The speed of a website is a significant factor in determining how much the user enjoys the experience or if they will choose to remain on the website at all. Everyone has experienced a site that took so long to load that you went back to the search engine results and picked another link. Google already considers the speed of a website when determining search engine results, but they will soon go further. Google announced a plan to test adding speed badges to slow websites on the Chrome browser.
In a post on the Chromium Blog, Google talked about its plan to test badges for websites on Google Chrome that meet certain expectations for speed. The plans are somewhat nebulous because Google plans to experiment with multiple techniques to accomplish the same goal.
As a trip of members from the Google team wrote, “In the future, Chrome may identify sites that typically load fast or slow for users with clear badging. This may take a number of forms and we plan to experiment with different options, to determine which provides the most value to our users.“
Some potential badging methods include putting a warning on a splash screen while the site loads or a colored progress bar to signify fast-loading sites. Multiple factors affect page load speed so Google intends to start by badging websites whose structure leads to slower load times based on historical load latencies. The developers also suggested that the system could be expanded to include “identifying when a page is likely to be slow for a user based on their device and network conditions.”
Though it’s not the same as an algorithm update that affects everyone, Google’s plan for badging will affect a large portion of internet users. According to estimates from Statista. Google’s Chrome browser is used by nearly two out of three (64 percent) of people who go online. Website owners can’t afford to disadvantage their sites on such a popular platform for viewing the web.
These badges wouldn’t be the first time that Google has used Chrome to encourage website owners to make specific changes to their site. To encourage site owners to switch to HTTPS, Google Chrome labels sites that use HTTP as “Unsecure.” Such a label could be catastrophic for a retail site, so most e-commerce sites have switched to the more-secure format. Speed badges that announce that a site will be slow could have a similar effect.
Google has been extolling the virtues of fast-loading websites for years, so they have created many tools that owners can use to gauge their site. By using the online PageSpeed Insights tool, webmasters can see how Google tracks speed field data for a site. It also explains common optimizations to improve site speed. Similarly, Google recommends using the Lighthouse lab tool that provides personalized advice for improving performance and adopting the best practices for a particular website.
Website speed is an important factor in the enjoyment and engagement of a site. Whether these badges become official or not, it’s a good idea to use these tools to create the best user experience.
For more news about updates and changes from Google, read this article on the plan to end indexing for Flash content by the end of the year.