One More Reason to Make Site Speed a Priority in 2020
Speed, speed, speed. It’s always been important to Google, so you can bet it’s important to their web browser, Chrome, too.
To encourage websites to perform better and faster, Google announced that it may soon “identify sites that typically load fast or slow for users with clear badging” in Chrome.
TLDR: Slow loading sites may soon be visually marked in Chrome.
Google’s goal is two-fold. They want to help users understand when a site may load slowly and “reward” sites delivering fast experiences. (We’re not 100% sure what a “reward” will look like at the moment. It may mean a site remains unmarked.)
What will “badging” look like?
Expect to see some experimentation and testing. Badge design/user notifications could take many forms.
Google may show a blue loading bar and triangle warning icon for slow-loading sites, which begs the question: Would you wait around if you got this message, or would you abandon ship?
For fast loading sites, Google could show a happy green loading bar. The green loading bar is so subtle that most users probably wouldn’t notice it. They will, however, notice that their web page loads at a pleasingly fast pace.
Google is also exploring putting badges in other areas of Chrome, “including the loading screen (splash screen), loading progress bar and context-menu for links. The latter could enable insight into typical site speeds so you’re aware before you navigate.”
The context-menu could be a reference to organic search results.
Search Engine Journal suggests that “a warning about a slow site experience before a user clicks through may cause users to abandon the click and opt for the faster loading site. Is that the reward that Google is alluding to?”
How to check site speed
Optimize site speed to stay ahead of badging. Google has two tools to help you out, both of which we use internally at GPO.
- PageSpeed Insights: PageSpeed Insights reports on the performance of a page on both mobile and desktop devices. It provides suggestions on how each page may be improved. We recommend checking each page type on your site, like homepage, product pages, blog pages, and category or service pages.
- Lighthouse: Lighthouse is an open-source, automated tool that integrates directly with Chrome. Lighthouse recommendations go beyond speed and also include recommendations for progressive web apps, accessibility, and SEO.
And if you don’t make speed a priority?
- Fewer clicks: Google wants to warn users which sites are slow before they click. If your site is deemed “slow” and Google serves up a warning, you may not get a click you would have otherwise received.
- Fewer conversions: Faster pages convert at higher rates. Testing by mPulse Mobile found that pages that loaded in 2.4 seconds had a 1.9% conversion rate. At 3.3 seconds, the conversion rate dropped to 1.5%. At 4.2 seconds, the conversion rate shrunk to less than 1%.
This announcement goes beyond site speed
There’s a good chance Google will create badges for other performance metrics, not just speed.
“Our long-term goal is to define badging for high quality experiences, which may include signals beyond just speed.”
Your best course of action is to focus on what’s best for your site visitors. Present them with the information they want as quickly as possible. Make content easy to scan and digest. Do your part to make the Internet a better place. That’s our driving force at GPO, and it’s Google’s, too.
“We hope this effort [badging] will encourage more sites on the open web to provide the best possible experiences to all users,” the search engine noted in their announcement.