Google gives a boost to mobile search speed

Want a faster mobile web? Google is offering you one today

When you do a search about a product you want to buy or look for recommendations for the best Asian dumplings in town, you don't want to wait long for a site to come up on your mobile device.

You don't even want to wait three seconds.

Starting today, Google is moving to make it faster for you.

The search giant has announced that it will alert users in their search results page to corresponding webpages that have been optimized to run fast on smartphones and tablets.

"Access to information is at the heart of Google's mission," wrote David Besbris, Google's vice president of engineering for search, in a blog post. "Unfortunately, today, the mobile web isn't living up to the expectations people have for getting the information they need, particularly when it comes to speed. In fact, data shows that people abandon websites after just three seconds if the content doesn't load quickly, which is bad not just for people trying to get what they want online, but for the publishers who want those readers to enjoy the content they've created for them."

To deal with this, last October Google teamed with other industry players to launch what it called the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP), an open source initiative to make the mobile web as fast as possible.

The move to highlight users with optimized web pages is part of that project.

"In just over four months, AMP has come a long way, with hundreds of publishers, scores of technology companies and ad-tech businesses all taking part in this joint mission to improve the mobile web for everyone," wrote Besbris. "And starting today, we'll make it easy to find AMP webpages in relevant mobile search results, giving you a lightning-fast reading experience for top stories."

When a mobile user searches for a story or topic on Google, webpages using AMP specifics will appear in the Top Stories part of the results page.

According to Google, those optimized webpages will be, on average, four times faster and will use 10 times less data than equivalent non-AMP pages.

This should be a move that mobile users, an increasing market, will love, according to Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. >"When users are mobile, they're typically looking for something in a hurry -- a place to eat, directions, reviews, something they're shopping for. And consumers hate waiting. Users want instant feedback when browsing, and if it's slow, they'll just click on something else," he said.

The issue for enterprises running those webpages is that if they haven't yet optimized for mobile or if they're not in the process of doing so, they could easily be overlooked in Google's mobile search results.

"The mobile web will be the new battleground for leadership," Kerravala said. "Sites that aren't mobile optimized will become less and less used and wind up becoming irrelevant."

However, with people increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to search for information, enterprises should be moving to optimize as soon as possible.

That's a win for mobile users, Google and businesses, said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research.

"Speed is very important," he said. "Time is our most precious asset. This pays off for everybody."

Gottheil said Google will benefit because the faster results will help keep users from switching to competitive search engines, and faster pages means more searches per minute, which should bump up Google's revenue.

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Sharon Gaudin

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