Subscribe to Our Newsletter

x

Google Redesigned How They Measure Page Speed. Here’s What to Do About It

Performance scores are dropping dramatically for top sites.

In October 2018, publishers received warnings via Google Search Console that their sites were performing too slow. Then, in November 2018, the search engine debuted a redesign for their widely used PageSpeed Insights tool. Among other updates, PageSpeed Insights now includes new data from Google's Lighthouse platform. Lighthouse is a tool built into the latest version of Google Chrome that helps you determine how well your site is performing, and tells you which pages on your site need improvement.


Google Spares No One: The Redesign Has Decreased Speed Scores Across the Web

Google's latest update to PageSpeed Insights has markedly decreased Lighthouse scores across major sites, and Google hasn't spared itself from the scrutiny. The search engine has set a high bar for the open web on what top performance should look like, especially on mobile. The following are some examples of major websites with speed scores that might surprise you.

It's important to note that Google calculates every desktop score with a WiFi connection in mind, while every mobile score is based on access to a site via a 3G or similar network to simulate suboptimal connectivity. Equally important to consider is that these scores shift on a regular basis as sites improve or decline and Google continues to refine its scoring algorithms. The results we've chosen to display below were taken on December 11, 2018, and updated throughout February 2019.

The Scores Are Very Mean — Even Google's Own Home Page Doesn't Score 100

First, let's set an initial benchmark and take a look at how Google's own home page performs against the new PageSpeed Insights tool on mobile:

Google's own logged-out home page — which famously tries to do very little — doesn't achieve a perfect 100 score. Ouch.

So what about Google's news aggregator and app instead? Here's a look at how Google News performs on mobile:

Now we're getting some interesting results. Google News doesn't perform nearly as well as our initial benchmark, receiving an average rating overall. Google's emphasis throughout 2018 has been on getting publishers to improve mobile experiences for users, and its middling score for its very own news platform shows that it's not so easy to acquire a respectable grade in the category.

The result isn't too much different when you analyze Gmail for mobile performance:

Notching a place just over the border into average territory, Gmail on mobile — which is a heavily optimized platform — continues the trend of Google's mean page speed scores. But again, like with Google's home page, Gmail is not the same as a typical publisher. So let's move on to how other publishers compare to the bar Google News has set.

Major Media Companies: Does a Custom, High-Cost CMS Pay Off?

For sites with heavy traffic, page speed is a do-or-die factor when it comes to audience growth. It's part of the reason why major media powerhouses invest in hyper-expensive CMS options, customized to both host their content and hopefully set them apart in the saturated digital ecosystem. But do the inflated costs really justify the results?

Starting off with a major player in the new media space, here's how an article by The Washington Post scores on mobile and desktop:

With a score of 26, The Washington Post scores well under our bar of 60 for mobile. And its desktop score sits a bit under average territory.

Moving on, Vice has long been considered one of the top-performing new media sites around. But does its PageSpeed scores match its reputation?

Vice's desktop score barely improves upon what The Washington Post posted, but it drops an equal amount of points when it comes to mobile performance. Overall, it's a very average showing among the results we've collected so far.

So what about The New York Times? Well, on desktop its score doesn't quite match up to The Washington Post or Vice:

But when it comes to mobile, it barely squeaks ahead of the candidates shown so far, once again proving that incredibly expensive tech doesn't necessarily equal matching performance.

Here's how BuzzFeed stacks up:

BuzzFeed ranks just into average territory on desktop, and barely has the best showing on mobile of the four major publishers we've taken a look at.

And WordPress-powered Time continues the trend we're seeing. It serves up the lowest desktop score thus far, and its mobile score is on par with The Washington Post.

How Do Less Well-Funded WordPress and Custom CMS Solutions Do?

Let's switch gears and look at some WordPress-powered properties that are relatively small in comparison to the previous five publishers, but still experience a lot of traffic.

It goes without saying that these are abysmal scores overall, and we had difficulty getting scores from Radar Online because PageSpeed Insights kept timing out.

So what does this all mean? In a nutshell, it's very difficult to achieve a high mobile score under Google's new page speed standards. Desktop isn't much easier, either. And none of the sites we've analyzed come very close to matching the scores put forth by Google's own properties.

A Premium, Lean Tech CMS: How Do RebelMouse-Powered Properties Compare?

Let's start with the desktop score of an article on GZERO Media. Due to the highly optimized nature of our platform, the page outranks the new media companies we tested above by a considerable margin, almost notching a perfect score:

With a mobile score of 92, the site easily outperforms Google News and Gmail, and it leaves the other publishers as a distant memory in the category.

