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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, May 18, 2018 8 min read

Is The Latest Google Update Driving Down Organic Website Visitors?

Organic seach engine optimization results

The Mobile-First Index Update Is Affecting A Lot Of Websites

Organic seach engine optimization resultsAt the end of March, Google announced a change in how they apply their indexing algorithm, moving away from a desktop-first indexing approach to a mobile-first indexing approach.

What this means is that their crawling, indexing and ranking systems are now looking at how your site performs on mobile first. It’s possible if you saw a dramatic drop in organic website visitors in April and are noticing additional drops in May that your site may need some adjustments to respond to the mobile-first indexing methodology.

Google has also announced that in July, page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile search. Speed has been used as a ranking signal for desktop search since 2010, but this marks the first time it will be used to rank pages on mobile.

They’re calling this the “speed update,” and it will target slow-loading pages. What this means is still unclear, and Google says there is no tool to determine whether a page is affected by the update.

Google is saying that query intent will remain the primary signal. This means your visitors are finding your pages helpful based on their click action, but that page load speed will be a highly important ranking factor now and when the speed update rolls out. Everyone is going to have to start paying close attention to the user experience on pages. If you want to rank, they have to be direct and quick.

Do You Need To Worry About This?

Want to see how your pages are doing? Try the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. To be clear, if your searcher is on desktop, the speed of the desktop site pages will influence rankings, and if your searcher is on mobile, the speed of the mobile site will influence rankings. If you have a lot of mobile search traffic, this is going to have a bigger impact on you than if 99% of your organic traffic comes from desktop and laptop devices.

If you’re not sure about your site and your site pages, this data is easy to capture from Google Analytics reports. Search Engine Land published a study in August 2016 that shows more than 60% of all searches are now coming from mobile.

What Is A Slow Page Load Time?

Organic Search Engine Optimzation AnaylsisFirst, understand that Google is measuring time to first byte when considering page speed. Slower-loading pages mean their bots cannot crawl as many pages, which could negatively affect your indexing.

Mobile page load speeds need to be from first byte less than .200ms and above the fold in one second. The old benchmark was less than half-a-second to between two and three seconds.

If you want to see how your site is doing at a high level, and then drill down to get specific pages that are trouble as well as an entire set of interesting SEO performance metrics, consider using Pingdom to test your site.

What Should You Consider Doing About It?

Content in this section was originally published on; click here to read the full article.

Reduce the size of your files: Reduce the size of your CSS, HTML and JavaScript files that are larger than 150 bytes. For image files, compress these in a program like Photoshop, where you can retain control over the quality of the image.

Minify CSS, JavaScript and HTML: By optimizing your code (including removing spaces, commas and other unnecessary characters), you can dramatically increase your page speed. Also remove code comments, formatting and unused code.

Reduce redirects: Each time a page redirects to another page, your visitor faces additional time waiting for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete.

Remove render-blocking JavaScript: Browsers have to build a DOM tree by parsing HTML before they can render a page. Avoid and minimize the use of blocking JavaScript.

Leverage browser caching: Browsers cache a lot of information (stylesheets, images, JavaScript files and more) so that when a visitor comes back to your site, the browser doesn’t have to reload the entire site. ... Set your “expires” header for how long you want that information to be cached. 

Improve server response time: Your server response time is affected by the amount of traffic you receive, the resources each page uses, the software your server uses and the hosting solution you use. To improve your server response time, look for performance bottlenecks like slow database queries, slow routing or a lack of adequate memory, and fix them. The optimal server response time is under 200ms.

Optimize images: Be sure that your images are no larger than they need to be, that they are in the right file format (PNGs are generally better for graphics with fewer than 16 colors, while JPEGs are generally better for photographs) and that they are compressed for the web.

Now What?

First, don’t worry! Google has made a regular habit of releasing updates and then allowing the community to scramble around and work to re-center their optimization efforts inside the new rules. If you have an agency partner, they are used to this type of change and should have their playbooks down on how to adjust your site accordingly.

Remember, not everyone is going to be affected by this. There is no need to panic. This is, however, a great example of why you need to consider your website as an active project and not a project that gets undertaken every three years.

You should always have a digital agency partner that has access to your site, can monitor its performance, reports back to you on the performance and is able to jump in and make the subtle adjustments required to support this and any future Google updates. 

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.