Desktop Speeds & Ranking Factors

22 March 2022


Search Engine Optimisation – we all need it; we all want it. But how do you know your website is ranking for the right reasons and being seen by the right people?

Google has many ranking factors, and for the last few years, one of the key factors they were pushing was mobile optimisation. If you've spent more than 20 seconds talking with someone in SEO, there is a more than a good chance they have mentioned it. The idea has been that if your website loaded slowly on a mobile device, it could (and would) affect how your site ranked. It wouldn't be the be-all and end-all for organic performance, but it could possibly play a significant role amongst those hundreds of ranking factors Google has.

Little did we know that after years of talking mobile until the cows come home, in November of 2021, Google would shift the narrative. From early 2022, desktop speed would once again become the hot new thing in SEO to get worried about.

Yes, you heard me!

From February 2022, the same Core Web Vitals metrics that we have been using to assess mobile optimisation are now becoming associated thresholds for desktop ranking – LCP, FID and CLS are all now just as important on desktop as they were on mobile. As Google have said themselves:

"Other aspects of page experience signals, such as HTTPS security and absence of intrusive interstitials, will remain the same as well. While the mobile-friendliness signal continues to be a part of mobile ranking, it won't be a factor for desktop. When a site has separate desktop and mobile URLs with an appropriate configuration, the desktop signal is based on the URLs that desktop users see." (Google)


Desktop Speeds Ranking Factors


I often say terms like CWV, LCP, CLS and such when talking with clients and developers. I also often get a "sorry, what's that mean?" in response. So, if you're wondering what these key metrics translate to, again, here's how Google lays them out and why they matter:

Core Web Vital (CWV) elements:

  • Loading - Largest Contentful Paint (LCP):This is the time it takes for a page to load from the moment a user clicks on any on-page link to when the page loads on their screen. 
    • It's the easiest to understand. If your page is taking forever, crawlers won't like it, and Google will assume the same is happening for users.
  • Interactivity - First Input Delay (FID): This involves how long it takes the user to interact with your page, such as clicking on links from the main menu and navigation bar, filling out forms, opening up "accordion text" on mobile devices. These are some of the aspects that are considered for a positive user journey experience. 
    • Know those times when you open a site, click and nothing happens, but you know something should? That's FID.
  • Visual Stability -Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This takes into account the visual stability of the page and ensures that all elements load simultaneously - rather than having one or two elements load time lag. Any elements that take too long to load can cause users to click on something they didn't mean to, resulting in a negative user experience. Visual Stability and CLS are particularly important to get right for mobile devices!
    • My personal bug bearer. It's essentially any time a website jumps while you're on it. It happens A LOT on news sites that have videos load and ads coming out of nowhere to push content up and down.

So should you now panic and tell developers that your site needs to be all singing all dancing in terms of desktop speed?

Well, yes and no. I always recommend that SEO professionals have a good relationship with developers, especially around improving site speed. It's simple enough for speed tests to let you know when elements need improved, but it can take developers time to figure out how to reduce files and improve elements, especially on the likes of eCommerce sites with thousands of products and an ever-growing inventory or bespoke/custom themes for a site.

While you shouldn't expect to see drastic ranking changes for existing sites with poor desktop performance, if you're keen to maintain (and possibly improve) rankings within your niche - it pays to listen to Google.


If you're looking for an expert team who specialise in SEO, Loud Mouth Media provide technical, consultancy and training services to help your websites dominate in the search engine world. Speak to our team here.