“At What Point Should We Start Worrying About Page Speed if It’s in the Red Zone?” Google Responds

It’s interesting: Page Speed may matter ‘less’ if you have a small local business than a large, international one.
SIA Team
November 3, 2021

With the establishment of Page Experience, the Page Speed metric is becoming an increasingly important aspect of web performance. 

At the ~40-minute, 8-second mark of the  English Google SEO Office-Hours From October 29, 2021, Google’s John Mueller addressed a question (queued video below):

“At what point should we start worrying about page speed if it’s in the red zone? Faster sites increase conversion rates, but we can’t spend tons of money on little sites that might not deliver much in the first place.”

John’s response was:

“Yeah, I don’t know. At what point should you start considering Page Speed? I do think it’s something that pretty much all sides should consider and think about.”

The Good Thing About Using a Common CMS or Website Platform

John continued: 

“One of the nice parts of everything around Core Web Vitals, I think, is that because of these very public metrics, a lot of the platforms have also started to think about speed a lot more.

“That means if you’re using a common CMS or popular themes on a website, then almost by default, the speed will have increased as well.

“And every now and then, someone will do a study and look at the different CMSes and the different hosting platforms and say, ‘Oh, and it’s like, Wix has done a lot of work, and their metrics have improved by this overall.’ 

“And that means if you’re using one of these platforms, then even if you don’t do anything on your website, you’re kind of also profiting from all of the work that people are putting into the platforms themselves. 

“And we see that across the board for pretty much all platforms and CMSes. And I would assume if you kind of have especially smaller business websites where you tend to use the more default setups on a website, [and] where you tend to use more default CMSes and hosting platforms, that you would kind of automatically profit from this general shift to a little bit faster.

“So from that point of view, it’s something where sometimes, you don’t need to do a ton of work, provided you’re actually using a commonly-used platform.”

Relevance Is Key

John continued:

“With regards to when you should start thinking about speed, I do think that’s tricky because while speed is a ranking factor, it’s not the only ranking factor, and relevance is really key when it comes to ranking. So it’s hard to say. 

“It’s like, When do you focus on this particular part of ranking with Google? But I would see it similar to a question like ‘When should you focus on usability on a website?’, or ‘When should you focus on making your images so that they can appear well in Google Images?’

“All of these things are individual elements of appearing in search.

“And when you should focus on any of these individual items is kind of up to you, and the nice part about search is you don’t have to do everything perfectly. 

“You can pick and choose, and you can say, ‘Well, I will focus on speed at the moment and make sure that the images appear well and make sure that all of my headings are aligned, all of these things maybe. 

“And other people will focus on different aspects. And we still kind of have to find a way to show those top 10 rankings or whatever, however many we have at the moment, in the search results.

“So I would leave it a little bit up to you.”

For Large and Small Sites, There’s an Interesting Thing to Keep In Mind

“One of the things also, I think, to keep in mind, especially for very small websites, local websites in particular, is that oftentimes, they don’t rank for these competitive generic terms anyway, which means they tend to rank more for things where their website is really only relevant. And that could be for local businesses. 

“Like, if you’re searching for this business type in this city, if we have 20 business websites that are like that, then you’re automatically in those top 20 anyway. So it’s not the case that your website would disappear from there if your website is slow. 

“Similarly, if someone is searching for your business name explicitly because you’re a local business, and they know you exist and they just want to check the opening hours or whatever, then your website will automatically be relevant for those queries anyway.

“So it’s not something where suddenly, this website disappears just because it’s not fast enough. And similarly, I would also be cautious with regards to the positive effects with regards to speed. If you’re focusing on these kinds of local queries, then just by having a faster website, you’re not going to get much more traffic than you already are if, for example, most of your traffic is based on people searching for your business name.

“If they’re not more people searching for your business name, then they’re not more people that would be able to find your website like that. So kind of the expectations, I think, especially for smaller local businesses is something that is a bit tricky to manage there.

“Of course, if you’re working on a larger website that is active globally where you’re trying to rank in more competitive queries, then that is something where you might see more visible changes in the search results over time.” 

A Summary Pertaining to Small/Local Sites Vs. Larger/National/International Sites

In the blurb/excerpt at the top of this article, I said it was interesting that Page Speed may matter ‘less’ if you have a small local business than a large, international one.

I hope John’s words were able to explain why. 

But, if not, I’ll do my best to explain:

If you have a small, local mom-and-pop retail store named Kendra and Mack, and your store is on Anywhere Street, in Small Town, then if someone does a search for Kendra and Mack (which is a brand search), your site may come up (especially if that searcher is local to you).

And, since relevance is key, and your site is definitely the most relevant, your site will show up (likely #1 in the results), regardless of the Page Speed of your web pages. 

Conversely, let’s say that you run a big site in a globally-competitive space. All your competitors are well-established, well-optimized sites that have large marketing and SEO budgets. 

Yes, your site will rank for branded searches (like your name), but you’re also competing for more generic, competitive search terms. 

You, and many of your competitors, are relevant–maybe almost equally relevant–for such search terms.

In those cases, you’re looking for an edge, and that’s where an improvement in Page Speed (or any other Page Experience metric) may give you a slight edge. 

That’s why Page Speed may make a difference if your site is larger, as opposed to the minimal difference it may make for a small, more local site.

Source: Google Search Central YouTube channel