In Search [Episode 16]: The Increasing Importance of Mobile Page Speed
February 26, 2019 |
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The In Search SEO Podcast Poll Question of the Week!
Assuming a site is not super slow, which is more of a priority - mobile page speed or mobile UX? Let us know so that we can feature you on the next episode of In Search!
Summary of Episode 16: The In Search SEO Podcast
In this, our 16th episode, we talked with Stephen Alemar and Russell Jeffrey of Duda all about site speed and mobile UX:
- Why site speed and mobile UX are more important than ever!
- Where does mobile page speed and UX sit on the SEO totem pole?
- Has AMP faded out of relevancy? Was it ever really relevant?
Fraggles & Google Knowledge Graph Indexing - What’s Hot In SEO [2:10 - 7:08]
A few weeks back Cindy Krum came on the show
to talk about entity-first indexing and in the
we got into a whole discussion on
Since then we’ve been anticipating her full analysis!
That analysis is now here and with perfect timing as a few days prior to her article another piece, this one from Dinsan Francis at ChromeStory.com
, pointed out that Chrome is going to let you link to a specific part of your page… a certain sentence and so forth - which is pretty much a Fraggle!
So what’s a Fraggle? According to Cindy, a Fraggle is that which lets you click a link from the SERP which then takes you to a specific part of the page. Think of a carousel of answers from within a forum that shows up in an organic result.. that jumps you right to that answer upon being clicked. For this, it seems Google is indexing parts of a given page into the Knowledge Graph so that they can feature snippets of content in all sorts of SERP features (thus allowing Google to include more in the Knowledge Graph without indexing irrelevant info).
A quick point to order. You don’t need a jump link for a Fraggle to work. Remember those AMP URLs within the Featured Snippet? The ones that jumped you to the portion of the page where the content within the snippet came from? Here Google creates the jump link themselves hence - FRAGGLE!
This is also similar to a video Featured Snippet that jumps you to the middle of a video.
Why is this a big deal? Cindy outlines a few significant implications which you can read in her article
but one thing Mordy thinks will change, assuming this sort of SERP functionality becomes widespread, is how we view a web page itself, from a conversion perspective, from a brand awareness perspective. Meaning, with Fraggles you don’t need to sift through the entire page. Thus, you most likely won't see or interact with the content that comes before what you’re being jumped to. That means you’ll miss all those CTAs, you’ll miss any ads, and most importantly users will miss all of the build-up i.e., all of that "story” that comes before that snippet of content.
If Fraggles become overwhelmingly wide-spread it is possible that Featured Snippets will no longer be the king of voice search but rather Fraggles will be used to answer voice search queries.
Where Mobile Page Speed & UX Fits into the Wider World of SEO: A Conversation with Russel Jeffrey & Stephen Alemar [7:08 - 38:11]
Joining me today are Stephen Alemar and Russell Jeffrey from Duda. Can you please start with sharing with our audience what is Duda and what can it do for you?
Stephen: Duda is a web-design platform
. We specialize in creating tools for agencies, hosting companies, digital publishers, web professionals, etc. And the real way we’re unique in the market is that we try doing everything at scale and increasing efficiency like reducing the build time of a website or creating tools that optimize the communication flow between you and your clients and a variety of other in-depth tools that will optimize your workflow as much as possible and make you the most efficient agency you can be.
Sounds great! You have to explain what "Duda” means…
So Duda comes from our two co-founders who are Israeli. They are both huge fans of the film, The Big Lebowski. So when they first started working together on the business they kept talking to each other by saying, "Hey, dude. Let’s do this” or "Hey, dude. Let’s try this.” That’s just the way they communicated. So they just changed it slightly from "dude” to Duda. To this day it’s a huge influence
our internal culture here at Duda, we’re all big fans.
Yeah. All our conference rooms are named after things from the movie like "White Russian.”
Nice! Let’s start this off a bit general, what should SEOs focus on in 2019? What’s important and what’s not important?
So we have two answers to this. The first is structured data and filling in the Knowledge Graph. This is an area that we see Google continue to expand. Things like zero-position search results, filling in Knowledge Panels right off the bat. Trying to help Google better understand the content on your website. These are all things that all SEOs should be focusing on as they are of utmost importance.
