A little earlier this year, Google released the newest benchmarks for mobile page speed among businesses. The report showed us two things:

  1. Mobile page speed is really, really important. Google gives it a ton of weight when grading and ranking mobile sites (and remember, Google’ algorithm is“mobile first” these days, so that makes a lot of difference). Prospects give speed even more weight than Google – it’s the first thing they notice and a key factor in bounce rates.
  2. Businesses are flunking their mobile speed report card. Badly. On one hand, this is really embarrassing news, because experts have been talking for years now about how important a tight, speedy, friendly mobile site is in today’s world. Apparently, very few companies have listened. On the other hand, it means there’s still a lot of room for differentiation – if you can create a mobile site that beats the benchmarks, you can really stand out…which means making a lot of extra revenue.

With these points in mind, let’s look at some of the details from the Google mobile speed benchmarks, and see just what we’re up against.

Load Times

Oh boy, this is a bad one. Load time refers to how long it takes a site to load up and become fully usable (this includes images, access to video, menus, etc.). The average landing page load time is an incredibly poor 22 seconds.

For reference, more than half of users leave the site if it hasn’t finished loading by 3 seconds, and that number sharply rises after the 3-second mark. Google currently prefers sites to load in half a second. Yep, that means that the average mobile site is around 4400% too slow to meet even Google’s minimum expectations. Phew!

So what’s going on here? It’s mostly a lack of interest: Many businesses created their mobile sites with old scripts and old tools that are now weighing those sites down, and they haven’t shown any signs of updating those sites. Stand out by having a rigorous mobile updating schedule – and not being afraid to change how your site is constructed.

Visual Content Load Time

Visual content refers to how long it takes images, graphics, and related media to load on a mobile site. Google benchmarked this for “above the fold” data, which means all the images that load without scrolling down. In theory, this makes the benchmark even easier to meet, but Google found that 70% of pages take 7 seconds for that first-seen visual content to load. Again, that’s around 4 seconds too slow for the average user, who will just skip out and find another site if they see the images aren’t loading. This is a classic optimization problem: Images aren’t being formatted and loaded in ways that work for mobile devices, and need to be redone.

Web Page Size

The more data contained in a web page, the longer it takes to load: One of the goals with Google’s mobile tools and coding work is to reduce how much data has to be pulled to successfully load the site. An adequate site will have less than 1MB of data to load, reducing its load speed to only a few seconds on the average mobile data plan. Google found that around 70% of pages fail to meet this mark, going well over 1MB. Around a third are over 2MB, and 12% are over 4MB – which makes that 22-second number a bit easier to understand.

Industry Averages

All right, let’s break it down a little more. How did specific industries rate on the mobile speed test? Well, no one did great, but some did better than others – and the reasons may surprise you. Take a look at the best and worst among U.S. industries (which on the whole are still much faster than the global average).

  • Technology: Technology has one of the worst load times at 11.3 seconds. This sounds strange but keep in mind technology sites tend to have the most gimmicks, extra media, and ambitious content – which means they have the most optimization challenges.
  • Travel: Travel sites also had some of the worst average load times at about 10 seconds. This is probably due to a large amount of data travel sites pull from other locations, as well as the slow death of travel agent sites.
  • Retail, Automotive, and Entertainment: All these sites float between 9-10 seconds on average, which isn’t really a surprise. There’s a lot of variance in these sites, and a lot of content vs. speed decisions to make. This activity is generally pushing load times down.
  • Business and Industrial: These frequently B2B companies don’t need to rely on complex web content as heavily as other industries, which pushes their load times down to 8.7 seconds.
  • Classifieds/Local: These sites are usually bare bones, with few complex elements to load, so they have one of the fastest average load times at just under 8 seconds.

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