How to Assess If You Are at Risk of Google’s Badge of Shame

Google added the Speed Report to Search Console, a helpful tool to know whether or not you’ll receive the ‘Badge of Shame’ and lose potential buyers.

Since 2009, Google has been on a decade-long quest to make the internet faster. The search giant has made continuous updates and algorithmic adjustments, including making mobile and desktop website speed a ranking factor, mobile-first indexing, the 2019 ‘Speed Update,’ and now 2020’s looming threat of a ‘Badge of Shame.’ This year’s update will be the most consumer-facing one yet, as it will call out websites that have historically slow load times to warn potential buyers.

This is an aggressive step taken by the search giant given that 70% of consumers say that website speed affects their willingness to buy. Not to mention the potential impact on hard-won brand reputation that may result from getting badged by an authority, like Google.

Here are a few tips to help you assess if you might be in risk of receiving the ‘Badge of Shame.’

Speed is now baked into Search Console

Google continuously pushes out tools to measure and facilitate website performance. Search Console, PageSpeed Insights (PSI), Test My Site, Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX), Impact Calculator, and Google Lighthouse all provide insight into your website’s performance. Last year, Google added speed measurement tools to its Search Console, a tool to help monitor and maintain a website’s organic presence.

Search Console is where you set things up to ensure that Google’s crawler can access and index your pages, as well as identify errors and other issues that can impact website performance (AMP errors, slow loading pages, etc.).The Speed Report is powered by CrUX data, which is based on real-user data, to reflect consumers’ actual online experiences.  

Source: Webmaster Central Blog

The Speed Report, located under the ‘Enhancements’ section, helps to quickly identify the pages that you need to optimize on your mobile and desktop experiences. It alerts you of website speed issues based on First Contentful Paint (FCP) and First Input Delay (FID) data, collected from real-users accessing your website. If you are unsure which environment to prioritize, you can see which of Google’s crawlers (desktop or smartphone) is indexing your website on the top of the Coverage page.

From the Speed Report Documentation

Within the Speed Report your site’s pages will be classified as: Fast, Moderate, and Slow. Google will flag your Slow and Moderate pages as an issue. In addition, this report shows up to three months of historical data for the pages’ speed. Once you click on ‘View Report’ you will see a table with issues detected. Click a row to understand an issue in more detail. For example, a FCP issue will display if a page takes longer than 1s to render any content, such as text or images, for visitors. In eCommerce, FCP is typically marked by the time it takes the hero image to load.

A FID issue will display if a page takes longer than 100ms to react to a visitor’s action. FID is the measurement of time from when a user first interacts with your site (i.e. when they click a link or tap a product) to the time when the browser actually responds to that interaction. The lower the FID, the more usable a page is. Google is setting the bar high for page speed with a 100ms cap.

While the Speed Report helps detect speed issues based on real-user FCPs and FIDs, the ‘Badge of Shame’ will be based on multiple metrics. The long-term goal for ‘badging’ is to identify high-quality experiences. Unsurprisingly, that’s as far as the search giant goes in detail. Google is notoriously illusive in regards to ranking and algorithmic updates. However, they do suggest utilizing Lighthouse, to measure website speed.

Read on for a better understanding of what the search giant audits for in Lighthouse.

How to interpret your site’s Lighthouse Performance Score

If you’re worried about how you look in the eyes of the search giant, Lighthouse is the tool for you. Lighthouse collects and analyzes data from automated tests, as well as real-user data, to provide an aggregated report of how Google, and actual people, experience your website. Pro tip: use PageSpeed Insights, which runs Lighthouse tests on the Google server, thus eliminating machine-based variations in results

A Lighthouse Performance Score ranges between 0-100 and takes into account the following measurements: FCP, First Meaningful Paint (FMP), Speed Index (SI), First CPU Idle, and Time to Interactive (TTI). The overall Performance Score is a weighted average of these metrics, comparing the results of all the websites in Google’s dataset. All this to say that the score is relative. The last thing to note is that the distribution of Performance Scores is skewed. A score of 50 is indicative of a site that outperforms 75% of the websites in Google’s dataset.

Being that the score is relative, it helps to know what your peers are scoring. To help with this, we analyzed the mobile Lighthouse Performance Scores of IR100 websites, the leading 100 retailers by online revenue. We found that the average score for these eCommerce giants is 26.3 with a median of 23, meaning that half of the leading internet retailers in the US have scores that are lower than 23 and the other half exceeds 23. Therefore, there is plenty of room to outperform the biggest names out there if you invest in the right tech and tools for website speed.

Download full report: A Look Into 2020's Top 100 Internet Retailers (IR100)

Lifting Performance Scores from the 20s to the 60s and 80s isn’t easy. Especially for enterprise eCommerce websites riddled with tags, personalization, real-time inventory lookups, and dynamic pricing. These all add to page load times. Thankfully, we sweat the small stuff, like milliseconds, and have developed a solution to guarantee sub-second page loads for enterprise eCommerce websites: Layer0. As per Lighthouse, websites on Layer0 are in the 90%+ percentile of websites by performance.

Outperform 95% of the internet

Guide to Iceland, Iceland's largest eCommerce website increased its site speed by 55%, improving its Lighthouse Score from 40 to 99 on Layer0, outperforming 98% of the websites out there. The gift and flower giant, 1-800-Flowers, is another example. The flower giant sees a score of 72, placing it in the 90% percentile for website speed in Lighthouse 5.7.

What’s their secret? Layer0 has gotten them to instant page loads. This is done via a combination of cutting edge tech, including modern portable frontends with built-in AMP and server-side rendering (SSR), predictive prefetching, and a CDN-as-Code that streams and caches dynamic content to the edge, to remain five seconds ahead of the shopper’s taps. Website improvements, such as these, create sub-second experiences, and increase organic traffic by 32.1% and lift conversions by 15-30% for enterprise eCommerce websites.

But we don’t expect you to take our word for it. Just spend a minute browsing though Shoe Carnival, The Tie Bar, or AKIRA on your phone to experience instant for yourself.

Bottom line:

Google is trying to make the internet faster and its latest effort is a public-facing badge for websites with historical slow load times. To avoid being flagged by the search giant as slow, and to outperform your competitors, you must utilize the tools available to measure your website’s speed and performances. But knowing which pages are plaguing your site is only half the battle. You must optimize for speed.

If you're faster than 95% of the internet, you are obviously safe from Google’s ‘Badge of Shame.’ Layer0 can get your site instant in half the time it would take you to optimize your current experience, boost organic traffic by 32.1% and lift conversion by 15-30%, while increasing developer velocity by at least 20% through a serverless JavaScript codebase. Even complex, database-driven eCommerce sites consistently see 320ms (FCP) median page loads on Layer0.

If you want to avoid Google’s ‘Badge of Shame’ and consistently deliver optimal experiences that drive big wins in terms of visibility, reach, and revenue – schedule a consultative conversation with a site speed expert today.

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