And this is the data that fills in for voice search. They need it to be in a structured format and know that it’s accurate in order for them to give solid voice results.
On the flip side, what is important and what
should pay attention to beyond structured data and informing Google of the content that is on your page…. Google for a long time has had a problem with mobile (in particular). Site speed and user experience
been getting more attention over the last couple of years and we definitely expect that to continue throughout the coming year.
I don’t know if you heard Cindy Krum’s theory, but she has this whole theory that mobile-first indexing is really about entities. That Google has better figured out how entities relate to each other and that Google is going crazy through its understanding of entities by indexing not just by mobile (as in mobile-first indexing) but also according to entities.
Speaking of site speed and UX, what happened? Speed and UX have always been important, but the amount of buzz they both got as of late has reached new heights. Why is this buzz legitimate? Let me rephrase, what has happened over at Google to increase the importance of both speed and UX?
So it all started with the smartphone. When this all started bounce rates on mobile were very high and this was a major problem with Google because they were returning pages to people that they didn’t want to engage with. So first came Mobilegeddon and once layouts got better they turned to site speed as the next thing they wanted to go after. And now the next step is Lighthouse, and with Lighthouse we’re looking at new user experience metrics that we never had before. We can continue going down this route as the next step might be security.
And even today Google says that speed isn’t a high-ranking factor. But if you look at the tooling they’re using you can see that they really improved. The metrics that they give you in Lighthouse are very detailed. My prediction is they will be using this data to influence search results even further.
Yeah. This is a soft-ranking factor now because
is still king, but site speed is going to be something that will be increasingly important.
It’s interesting that John Mueller is saying that site speed isn’t so important yet they invested so much in these metrics. Why aren’t they pushing site speed considering how much they’re working on the metrics?
So one theory I have is that it’s very difficult to optimize websites to the levels that Google wants. There’s a lot of lag across the web and speed is just a difficult thing for web designers to tackle.
Right, but isn’t all of this relative? Meaning, your site speed is relative to the site’s in your niche (i.e., those you compete with on the SERP). As a site owner, how much should I care if the overall web is slow?
It absolutely matters. With faster site speeds you will have lower bounce rates and more valuable and engaged users. So you’re right all things being equal having a faster site might get you one rank higher, but that doesn’t mean you’re giving the best possible experience to your end users. You can’t compare it to other sites in your same vertical you have to compare it to what the user expects.
We know from psychology studies that people lose interest after about two seconds of nothing happening on the web. They’re going to click away and shift their focus. So if your site isn’t performing well and is not giving the experience people expect and react to on a psychological level then you’re going to lose potential customers. You can’t just say you need to be better than your competitors, you need to hold yourself accountable to the standards that humans live by.
So does Google need to set a bar as to what’s fast and what’s slow?
They do. And they’re trying to do this with Lighthouse. They show you a range of green, yellow, and red and anything less than two seconds will be green. Right now we don’t have a direct impact on SERP results based on Lighthouse, but we see this as a critical component to your infrastructure and website build as the future progresses.
Yeah, and even though it’s not a factor now it doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future. It’s just like in the Mobilegeddon when they gave a lot of recommendations and a tool to check it and then one day they announced mobile-friendliness is now a ranking factor.
Do you think then that in two to five years that site speed will be as important as other factors like safety, intent, relevancy or will there always be a drop-off in its importance inherently?
I would argue that page speed is part of relevancy as Google wants to return the most relevant pages in search engine results. So if something is great content but it’s not great to access on a mobile device then Google may decide that it’s not relevant.
That’s interesting. So does site speed sit as important to a user as relevancy does? Is it even possible that UX and site speed can be more important than content relevancy?
No, probably not. Content will always be king as the content on the page is what people are looking for so you can’t have a page that has zero authoritative content but loads really fast. But the importance that you have to assign to UX and mobile experience is just going to increase and as more web developers get better at this it’s going to be a much more competitive environment we’re looking at.
And on top of that we know that site speed is valuable for other reasons besides search results
. It’s about engaging users, selling your products or service and delivering a quality experience.
We actually have some data on this. We took to benchmarking our websites before and after the site speed optimization. For sites that had a render/start time of under one second, we saw a 10.5% conversion rate. When it got up to 3.9 seconds it dropped to a 7.7% conversion rate.
And this was across the thousands of websites that we host and manage. These are average conversion rates.
So with that data what should sites do or not do to improve site speed?
As a site developer, you need to set goals from the beginning. You need to always be thinking from day one that site speed is important and you need to make sure the site always loads in three seconds on any device on any connection speed.
So you don’t need AMP to build a fast site. AMP does a great job of sending you restrictions or putting them in place so as to force you to build a fast website. With that comes a lot of restrictions. Restrictions in design, restrictions in components you can use and how you can engage users with what you want to accomplish. So AMP was primarily made for publishers and was optimized recently for e-commerce, but it isn’t a full solution and doesn’t support every use case. Which is part of the problem... that it’s a framework that isn’t built in the standard set of web development tools.
So at Duda, we believe you don’t need it to build a fast website and if you were to build an AMP site that means having a whole new HTML, a brand new website that you’re building which just adds a whole new overhead to managing sites. And this is why we haven’t adopted it for now.
For small businesses, which is a lot of the people that we
, they are not just looking for a website that’s functional with all their content that will load quickly. They are looking for an overall brand experience they can create online which they can create their own business out of. They want engaging designs that really communicate who they are because their website is their storefront window.
That’s very true. I saw a study that showed that if your site design isn’t appealing then users can’t trust you. It’s that first impression.
So based on your data do you think AMP has hit a wall
? In our data, we track on the average number of AMP results
that appear on the SERP and even the percentage of SERPs that contain an AMP result on it... that AMP has hit a wall (the average number AMPs on page one results stands at 1.5 results and it’s been that way since 2016), that it hasn’t overcome its poor perception and hasn’t shown itself to be a need. Has it hit this wall and lost its momentum?
Yeah. I would say so. For a lot of the reasons I mentioned. It’s not part of the standard web development life cycle to build AMP pages. Now going forward they’ve been working with Wordpress and news publishers, so they’re still trying. But absolutely, from our clients, we’ve seen a drop in clients requesting needing AMP pages. We think it hit its peak potential right out of the box.
Yeah, they have not been able to crack the small business world of websites.
That is the vast majority of websites that we have today.
Yeah, and it’s even slowed down in the SEO community. You don’t go to conferences and hear about AMP. Point blank, do you think AMP is a ranking factor?
No. Full stop.
Okay, do you think Google would like it to be and do you think they’re going to somehow try to make AMP a ranking factor?
I would think this is an internal conflict with Google - between the Chrome team, the search team, and the news team. It’s actually the news team that built AMP initially. I think Google is conflicted in whether to do it in an open source or in the quasi-closed source way that they built it today... or whether it should be part of the W3C and become part of the general web going forward. This is something that Google really needs to resolve on
AMP has a lot of problems, the biggest one being delivering the URL from the Google URL instead of the primary website.
Let’s jump into
experience. What do you think the correlation between UX and intent is? What I mean is, during the Medic Update
, we saw sites with a UX not aligned to the site’s core profile
get slammed. Meaning, a site that professes itself to be an informational site with a UX that suggests it heavily leans towards being focused on commerce. Do you think there is a relationship between UX and how Google looks at the site via the lens of intent? And how do you think Google looks at a site via intent from a UX perspective or does it not look at UX when looking at intent altogether?
So the Medic Update is interesting as a lot of the sites affected were YMYL sites (Your Money Your Life) because of the impact they can have on a user’s current or future wellbeing via physical, financial, safety-related, etc. And as a result, they should avoid trying to convince users through marketing and sales content to purchase products they had no intention of buying.
I think Google will be looking at these sites to see if they have authoritative content but at the same time have all of the hallmarks of an e-commerce website. Meaning, it doesn’t look like its conforming to the intent of the searchers. I think that they are going to look at usability in that way as a ranking factor.
