Speed is essential, not just to keep your audience on your website, but to engage and convert them and keep them coming back.
If your website loads fast you’ve got a better chance of winning a potential customer’s business, preventing them from leaving your site and going elsewhere. In fact, research shows 47% of consumers expect a web page to load within two seconds.
In November 2019, Google Chrome announced plans to reinforce the importance of site speed with a new badging system, labelling slow sites for all to see. This will name and shame those slower sites – warning a user of slow loading times before they choose to click.
No one wants to be the site that’s labelled as slow. So here’s what to know about the site speed badge update to get ahead and prepare for it, and make sure you’re not a site that’s singled out and left behind.
Why is Google Chrome Doing This Site Speed Update?
You’ll be pleased to know that the clever lot at Chrome aren’t just doing this to embarrass slow sites and seemingly point the finger. Experts from its team say they are “constantly working to give users an experience that is instant” and this aims to create a faster, user-focussed web for all.
It will help users understand when a site will load slowly, while encouraging sites to improve their speed.
The team also says that the long-term goal is to define badging for high-quality website experiences, which may include signals beyond speed.
The development follows a series of big algorithm updates that Google has made over the years. Each has been created with the aim of ensuring websites provide the best experience for a user. You can read about some of them in our blog, Your Guide to Google Algorithm updates.
What Will the Badges Look Like?
Exact details of what a badge will look like aren’t yet known. But they could include a green loading bar or a warning icon, stating that a site “usually loads slow”, for example.
The Chrome team has also suggested using a “context menu” on links, which experts think is a reference to Google’s search results. This would give a user insight into typical site speed before they navigate.
Will Faster Sites be Rewarded?
Yes. Google says it will reward those sites that deliver faster experiences, but doesn’t say how. It may involve adding a badge to indicate that a site is loading fast. Also, the idea of a context menu could encourage users to opt for those sites labelled as having faster loading times, rewarding them with more traffic as a result. So perhaps this is the reward that Google has in mind.
Is This Update for Desktop or Mobile?
The badging update will affect every viewing experience, so both desktop and mobile.
Also, the Chrome team have said they might expand badging to identify when a page is likely to be slow for a user, based on network conditions and the device they’re using. So, with this in mind, it’s important to make sure your site works speedily on all devices.
What if My Customers Don’t Really Use Chrome?
Google Chrome has become the preferred browser of choice for all devices. According to Statista (as of September 2019) it is the UK’s most popular browser, holding a 49% share of the market.
So if the majority of your customer base don’t tend to use Chrome, they might well do in the near future, as the number of users is bound to increase.
So What Does a Site Speed Badge Mean for My Brand?
Having your website labelled with a slow speed badge could act as bad PR for your brand, damaging your reputation and putting off potential customers from visiting your site.
So, in contrast, being honoured with a positive speed badge could do quite the opposite – indicating that you provide a fast user experience, which strengthens your brand and attracts more people to your site.
But badges aside, the customer journey for every website should be quick, easy and seamless from start to finish. If a user comes across a site that loads slowly, they are more likely to leave it to try another, whether a slow speed badge is displayed or not.
What Are My Next Steps?
Google has said the rollout of the speed badge update will be a gradual thing – as the team determines what approach works best – which takes the pressure off brands a little.
That said, instead of sitting idle and waiting for another announcement to be made, why not use this time to get ahead – test your site speed and check that it’s up to scratch. Some tools to try that can help with this, include:
When using such tools, it’s a good idea to get some help. You could work with an experienced developer or project manager, for instance, to help you get a handle on understanding the data what it is telling you to do.
Helping You Improve Your Site Speed
By getting ahead of the speed badge update before it takes off, you’ll get your website into a better position than your competitors and bring it in line with users’ and Google’s expectations.
A good place to start for checking and improving your site speed is to have a website audit – something which our award-winning team at Soap Media provides for free.