A recent mobile page speed study conducted by Google reveals surprising trends across verticals and offers new performance benchmarks webmasters can use to gauge their site’s page speed performance.
Google tested 900,000 mobile websites across Fortune 1000 and small and medium-sized businesses, finding that, on average, mobile landing pages take 22 seconds to load via a 3G connection. 70% of the pages Google analyzed took longer than 7 seconds to load visual content above the fold and 10 seconds for all visual content. These findings are troubling, given Google’s own data suggests 53% of mobile visitors leave a page that takes over 3 seconds to load.
Google broke down their findings by vertical, testing the following eight industries:
- Business & Industrial Markets
- Classified & Local
- Media & Entertainment
With this accumulated data, Google released updated site speed benchmarks and broke down average performance in relation to these benchmarks by industry.
/ Best Practices
Request Count: Fewer Than 50
Request count refers to the number of calls a site makes to the server in order to retrieve the pieces of content necessary to fully display a webpage. While fewer requests has always been better for performance, this marks the first time Google has explicitly stated a numerical best practice. None of the eight industries met this request count. Classifieds & Local came closest with 78 and Technology generated the most requests with an average of 140.
Page Size: Less Than 500kb
Page size refers to the “weight” of the page’s combined elements measured in bytes. Similar to request count, less weight has always been better for a page’s load speed, but this is the first time Google has a specified a number to aim for. Again, none of the 8 industries met this benchmark. Finance had the “lightest” average page – 1.3MB, while Technology had the “heaviest” average page – 2.3MB.
Speed Index: Under 3 Seconds
Speed index refers to the amount of time it takes for a website’s page to load and display visible content to users. In the past, Google had recommended that above-the-fold content load within 1 second and the complete page within two seconds. Google has become more generous since, as few pages were coming close to that standard. Google’s research into average speed index by industry shows that loading a page in under three seconds is extremely rare. The Classifieds & Local industry has the fastest average load time at 7.9 seconds – well over twice Google’s recommended threshold. Technology pages were the slowest on average, coming in at 11.3 seconds.
Time To First Byte: Under 1.3 Seconds
Time to first byte is largely a measure of server performance. It measures the amount of time between a user making a request and the first byte of data being received by the user’s browser. Google’s newest best practice is significantly more generous than Google’s previously recommended 728 milliseconds. Again, none of the industries Google measured met that threshold – Media & Entertainment came closest at 1.8 seconds. Business & Industrial Markets had the highest average time to first byte at 2.7 seconds.
/ What This means for Marketers
Site speed has been more important since Google announced its mobile-specific algorithm in April 2015. The importance of site speed will continue to grow as Google shifts to a mobile-first algorithm that uses sites’ mobile experiences to deliver and order search results.
While the additional focus around site speed is nothing new, this marks the first time Google has revised its best practices and provided numerical guidelines for both requests and page size. This gives webmasters additional clarification and insight when assessing their own site speed performance and setting goals for improvement. Still, a page’s speed index (load time) remains the important measure of a page’s speed. Size, request count, and time to first byte all ultimately shape the page’s speed index.
If your site’s pages exceed these new performance benchmarks from Google, the good news is you’re not alone. None of the 8 verticals tested met the best practice figures across all 4 metrics on average. In most cases, averages for each vertical didn’t come close to best practice benchmarks.
However, this data indicates that moving your site’s speed closer to Google best practices presents an opportunity to gain an edge and substantially differentiate your site from the average competitor. More importantly, improved site speed should lead to better user experience and improved performance in organic and paid search.
Google notes several site speed improvement “quick wins” – areas webmasters can focus on to significantly improve site speed with minimal effort and time, including:
- Compress images to reduce page size. 30% of pages tested could save more than 250MB simply through image compression.
- Leveraging browser caching on static resources, and setting the expiry date for longer periods, can reduce request count.