Word came out today that users have been seeing red “Slow” labels on their Google search results pages. It seems that Google is considering making users aware that a site loads slowly, in an effort to minimize user frustration. The test is reminiscent of the “Mobile-friendly” label testing. Google eventually took that label live.
What does this mean for me, as a user?
This is good news! Google is constantly striving to make browsing a little easier. Letting us know that a site is slow to load enables us to make a more informed decision about whether or not we want to click on that result. And if we decide to, we know what to expect– so there’s no frustration due to unexpected slowness. If this goes live, we can browse a little smoother and a little faster, which we can all appreciate.
What does this mean for me, as a webmaster?
The answer here is more complicated. Part of the answer depends on the loading speed of your website. Part of it will depend on the criteria for being labeled, which we don’t know. The test has only just begun, so there’s not really enough data to reverse-engineer what Google is labeling for, and Google hasn’t said anything themselves. What we know would change is that the user will know up-front what we can know using Google’s Webmasters Tools.
If your web site is consistently slow-loading, well… on the upside: you can expect your bounce rate get lower! At a cost. It doesn’t take users more than a couple of seconds to become frustrated and bounce out of a slow-loading web page. Knowing that the page is slow up front might dissuade people from clicking it altogether.
There are more dimensions to consider– impact on mobile browsing, use as an analytics tool, etc. But that’s too far into speculation for my tastes. This is a very interesting addition by Google, so I’ll be on top of it as it progresses. In the meantime, read some articles my colleagues at Boston Web Marketing have put together on the topic of site speed.