Google Just Quietly Launched a Big SEO Ranking Change

Jillian MacNulty Picture

by Jillian MacNulty | Last Updated: Jul 12, 2018

Even we–the Google-obsessed trend finders–nearly missed it. Earlier this week, Google announced on their Webmaster Central blog that they’re officially rolling out the “Speed Update” to all users. It’s a pretty big deal, considering SEO ranking affects every brand with a website. But before we tell you how this will affect you and what you can do to ensure you’re keeping that page one placement, let’s start from the beginning… The Mobile Web Revolution This all began in 2015, when Google launched a changed indexing algorithm that gave a ranking boost to sites that were “mobile-friendly”. Marketers saw this as rumblings for the new way consumers would surf the web, so they called it “Mobilegeddon” and started plotting their courses toward mobile-friendliness. Then, in 2016, Google dropped hints that–as a result of the major web shift happening toward mobile–they were going to begin experimentation and development for mobile-first indexing. This meant that in order for a website to rank well on Google’s search results, the mobile version of the site had to be not just “mobile-friendly”, but responsive. This was a huge wake-up call for brands that dedicated all of their development time to desktop, and left their site unchecked on mobile. That’s why the warning was sent out, with a series of best practices for responsive web design and the timely tip to not rush to push code on a half-hearted mobile solution...the Google powers-that-be predicted the change would take some time. The Need for Speed In January of 2018, Google announced it would add a “Speed Update” to the indexing process. For those of us keeping an eye on mobile trends, this isn’t wildly surprising. Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of users abandoned mobile webpages that took more than 3 seconds to load, and Google was already touting speedier mobile web experiences with their push for Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). But, again, this was the tech giant’s warning for developers–they said the changes wouldn’t go live until July of 2018. The Shift to Mobile-first Indexing Nearly a year and a half later, Google made good on their promise and pushed mobile-first indexing out to the masses. The announcement came with the reminder that in addition to the new mobile-first requirements, the ranking algorithm uses many factors, including relevant and fast-loading content. And Finally… This past week on July 9, 2018, Google announced that their “Speed Update” was a go. So, what does this mean for marketers and developers? It means it’s time to come together in order to build mobile web experiences that will see results. Marketers: Focus on making your site content relevant and made-for-mobile–those original ranking requirements aren’t going anywhere. And Developers: It’s time to think about performance and how it affects user experience. A few tools you can turn to for guidance are the Chrome User Experience Report, Lighthouse, and Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Speed is more important than ever for today’s “I want it now” consumers, and Google’s gradual changes are helping coax brands into the future of mobile experiences. With these requirements changing and Google continuing to push PWAs as the future of the mobile web, we’re excited to see what sort of amazing web-based experiences brands will create!

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