Google Speed Update: Google Algorithm Designed To Downgrade Slow Mobile Pages

on Monday 22 January 2018
Google announced yesterday a new ranking algorithm designed specifically to downgrade the search rankings of really slow mobile pages. Google said "starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches."
In the blog post, Google said this update "will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users" they also added it "will only affect a small percentage of queries." How small that percentage is, is unclear. But Google has said for a long time only really slow pages have to worry about a downgrade in their rankings for speed. To be clear, there is no ranking boost for being fast, just a downgrade for being really slow.
In April 2010, Google did announce a page speed ranking factor but that only worked on desktop and as we said, Google's mobile search rankings uses desktop speed - which made no sense. We thought, even Google thought, that when the mobile first index goes live that they would not have a page speed factor but we did know they were working on that issue. Well, they were kind of right, because it did start to go live and this mobile speed thing won't be live until July.
Google says you can measure your page speed multiple ways and they are not sharing a specific single metric to know if your site was hit by this algorithm update or not. In fact, Google told me in my big FAQ on the speed update at Search Engine Land that there won't even be a notification in the Google Search Console if you do get hit by this update, that is because this is an algorithmic thing, not a manual action.
Google points webmasters to look at the new PageInsights report over here, also check the Chrome user experience report and use the Lighthouse tool. But again, if you see an unavailable message in the PageInsights report, you will have to use these other metrics.
In any event, when Google announced this, I had several questions, which I published in this FAQ - the biggest question was around AMP.
If a page has an AMP URL but the canonical page, i.e. the mobile URL, is really super slow but the AMP URL is super fast, will Google use the AMP or mobile URL for measuring speed? Logic can say it goes either way, because we know that for indexing and most signals Google will use the mobile page over the AMP URL and heck, even the desktop URL over the AMP URL. So in that case we would assume that the slow canonical mobile page would result in a downgrade. But NO! That is not true, Google told us since the AMP URL is what is being served, even if the mobile URL is super slow, as long as the AMP URL is fast, there is no downgrade. This question alone caused huge confusion and I am glad we got an answer quickly, although I do wish Google would have addressed that question in the original post.
Overall, this update really is not that big of a deal. I doubt most sites will even notice when it goes live. A page has to be super slow for it to be impacted by this. Heck, even a super fast page won't see any ranking boost. It just hurts pages that are really unbearably slow. How slow exactly? Only Google knows but they won't say.
Anyway, the answer is AMP for speed will be what Google uses for this algorithm, not your canonical URL because that is what is being served. But for other signals, like content, links, etc, Google will use the canonical mobile URL. Confused? Yea, thought so.

Google Search Ranking Algorithm Update: The Maccabees Update

on Tuesday 9 January 2018

Google Maccabees Update

There is currently both a lot of chatter in the SEO forums and many of the tools are lighting up around major changes in the Google search results. It is rare for there to be this must chatter this late in December in any of the forums, so when the WebmasterWorld thread started to get busy late December 13th through December 14th, it was something that caught my attention.

It seems like the update touched down on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

In addition, many, but not all, of the tools are showing big swings in the Google search results. When you have both signals, SEO chatter and tools, start lighting up, it is a good sign something major changed in the core ranking algorithm with Google search.

Here are some of the comments from the thread:
My non seasonal site that never fluctuates unless its an actual holiday dropped 30% of it's traffic yesterday Dec 12.
My Site also dropped approx. 25% on 12 December. No seasonal content.
Massive drop from Tuesday onwards. SERPS for our keywords are all over the place with multiple duplicates. Likewise seen a steady decline since September. We're essentially back to traffic levels in June 2016. Hope Google stops messing around soon!
Like others, I had a major drop in Google organic traffic on Tuesday. A page that has ranked #1 for years went down to #9. It was replaced by outdated articles on major sites that had far less relevance. Other highly ranked pages dropped as well. 
We've been down noticeably (though not drastically) since December 12, too, with no obviously discernible pattern: Some of our most popular pages are doing better than ever, but others have slipped.  
35% drop on my main site starting December 11 (same day my mother passed away). Many pages that ranked top three for years.dropped five to ten positions. Some pages no rank drop. 
We've also experienced a noticeable drop across our sites on or around December 12th. Like some of you sites which have held the top spot for keywords for several years have dropped 5 or 6 places in the rankings and have been replaced with low quality sites. 
On one search result where I went from #2 to #9. The top three spots are now from the same site.The funny thing is (or not so funny) they have a featured snippet in #1 spot and the image in the snippet is taken from my site. So if you click on the image, then click visit site it takes you to my article. 

So check your analytics, see if your Google traffic changed significantly around December 12th or 13th. Check your Google Search Analytics in Google Search Console, it should have data through the 13th. And check your keywords to see if anything changed there.

There does seem to be a big Google ranking update - let's call it the Google Maccabees update since it happened during the holiday of Chanukah? For more on the the Maccabees, check out Wikipedia, it makes for a good name for a Google update. :)

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Update: If you were hit by this update, please take our survey over here.

Update at 2pm EST 12/20: Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that there were some updates aroujnd this time. The statment Google sent was "we released several minor improvements during this timeframe, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy."