Page Speed Insights: REALLY ready for the April 21st mobile-geddon Google Change?
Google has given us two years to get ready for their newest algorithm change.
More recently they made it plain that sites which were not mobile friendly, would be getting hammered in the April 21 changeover. Which begs the question: are you really ready for it?
We suspect you might not be getting the full picture from whomever is handling it for you.
Some basic facts: getting to 100 on google pagespeed insights is exceptionally difficult.
In fact, relatively very few sites can actually claim to have such a score. Getting there, on mobile optimized sites is even harder. Getting past 85 is difficult.
Google never said you should change your content, just how your content uses available resources, and the content’s positioning relative to best practices.
Furthermore, it’s kind of like that “How to avoid a bear attack” adage: “Run faster than at least one other person.” This is kind of true for this scenario too. Remember you are only competing with your peers. If you are trying to rank organically for the search term: “red mylar balloons” (this example is used due to the specificity of the term), you only have to outrank your competitors. You don’t have to outrank Newegg.com. Maybe Amazon.com will rank for “red mylar balloons”, but not 99% of the market. Guess what: chances are Amazon.com already outranks you on any given consumer oriented keyword, and you can still survive in business.
Guess what again: Amazon’s google speed scores are 45/100 (mobile) and 81/100 (desktop); more than achievable for the average-joe website. They have the 7th most trafficked URL globally (*according to their own reporting tool Alexa.com) and the 4th most trafficked website in the USA. And their pagespeed is below what a normal website install would be out of the box (excluding magento, which has horrible native speed scores).
That said: Google speed scores and the “mobile friendly” checkmark, are the ONLY thing that matters for the April 21st changes. Not GTMetrix scores, Not Pingdom scores, Not webpagetest.org scores. JUST GOOGLE. Last I checked, only google sends you traffic, not these other guys. So why would any business let their developers tell us that if we have an A- score on GTMetrix that we are fine? We wouldn’t let a developer tell any of our clients that. GTMetrix’ metrics, aren’t what’s being tested for, when google updates their servers for April 21.
So, while GTmetrix is a wonderful tool for many things. (We love their stuff;) they aren’t the authority for today’s deadline. Companies we are affiliated with (but where we don’t handle their websites) have called asking why they are being told that they are good to go, and yet, something doesn’t feel quite right. So we say: don’t let someone tell you that you look good based on stats from a third party, when those stats don’t even factor in the (proprietary and closely held; unknown) algorithmic changes from a company that supplies (likely) upwards of 75% of your organic traffic.
Here’s what you need to do for today, so you’re ready for Mobile-geddon:
*disclaimer: The solution is two-fold, and this particular solution doesn’t make a perfect long-term solution for some, as all sites are different so YMMV (your mileage may vary).
You need to pass the test HERE for a Google mobile friendly check mark.
You need to be scoring better relative to your immediate competitors that you are already competing for organic traffic with.
Furthermore, don’t just automatically assume that because it’s a mobile centric update (at least that’s what was publicly explained) that it cannot hurt your desktop standings/SERPS.
Google is sneaky like that. They are market makers. If they told you for two years, mobile updates are coming, rest assured, it affects (at least in some ways) all your traffic from them. So get on board, even if less than 3% of your customers access you through mobile.
Page speed isn’t just how fast it loads for your visitor. It is also about how many resources it takes to get the page loaded. You can’t just buy a super fast server and have a ton of bandwidth: you need to build a site for usability, for the consumer, for the browser, and in some part for the search engine. Most will say that you only build for the consumer, but that nets less traffic. You’ll need to find a happy balance between the three different “audiences”. Google’s page speed insights, truly does give you some insights into that; we’ve explained it all here, so have a look.
What are some common fixes that Google page speed insights recommends for this type of site change?
(note we are breaking it down to the lowest common denominator-don’t expect extremely technical information on each of these-If you need more help: Call us or visit our page about web development)
This one is a bit misleading. You don’t have to be perfect. What google is saying is make relevant, all that is above the fold, and make it work with available rendering protocols. In other words: de-clutter the above the fold content. You can still have slides or images, and it may affect your score negatively, but as our tests have proven, it doesn’t always hurt your SERPS.
