Earlier this month, Google rolled out the Speed Update for all users. The change means that slow web pages will appear lower in the SERP (or not appear at all). This is huge news, so you’re probably wondering how many websites the update affects.
To be honest, not many.
The Speed Update is the result of that ever-so-fascinating Google report from this February, which found that a site load time of 3 seconds increases bounce rate by 32 percent. Bump up that load time to 5 seconds, and your bounce rates rise by 90 percent. Ouch.
Something particularly interesting about the update, however, is the fact that it doesn’t affect everyone. In fact, it doesn’t even come close to affecting everyone. According to Google, the update “will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries.” And, in typical Google fashion, the company has kept mum about the exact criteria necessary for sites to be affected.
So, what does this mean?
If your website’s mobile speed is less-than-great, you should improve it. Like, now. Because Google’s ambiguity surrounding this update implies there’s no official cutoff point for Google to punish your site’s slow speed. Officially, your site could be punished just for being dramatically slower than competitors.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen such a cutthroat approach to web optimization. There have been plenty of online businesses that sunk despite offering a quality product or service.
Case in point? Snapchat. Sure, the quick-send photo app’s not dead (yet). In fact, Snapchat is still worth $25 billion. But its biggest foe, Instagram, is worth a whopping $100 billion. That’s 100 times more than the amount Facebook paid to acquire Instagram back in 2012.
And it’s not just money talking. App users have made it clear that Instagram is beating Snapchat big time, all the time. That’s why the number of Instagram Stories daily users surpassed Snapchat daily users less than one year after the Snapchat copy-cat launched. It’s not that Snapchat’s product is flawed, it’s just that Instagram’s product is better. People are getting from Instagram everything they used to get from Snapchat—and more.
Translating this to your business
Google’s Speed Update and Instagram’s brutal decimation of Snapchat have something important to tell us: You don’t have to be bad to fail. You just have to be doing worse than the competition.
It’s like an anecdote I heard once about a world-renowned medical school. Every year, the school allegedly cuts the bottom 5 percent of its class. It doesn’t matter how well you’re doing—if your peers are doing even slightly better, you run the risk of getting cut.
When it comes to your business, this is an important lesson to learn. People generally choose one company to buy from out of a whole batch of brands. If you want to succeed, you’d better look better than the competition. After all, that’s the whole point of digital marketing.
How to stand out from competitors
In order to avoid the tragedy of being on the bottom, there are two important steps your business should take. These steps ought to be at the forefront of your digital marketing strategy and can help reduce your risk of being blindsided by the competition.
Always be testing
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. In business, there are few things more important than testing your business to see what works (and what doesn’t). Testing for your company can mean A/B testing, product testing, or something else. Just make sure that you’re always assessing yourself to understand what can be done better.
Keep an eye on the competition
Snapchat might’ve slept on Instagram, but that doesn’t mean you have to be caught off guard by the competition. The internet makes competitor snooping (among other types of snooping) ridiculously easy. For example, Facebook now allows users to see exactly what ads businesses are running on the site. Businesses can use this tool to see how their ads size up against the competition.
Staying up-to-date on competitors’ ad copy, blog posts, and updates is always a good idea. After all, the best way to know how the competition is pulling in leads is to think like a lead. By prioritizing testing and competitor research, you can avoid blindsides and the tragedy of the bottom.