Google is testing ‘Slow to Load’ labels in search results on mobile.
Unsurprisingly – because it’s a video site – YouTube is considered ‘Slow to Load’.
Image via Search Engine Land.
Site speed is a ranking factor and has been for a number of years, but it’s likely to be gaining in importance as users’ expectations of a fast load time increase. Even mobile internet (4G and soon 5G) are fast enough that smartphone users are expecting answers almost instantly.
The change that Google is testing – adding a yellow warning label to search results – doesn’t mean that slow websites will rank any worse than they currently do in mobile search results…
…unless of course it successfully puts users off clicking on slow websites in the first place.
Google’s former chief of search quality Udi Manber has suggested that if users consistently click on a result that isn’t ranking first more than the result above it Google will switch those results (confirmed here via Danny Sullivan):
Google confirms watching clicks to evaluate results quality. FYI Google still won’t say if clicks used as rank signal pic.twitter.com/jzNGc5reQk
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 25, 2015
What’s interesting is that most of the changes to mobile results that Google is testing – as well as those that it is announcing to the world like the mobile friendly update – are negatively affecting YouTube. The Google-owned site didn’t receive the ‘Mobile Friendly’ badge for many of its videos – though it didn’t seem to suffer in rankings when the update rolled out on April 21st either – which leaves space for the ‘Slow to Load’ badge instead. As Gaz Shaw suggests, most mobile users aren’t expecting a smooth ride when they click on a video site – unless they’re using Wi-Fi:
@stekenwright Isn’t this redundant for video? Most of us are surely aware that it’s a data hog.
— Gaz Shaw (@gazshaw) June 15, 2015
I seriously doubt that this will have much of a detrimental effect on YouTube’s traffic.
Smartphone users who want to find YouTube will probably start their search within the app itself, which this won’t affect.
Even so, many will find the fact that Google’s own web properties don’t meet the standards it holds other websites to extremely interesting.