Overall Note: Resources take time to load, so make the consumer landing as painless as you can within reason. If you already rank well on your SERPs, don’t change much, just utilize resources better and adhere to protocols better.
If this isn’t done, you’re e missing out on a lot of performance and you’re raising your bandwidth costs, and delivering a sub-optimal experience to your users. They’re saying: make the transfer size of component parts of the given page, smaller, so they can move quicker and be delivered without excess stress.
Leverage Browser caching:
In short: take all the things that are not dynamically created on the fly (i.e. static pieces of the page, like a header for example) and cache them, so they can be served quickly and without excess resources. The first time a customer comes to your site, they will grab those onto their local hard drive, and you won’t have to use your server resources to serve them. More importantly: you customer’s local disk is faster than your remotely located server disk, so the customers see it rendered faster on their machine.
This is more complicated than it seems. Often this can be a huge factor, if you have a lot of imagery. Basically Google is saying: serve the customer a properly sized image, that isn’t overly large for no reason, without compromising too heavily on quality. You could conceivably make 5-6 changes to every image on your site, and still be under optimized on images. Basically: you need to maintain the quality of your images, while cutting out all the excess. If you are serving 500×500 images, don’t use 1000×1000 images to do that. That means your customer is having to download a file twice the size (or more) to get the degraded version in the end. It also means you might consider lossy AND lossless picture optimization tools like jpegmini and ImageOptim to ensure a good mix of size reduction and eventually less meta information. You would want to optimize for web use also, in your native photo editor, to ensure they start out well optimized before applying other helper tools. Use (minified) CSS to call up the proper picture for the proper screen size.
Reduce Server response time:
This is another hidden meaning recommendation. It takes more than just a fast server running NGINX with SSD’s and good bandwidth to ensure speed. You actually can do well without that setup too. You’ll often need to reduce page element numbers, https requests and make sure you aren’t maxing out your server resources or processes. Remove bottlenecks on server side.
This means take out all extraneous characters from the actual code lines affecting the page. There are tools that can do most of the work for you, but backup a copy first in case you make a mistake or copy/paste incorrectly.
Prioritize visible content:
Make sure whatever it is that you are trying to render (so your customer can land properly), is not taking more resources than it should. Fix what you are displaying, while simultaneously speeding up the overall server response for the above the fold content.
(MOBILE SPECIFIC) Use legible font sizes:
Test your work and write code rules that allow it to be usable on smaller screens. Text needs to be readable on mobile, not everyone accesses your site on a 32 inch 4k display.
(MOBILE SPECIFIC) Size Tap targets appropriately:
Don’t make larger fingers unable to click-through (tap through?). Use CSS to, or otherwise make your site usable on smaller screens.
(MOBILE SPECIFIC) Configure the viewport:
Make the pictures able to be properly rendered. Not just a WAY SCALED DOWN VERSION of the original picture. Make it specifically able to call a properly sized picture (and make the viewport a specific determined size).
This isn’t all of the potential gripes Google will have, but if you are doing these things, and properly, you will likely be out of any kind of danger zone. Compare your scores, relative to your existing contemporaries in google search rankings. Use that relative score as a starting point for success. If you’re cleaner and smoother than the available competition, you’ll see the correlated benefits.
Don’t rely on third party tests, to test for Google’s algorithm. The reason google is google, is because they do it better than the others, and they don’t tell anyone how they do it. So use their tools to make your changes, if you want to reap the benefits of such changes. While GT Metrix and Pingdom, etc. are fantastic tools, their scope is outside of this particular project.
We Build Websites that are optimized for Google Page Speed Scores
If you didn’t get to where you needed to be with this deadline, and you depend on Google search traffic to stay in business, monitor your Google analytics, your host log files and any other third party analytics you use and call us when you realize you’ve taken a bigger hit than you think you can handle. We can sort out the issues, build you a capable website and get you back near the top of page 1.