Page speed matters. A lot.
We’ve been hearing it for years, though any one of us would be forgiven for letting it slide.
But Google has been sending some serious signals lately that suggest sluggish loading is a problem you can no longer sleep on.
In fact, if we look at Google’s actions, it’s undeniable that 2019 will be the year of page speed. It’s the year when the difference between fast and slow content becomes the difference between showing up in the search results (whether paid or organic) or disappearing completely.
If you’ve been putting off improvements to your landing page performance until now, chances are that slow content is already killing your conversions. But in 2019, slow content will kill your conversions… to death.
Not convinced? Let’s explore the evidence together.
Google has been saying speed matters since forever
One of the reasons marketers aren’t taking Google’s latest messaging about page speed as seriously as they should is that the company has been asking us to speed up for at least a decade.
Then, in February of 2017, Google returned to the subject of speed in a big way, publishing an industry benchmark report that’s been widely shared ever since.
You may have seen some of the results:
The first version of the benchmark found that the average mobile landing page was taking 22 seconds to load. This average came down to 15.3 seconds in 2018, but it’s still a significant concern.
The benchmark report sounded an alarm. And the 2018 update dialed up the volume: “Today it’s critical that marketers design fast web experiences across all industry sectors.”
Google and Page Speed: A Timeline
Much like “Let’s make the web faster,” the 2017 benchmark preceded a flurry of activity from Google, this time laser-focused on mobile page speeds. Here are a few of the more significant moments that should concern you:
- May 2017: Google introduces AMP landing pages to AdWords
- June 2017 to February 2018: Google makes its tools more insistent
- July 2018: Google’s “Speed Update” drops
- July 2018: Mobile Speed Score is added to Google Ads
Since 2017, though, that argument has gotten much louder. And while no single action or announcement on this timeline should send you into a tizzy just yet, it’s worth remembering that Google’s gentle reminders tend to become more or less mandatory.
Just like in SSL certificates. It was a “nice-to-have” in 2016, not critical. In 2018, Google Chrome flags non-https sites as “Not Secure”. Now it’s critical.
What to do about it?
1. Optimize your pages according to the recommendations made by Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This bundle of technical improvements automatically takes care of many of the technical details that can be a hurdle to improving performance, especially if development hours are tight or (let’s be realistic here) non-existent.
2. Optimize your images. There are many tools and image optimizers to make them lighter. Or you can switch to ultra-light SVG images.
Wordpress, WooCommerce or Shopify – they all have an easy way to switch your mobile pages to AMP. It shouldn’t be hard.
Conclusion: Speed up or disappear
You can’t afford to ignore page speed in 2019. Mobile speeds can have a dramatic effect on paid advertising spend and your conversion rates, and Google’s actions so far show that the search engine is cracking down on the slow-to-load across all devices.
What does the future hold? I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball, but here are a few educated guesses:
- If mobile loading times don’t get much faster, then we can expect more pressure from Google. This could take the form of further changes to indexing or Google Ads, another round of benchmarks, or the addition of new features and tools.
- There’s a growing sense of urgency among marketers, and the major players are already moving to improve their loading times. Even if you’re in the small business space, these things tend to have a trickle-down effect. If you don’t work to improve your performance, chances are your competitors will.
- As development on AMP continues, the standard will gain new flexibility while maintaining optimal speeds. It’s already overcome early limitations, and it’s likely we’ll see adoption rates accelerate across all industries.
Since 2009, we’ve seen some remarkable developments in mobile technology, including widespread adoption of touchscreens, the rollout of 4G cellular capabilities, and voice-based search. But the web itself hasn’t always evolved to match—instead, it’s gotten slower and heavier.
In 2019, though, that will begin to change, for all of the reasons discussed above. The web will speed up and slim down, and those who don’t match the new paradigm will be left behind.
Don’t be one of them.
PS. Since maybe 5 years ago, for each business I work with, during my “initial findings” presentation, I show a slide showing how each additional second (!) of page loading kills conversions. Yet, only two companies ever did anything about it. With great results, too.