Other RebelMouse-powered properties perform along the same lines:

The Big Think it its current incarnation scores very high in the average bucket on mobile, and improves on GZERO Media's desktop score. Motherly gets top marks in the desktop category while still scoring well ahead of the other new media sites we tested on mobile, despite a complex ad setup. And both outperform Google's properties on mobile, too.

It's not just RebelMouse-powered media companies that are experiencing gains either. Mikkeller Brewing NYC, a craft beer brand based out of Denmark with operations in New York, has upped their content game since joining RebelMouse. Their scores speak for themselves.

United Airlines is another brand — and a long-time RebelMouse client — with premium content published to a massive content hub that greatly benefits from the page speeds our platform provides.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this quick study, PageSpeed Insights scores are fluid, and RebelMouse-powered properties are constantly improving theirs as we continue to make great strides in optimizing our overall platform.

Performance as a Pillar: Understanding RebelMouse Culture

Many publishers are shocked by this latest update from Google. But for us, it's not that surprising. We've taken Lighthouse scores seriously for years, and have leveraged them to ensure our sites are constantly high performing. Site speed has been a pillar of our culture since we launched in 2012. It's why we outperform some of the biggest sites on the web. And like with any building block of a company's culture, optimizing for high performance is never a one-time effort. Our engineers have been crafting and tuning our platform to address these new standards long before they surfaced.

RebelMouse culture is not only about site optimization though. We highly prioritize all the pivotal elements of site success such as security, ad configuration, how we code CSS and JavaScript, configure CDNs, and scale servers. It's why we're a high-performing platform that's more than a CMS.

A Deeper Look Into Google's New Metrics

Before Google's update went live in November, the warnings issued to publishers in October came from the new Chrome User Experience Report that covers three new metrics:

  • First Contentful Paint: The point immediately after navigation when a browser renders pixels to the screen.
  • Time to Interactive: The time at which a page is visually rendered and capable of reliably responding to user input.
  • First Input Delay: The time when a user first interacts with a site, to the time when a browser is able to respond to that interaction.

Metric descriptions from Search Engine Journal.

According to Search Engine Journal, these new metrics may not be familiar to a lot of web developers, but it's worth getting more acquainted with them since Google is clearly using them to monitor page speed. Remember, it only takes a few seconds of a slow load experience to turn a reader away forever.

Leveraging Google's Structured Data

Google rewards sites that have well-structured data. The search engine even has its own support and integration guidelines around it. By following these rules, you're giving the search engine explicit clues about the meaning of a page. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying its content. For example, on a recipe page, these classifying components could be ingredients, cooking time, temperature, and nutritional information.

Every RebelMouse site automatically populates key structured data so that Google can better understand your site. This, in turn, optimizes your page to win in the search results. Our out-of-the-box integration populates all the standard schema data with information about article content. This works not only on desktop and mobile web, but the data also gets populated to Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Here's a live example of just how organized a RebelMouse article page is right from the start.

How We Can Help Your Site Load Faster Than Google

The tricky thing about digital publishing is that you can exhaust all your resources on creating quality content, but it all means nothing if you don't have a fast-loading website. So even if your content is worth reading, it's vulnerable to failure if the right technology and strategy aren't in place. Let's make sure this doesn't happen to you.

In the warnings delivered by Google in October, there were three suggestions on how to fix a slow-loading site:

  1. Use Lighthouse to audit your pages
  2. Fix low-performing pages
  3. Update your sitemap

The first two can be tackled together. At RebelMouse, we can help you update your sitemap in Google Search Console and track keyword wins using our Entry Editor.

If you're interested in optimizing your current site's page speed, in addition to addressing your Lighthouse audit, Google Search Console setup, and SEO strategy, request a proposal today and let's start working together. Don't fall victim to slow page speed in 2019.

NEW: Page Views per Particle Enabled for Google AMP

Increase mobile page views for every particle using Google AMP

RebelMouse has deployed an exciting update: We've enabled particle tracking in Google Analytics for articles using Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, which means every particle now triggers a page view event upon scroll. Before, just one page view event would be logged when the mobile page initially loaded.

Not Familiar With What This Means? Read On

The days of static, flat media are over. Sites with low performance scores, obtrusive ad experiences, and poor content structure simply won't make it. Knowing these truths, the way we think of an article can no longer be static either.

An article today now takes several forms: short-form, long-form, listicle, slideshow, etc. Because of this, we've created a simple framework called Particle Assembler that accounts for all possibilities when building out content.