And it’s an E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) framework you’re trying to get to. You’re not going to build trust if you’re selling a shady product that may or may not help their life. I think Google will see that content primarily as spam.
Do you think Google has gotten better in defining what UX works better for what site? Is it able to distinguish on mobile what UX works better?
We haven’t seen that yet. We have seen the broader mobile best practices (no pop-ups, no overlays, etc.).
So going forward, what are some of the big-ticket items a site should consider when considering its design and functionality?
I think it’s user search intent. It’s asking the question to yourself when building the site, "What problem am I solving, what question am I answering by writing this content and giving this information to a user?” For example, if someone was searching for the top five workouts that will help your core I would want to write content that really solves that question and gives answers in an authoritative and thoughtful way.
You’re trying to solve the searcher’s query and solve their intent by building these pages. It’s really about taking a step back and thinking about the content you’re trying to put out and what problem people are trying to solve by searching for it in the first place.
And, of course, don’t do any sort of bait-and-switch like pulling up a Wikipedia entry then adding e-commerce stuff to it because that will go against the trustworthiness of E-A-T.
Did you notice any new trends come up on mobile or has it developed as is and this is the future?
Personally I don’t think we’ll have a major jump forward in UX design until we get to the next device type out there like voice, watches, etc. We’re not going to have a new design paradigm until we get a new interface for people to build for.
Mobile design will continue to grow moving forward like, for example, progressive web apps.
Yes, I see it as an evolution, it’s a step forward but it’s not a huge rethink how we process and design.
Speaking of voice, based on what Google shows on devices like Google Hub (a mix between Google Home and a tablet), do you think that will change UX or how users interact with the interface or
it basically like a tablet and you happen to hear the answer?
So it really depends on how they use the broader data from the web. Today they do, with voice results, schema markup, those are things you can influence and as they open it up more then it will absolutely be more important for website owners to influence that as much as possible.
Mobile Page Speed or UX: Optimize It or Disavow It [38:11 - 40:28]
I have a segment called "Optimize It or Disavow It!" (It’s a bit like a "Marry, Date, or Dump" game). Basically, it’s a fun little thing where I give you the choice of either two terrible ideas or two essential ideas and you have to choose one over the other - which of course is frothing with conflict - which is the entire point.
Site speed or user experience…. If you had to go with one over the other… which one do you optimize for? Which do you optimize for and which do you disavow - site speed or usability
I would have to disavow speed and optimize usability. If I built a site that has dark, gray text on a black background then I can’t read or understand the text why would anyone want to stay there? So it’s critical to have good display and content which is the reason your users are there in the first place.
Well thank you so much for coming on the show. To our audience, please check out their website.
Thank you so much, this was great and we really enjoy chatting with you.
Yeah, thanks Mordy!
SEO News [42:25 - 45:09]
Google Discover Feed Data Possibly Coming to Search Console:
There are rumors that Google might be on its way to putting data from the Discover Feed into Search Console
! Putting Discover on the mobile homepage was sure to have changed user behavior. It would be great to see if and how that’s had an impact on sites.
Google Confirms YMYL Sites Being Ranked Differently:
Google has confirmed that they can indeed identify YMYL sites algorithmically
. In a new Google whitepaper, the search engine said the algorithm weighs the applicable ranking factors differently for YMYL sites. Part of that process seems to be a more substantial reliance on a site's link profile.
Less Clicks Needed for Google Mobile Speed Score:
Google is giving advertisers more mobile landing page speed insights
as fewer clicks will be required for a page to receive a score.
Google is Testing Giant Image Search Ads:
Google is testing bringing its large and highly visual ads to more business categories
. The ads are a carousel of very large images that when clicked on bring you to a Google page dedicated to the product/advertiser.
The Fun SEO Send Off Question [45:09 - 47:05]
Is Google a coupon cutter?
Does it use coupons when going to the grocery store?
Kim thinks that although Google wouldn’t be using a real set of scissors on paper, it is for sure on top of the game with all deals that are out there. Mordy agrees and adds that Google is all about the finer details and if it could save 10 cents on a cherry pie filling it will do as such!
Be sure to catch another episode of The In Search SEO podcast next Tuesday!