Recently, Google introduced Page Speed Report, the latest addition to Search Console. The highly anticipated update was first uncovered in February 2019. Beta testing pursued for several months, leading to the current, publicly accessible version. The update is designed to enhance user experience by increasing the efficiency and speed of websites.
The report allows users to monitor their overall website performance and to identify issues causing loading time delays. From there, users can address discovered issues to optimise their website and ensuing user experience. The update can create resounding impact on SEO; paving the way to maximising website traffic by allowing users to improve overall website performance.
Google has announced that the current version of the report is ‘experimental’. It plans to make adjustments and improvements over time based on feedback directly from the report and the Webmasters Community user forum.
Page Speed Report Explained
The Page Speed Report pulls data from the Chrome UX Report to classify URL’s into ‘fast’, ‘medium’ and ‘slow’ categories based on certain criteria. This information is relevant in itself, as Chrome UX Report utilises experience metrics to analyse how real-world users experience the web. Inherently, the relevance of the insights is significant for SEO as they accurately reflect real users.
The report also creates extensive categories by grouping together URL’s that are experiencing similar issues. Specific issues can be further analysed simply by clicking on them. This allows users to see the slow URL’s causing the issue. Users are presented with optimisation opportunities, as the report is linked to the existing Page Speed Insights tool.
Not only can ‘slow’ URL’s be analysed and fixed, ‘moderate’ and ‘fast’ categories can be accessed to gain a clearer picture of healthy website performance. As such, these categories can be used as benchmarks for website performance. Optimisation strategies that have proven effective for URL’s in the ‘fast’ category can be replicated to enhance the performance of ‘slow’ pages.
Despite the potential Page Speed Report has in facilitating SEO and website performance, there are limitations that have a part to play in the conversation.
As mentioned, Page Speed Report is currently experimental and very much in its infancy. The implication remains that whilst the tool is available to the public, not all website owners will have data available to review. According to Google, if a website is new to Search Console or there is not enough visitor data in the CrUX report, there is insufficient meaningful information to create relevant speed data. More simply, this is an issue arising from an SEO perspective. Websites that do not generate sufficient traffic are likely to have no data available during this ‘experimental’ stage.
Secondly, the date that the report was ‘last updated’ as a whole may not necessarily correspond to the date a particular issue was ‘first detected’. This discrepancy implies that data can be outdated and have an impact on the accuracy of the report. To combat this, it is imperative to ‘validate fix’ and wait for the changes to be reflected in the report before using it to make strategic decisions.
How is Page Speed Report beneficial to SEO?
Firstly, Page Speed Report offers SEO’s increased convenience as it creates a single location where website performance information can be accessed. Further, historical data regarding improvements and past issues is available, allowing users to reflect on previous fixes they’ve implemented, and to use these as input toward creating new web optimisation strategies and fixing potential new issues.
More importantly, website speed is an element that contributes to Google ranking. Conveniently, performance is divided between mobile and desktop user data. This is particularly significant for mobile websites, as mobile page speed became a Google ranking factor for mobile search results in 2018. As of 2018, mobile phones accounted for 52% of webpage views world-wide. Given the volume of users who search the web on their mobile devices, mobile web performance insights are incredibly valuable for SEO as they represent almost half of all website traffic, harbouring heightened potential to impact on Google rankings.
Various case studies have emphasised the link between webpage loading times and metrics such as abandonment and bounce rates, conversion rates and even revenue. As an example, Google DoubleClick has found that 53% of mobile sites are abandoned after 3 seconds. If page load time increases from 1 second to 6 seconds, bounce rate increases by 106%. Further, BBC has discovered that they lose 10% of users for each additional second it takes for their webpage to load. Accordingly, such insights are indicative of the importance that webpage loading times play in capturing and maintaining consumers’ attention.
Following the 2019 changes to the Google Algorithm, a tool like the Page Speed Report has the power to become a valuable resource for SEO and for any business operating online to optimise their website in a way that positively impacts traffic and conversion rates.
To learn more about existing Google Webmaster tools, check out the video below on SEO TV: