Mobile-first indexing has changed the way Google determines site rankings. Instead of checking your desktop site, GoogleBot now crawls the mobile version of your page. It’s more important now than ever to ensure that your mobile experience is included in your site’s SEO strategy.
The greatest component to user experience on mobile devices is page speed. With mobile devices relying on 3G, 4G, or 5G, you may need to tweak your site for better loading. A speed that’s considered fast on a hardwired desktop is much different than the small device your customers have in their hands.
What Is Mobile Page Speed?
Mobile page speed simply means: How fast does your page load on a mobile device.
The key here is mobile devices, which covers phones and sometimes tablets. Most site speed analysis tools default to the desktop version of your site. While this is helpful, the mobile version’s experience is what you’re concerned about.
Mobile site speed looks at the following elements:
- First content paint
- Largest content paint
- Time to interact
- Total blocking time
- Cumulative layout shift
- Render blocking resources
- Server response time
With so many variables, you need to review your site’s performance to ensure a great user experience.
Why Is Mobile Speed Important to Check
In 2021, mobile phones generated 54.25% of all web traffic. Furthermore, Google has now switched its search results to mobile-first indexing. This means your site is judged on the mobile version, no longer the desktop version.
Without proper maintenance, you may find your site’s traffic declining due to poor optimization on your mobile site. With proper attention to your site’s health, you may be able to find more ways to enhance the experience of both the mobile version of your site and the desktop version through these speed optimization techniques.
The numbers don’t lie here, either. When the loading speed of your page is only 2 seconds, your average bounce rate is around 9.6%, Moreover, if your page speed increases to 7 seconds, you can see a sharp increase in bounce rate to 32.3%. This continues to rise as page loading time continues to increase.
Free Tools To Check Mobile Speed
The easiest tool to use for checking your site’s mobile speed is Google Lighthouse. Google Lighthouse is a free tool by Google that allows you to audit a specific page’s performance.
Lighthouse can provide you with a large array of recommendations, including SEO. For today, we are only interested in our mobile site speed.
Right (control + click on Mac) click and click the inspect tool. By default, this opens the Elements tab. Hover over to the “Lighthouse” tab and you see the following:
Be sure to check the devices listed and click on Mobile ― if it’s not already selected. From there, generate your report.
Lighthouse analyzes your web page and provides you with an overall score for the categories you selected. The tool also provides a unique score for each category:
From here, you see a metrics tab with all of your various results. You can see Digital.com scored a 97 and is very well optimized from a performance perspective:
Your site’s performance may be more similar to Whataburger, which scored a 39. You can see their mobile site takes 11.8 s to become interactive to the user. This means they experience a higher number of bounces due to their “slower” mobile experience.
How do you fix this? Below your scorecard, you see “Opportunities.” Click on the carrots to have a list of all updates that can be made to better optimize your site. In this case, many of the images are fairly large. Reducing these to next-gen formats or lowering the quality of an image may allow a better mobile experience.
Lower resolution images on mobile may not look bad due to the smaller screen size. Speak with your web developer to learn about your options for mobile users.
For another Google-provided tool, check out “Think with Google.” This tool provides you with a quarterly trend, recommendations to improve your speed, how your site compares to competitors and, most importantly, a return on investment (ROI) evaluation for improving your website’s loading speed. Be sure to download your site’s full report as well.
Paid Tools To Consider for Mobile Speed
For many of the changes you make, Lighthouse and Think with Google are more than sufficient.
For analyzing your mobile site for any changes that are made you may want to invest in a tool like Mobile SEO Page Analyzer from Pure Oxygen Labs. Its SEO tool allows you to check your mobile pages for proper canonical tags, headings, and other responsive design elements.
For more traditional SEO tools, SEMRush and Ahrefs both provide you with site auditing through a mobile crawler. While these won’t report on site speed, they report on many elements that are optimized for site speed.
Crawling the mobile version of your site allows you to determine any broken elements on a responsive design. Be sure to update the crawl settings on these tools before using them.
Pro tip: While it may seem unwise to purchase a paid tool for mobile speed, it’s very advantageous to have one if your budget allows. Their focus is to audit the changes you’re making for your page speed. Since there are many moving parts to a responsive site, these tools can be utilized to ensure you’re not breaking various components.
What Does a Good Mobile Page Speed Look Like?
There’s no cut-and-dry answer for what a good mobile page speed is. Maile Ohye, the former
Developer Programs’ tech lead at Google, stated in a Webmaster video, “2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half-second.” This was the desired threshold for websites in 2010.
While Google hasn’t commented on good mobile site speed recently, you can assume that their targets are even faster than before.
Another item to reference is the time in milliseconds to the average Google position. A study conducted by Backlinko included more than 1 million websites. Brain Dean reported, “The average Google first page result loads in 1.65 seconds. However, we found no correlation between site speed and Google rankings.”
The findings by Backlinko may seem to make mobile page speed irrelevant. However, when you consider the sites that typically rank in top positions, it makes sense why page speed had no positive correlation to ranking.
The pages ranking in the top positions are most likely well optimized. The expertise needed for ranking content high on the search engine results page (SERP) usually comes with an understanding of the important of site speed. So when analyzing top results, the playing field should be fairly equal.
The takeaway: While loading speed may not be correlated, you can assume that your competitors on page one are coming in at or below the 2-second mark. These results in the top positions are the best of the best and they tick many of the technical boxes.
What To Do First When Optimizing Mobile Page Speed
First, you should start with a Google Lighthouse report, followed by a Think with Google crawl of your domain. Review your site speed score, see what improvements can be made, and see if you can tackle these by yourself.
Once you have addressed the elements listed, re-run the diagnostic. See how your score improved. If it was a sizable improvement, see how your analytics dashboard reports the changes.
For more complex optimizations, always contact a web developer for assistance or read our 7 Effective Mobile Optimizations Tips. This might include response site design, server-side rendering, or lazy loading.
Google Accelerated Mobil Pages (AMP) is another great way to speed up your website. Better site structure almost always outperforms Google AMP. Google AMP is a great place to start but isn’t a perfect solution.