We playfully call each piece of your content a "particle," which is quite literally a "part" of an "article." These particles have become the core way to author content on RebelMouse, and are standalone elements that use their own imagery, title, and copy. For example, let's say you create a post that's titled, "The Best Place for Tacos in Austin." Each taco destination in this article will have a lead image, the name of the restaurant, its location, and a description of the restaurant with images of their food. Each of these restaurant highlights contain enough information to stand by themselves as individual posts.

Building particles in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

And they do stand alone successfully when you're on RebelMouse — each particle can be shared separately on social and each will register as a unique page view thanks to our latest update. This is a critical part of our modern pageview methodology that ensures our publishers deliver an elegant user experience to readers while still capitalizing on a meaningful monetization strategy. For instance, not only is every particle now a page view on Google AMP, but it's also a new revenue opportunity. This is thanks to the various placement opportunities for ads we offer within our Particle Assembler.

ICYMI, Google AMP is the search engine's lightning-fast mobile experience. With this update, sites powered by RebelMouse will not only deliver the best AMP experience to their users, but they'll also earn the page views their content deserves, too.

See the Massive Difference

In just a short period after implementing this change, one client experienced a massive spike in AMP pages per user, where it jumped from 1.6 to 8.2:

Here's what their AMP pages per user looked like just prior to the update:

If you're interested in experiencing this type of growth and getting more page views for your mobile content, request a proposal today and let's start working together. If you're already on RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager to learn more about particle views for Google AMP.

Primary Tags: Structure Your Site for Success

Dynamic taxonomy improves usability and propels SEO strategy

It's not a surprise that quality content can easily be spoiled by a poor site experience. This is why we're extremely proud of the lightning-fast sites we power. But speed is only the beginning of the user experience.

The temperature on platform dependency has cooled in recent years, revitalizing the value of site visits and search strategy. This is good news for both users and publishers who need site stability to survive. Because of this shift, RebelMouse focuses on three primary key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure site usability and health:

  • Sessions per User: The average number of site sessions that each user has in a given time period.
  • Pages per User: The average number of page views that each user has in a given time period.
  • Time per User: The average amount of time spent on site by each user.

In order for these metrics to shine, a site's architecture must be organized in a way that increases every user's time on site. The logic is simple: If a site is easier to navigate, the user will likely stick around longer. This is the gateway to user loyalty.

One important way we support these KPIs is through our intuitive tagging structure for content. Let's take a look at our primary tag functionality and how it can set up any site for success.

What Is a Primary Tag?

On RebelMouse, we give you the ability to use as many tags as needed on every article to help keep you organized. But there's also an option to assign one primary tag to a post. A primary tag is built on the same principle as a primary section. One tag lets you assign higher importance to certain pieces of content when processing and organizing your posts.

The Primary Tag and Tags sections in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

The Benefits of Primary Tags

Dynamic Taxonomy: One of the primary benefits of using a primary tag is that it exposes the depth of content available to your users. Many publishers do this through the use of sections, which often turns out to be redundant and, in turn, ignored:

Sections can often be annoying to navigate and repetitive.

Using a variety of relevant tags for every article, rather than just repeating the same handful of sections, opens up more opportunities for targeted descriptors. For example, instead of using "Recipes" as a section over and over again, a primary tag can be used to create specific content flows for topics like "Vegetarian," "Soups," or "Cocktails."

Richer SEO: Since a primary tag exposes more information about your article, it also supplies more relevant data to Google's algorithm. Surfacing content in usable ways supports Google's mission to serve content based on audience behavior and intent instead of outdated and frowned-upon SEO methods like keyword stuffing. This approach is called white hat SEO, or ethical SEO.

By targeting specific interests, your dynamic tag structure will allow Google to more accurately understand your article's content and rank it accordingly. On RebelMouse, this creates a trickle-down effect, because users can click a tag and quickly get directed to more relevant articles, which boosts your SEO efforts further.

Here's how the site experience looks on RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch when viewing their primary tag "Plastics."

RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch takes advantage of a primary tag construct.

Improves Crucial KPIs: As mentioned before, RebelMouse traffic experts are constantly focused on improving the three KPIs that matter most to site usability and building audience loyalty. These metrics answer the following questions:

  • Frequency: How often are users coming to the site?
  • Depth: How many articles does each user consume?
  • Duration: How long is each user staying on the site?

Looking again at EcoWatch's use of primary tags, it's important to note that a primary tag is exposed on every one of their articles. They're also used in a left-hand navigation module that features the latest stories and trending topics:

Start Leveraging Primary Tags on RebelMouse

If you aren't on RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and let's start working together to make sure your site is optimized for user growth. If you're already publishing on RebelMouse, and want to learn more about tagging best practices, contact your account manager or email support@rebelmouse.com.

