preference to serve up the primary content first and then load the rest of the page in the background while the user is reading. This speeds up your page load time since the server is not trying to load an entire page.
These are just a few techniques you can use to improve page speed. There are more, so just be sure your website team is working hard to ensure your sites comply with these new changes.