Page Speed Is Crucial to Your Marketing Efforts

Most marketers don't prioritize page speed because they don't think it impacts their bottom line. However, page load has a direct impact on conversions and revenue.

Here's a very simple scenario, supported by industry data, to underscore why the way pages are built and powered is crucial for paid media initiatives and your overall business:

Let's say a paid media campaign drives 100,000 new visitors to a landing page that takes five seconds to load. Google says that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. So of the 100K mobile site visitors you paid to bring to the page, ~50K are leaving immediately due to poor page performance alone.

Some studies even show that bounce rate increases approximately 100% for every two-second delay. So, if site load jumps to seven seconds, you'll pretty much lose all of the visitors your paid strategies brought in.

A Poor Site Experience Costs More Than You Realize

Page load plays a huge part in customer dissatisfaction, too. Continuing on with our previous example, let's classify the ~50K that didn't abandon the page as dissatisfied due to poor page performance. As HubSpot points out, 79% of them are less likely to buy again from the same website. That's ~40K visitors never coming back to the site due to poor page speed. The loss is even greater when you consider how valuable returning visitors are: They represent up to 48% of all transactions and spend almost 2x more than new visitors, according to Business Insider.

Plus, people love to spread the word about a bad experience, probably more than a good one. 40% of visitors who had a bad experience with a website's performance would tell a friend or a family member. So of your 50K dissatisfied visitors, 20K are talking negatively about your brand. If they tell only one person each, that's an opportunity cost of another 20K potential site visitors and customers.

The main takeaway? Your paid media has to work much, much harder when you neglect to optimize your site for performance.

Owned and Paid Media Should Work Together for Better Efficiency

And speaking of site improvements to help the bottom line, marketers can't overlook the value of owned content (e.g., articles, reviews, social feeds, etc.) and its impact on overall traffic and lead generation strategies. Sites tend to see significant lift in audience reach and conversion when content is paired with commerce: For e-commerce companies, content can account for up to 69% of total organic traffic. And, even more compelling, conversion rates have been 6x higher for companies that adopt content marketing.

RebelMouse's CMS makes it easy for brands to systematically optimize page speed performance and organic reach, which allows paid media to be more efficient.

RebelMouse allows clients to easily manage website layouts and components at any time, ensuring sites remain fast and are rewarded by Google and Facebook. Our platform features proprietary SEO tools designed to help clients optimize organic search with every post and better align paid and organic search strategies for increased efficiency. Similarly, our platform also includes proprietary social tools to organically build community and growth, and our data helps clients spot winning organic trends that can inform paid social media.

RebelMouse Is a Partner That Can Guide You

When it comes to content marketing, it's important to be mindful of the relationship between owned, earned, and paid media — it will only help your teams engage and convert more audiences into customers and brand loyalists. At RebelMouse, we're proud of how we work with brands and our ability to provide the expertise, best practices, and modern technology that help teams become better content marketers. If you're a brand marketer, feel free to reach out to us to learn how RebelMouse can help you be more strategic and effective in your content marketing efforts.

Related Articles

Target High-Value Users With Affinity Categories

Unlock valuable audience data and shape a new strategy

In today's landscape, quality content isn't enough — it's half the battle. Publishers need to produce shareable content backed by data to experience sustainable growth. At RebelMouse, we have a unique pageview methodology that provides an innovative user experience for every reader without sacrificing revenue and growth opportunities for publishers.

To do this, we track massive amounts of data across our platform through the use of custom-built Google Data Studio dashboards.

Click here to see the kind of growth our clients experience every day.

One of the best ways to discover more about your audience is by taking advantage of Affinity Categories. This feature breaks down audience demographics, including age, location, interests, and more. Affinity Categories are usually used to target audiences for ads, but we also use them to gain insights on what topics a site's visitors are interested in overall.

Normally, each category is listed out separately in Google Analytics. In the example shown above, our data experts split categories into separate levels to reveal different levels of audience depth. For instance, by splitting up the category News & Politics, we can better explore the detailed distribution of users interested in specific types of news:

  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Avid Political News Readers
  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Entertainment News Enthusiasts

From an editorial standpoint, this is useful because it allows publishers to determine and target varying levels of high-value users, improving the efficacy of a new content strategy or ad campaign.

If your site is already powered by RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com to get a breakdown of your audience's Affinity Categories. If you aren't powered by RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and start receiving the data you need to grow loyal followers at scale.

Related Articles

Subscribe to Our Newsletter