Is Google now too powerful?

Today we ask the question… “Is Google too powerful”? We certainly think so and here’s why…

There is no doubting that Google is brilliant when it comes to returning search results – so much so that it has become the go-to search engine of choice for most of us – we don’t “search the web” anymore… we “Google it”.

But if you own a website it’s a different story…

Google has for sometime been giving webmasters guidelines on how to rank better in it’s search results and provide a better user experience, but just recently things have started to become a lot harder and a lot more expensive for webmasters.

It’s my way or the highway says Google…

Having advice for webmasters on how to improve their website (if they want to) is a great thing but now starting to penalise websites for not following those guidelines isn’t playing fair. Lets look at 2 of those guidelines which now (or very soon will) fall foul of the Google gods and cause site ranking issues. Do webmasters not deserve the right to run their own webistes how they want? As long as the content is good then what’s the problem?

Page Speed.

In theory this is a good thing – a faster web is a better web – yes! So Google just measures the time it takes for a page to load and gives it a score? Well no… This is the very annoying thing about this “guideline”.

Google has a page speed tool that anyone can use to get a “score” for any page on the web – if you want to test a page jsut head over to Page Speed Insights and enter any web page into the tool to get a score.

Along with the score for both desktop and mobile devices Google gives tips on how to improve the score… If your website is loading very slowly then this can be a great tool for diagnosing the problem but we are now seeing a dangerous trend of webmasters using the tool and getting into a tizzy about the results.

Google has already stated that page speed IS used in it’s complicated ranking calculations but this ‘signal’ is only a very small part of a larger ranking process, but this doesn’t stop people from panicing that their website(s) are going to be banished by the search giant because their images aren’t optimised.

Most of the time Google complains about either image optimisation or “block rendering Javascript” – well images should in an ideal world be optimised for the web (but who has time to do that?) and the Javascript problem is quite often just a result of using a CMS system such as WordPress or an eCommerce system such as Magento… these scripts need to render JS in the head (top part) of a page so the point is useless.

What we have found in real world situations is that implementing Google’s “advice” for speeding up your website quite often results in slower page load time – that is the amount of time taken to completely load a page in our browser – why this is the case we just don’t know… It could be that the page speed tool is broken or it could be that what Google says that should in theory speed up a page actually doesn’t in the real world? Either way – please just use your common sense – visit your website and if it loads in a respectable amount of time then don’t worry about it. If your site takes quite a while to load then seek some help…

Did you know that Google is planning to launch a new “product” shortly that will be a magic wand for page speed? Google’s new service will serve your website from their servers and apparently “automatically” optimise it… will this service be FREE? We very much doubt it which makes you question Google’s true motive behind this page speed issue…

Mobile Responsiveness (how a website looks on a mobile device)

This issue is a matter of opinion – most people I have spoken to have 2 different opinions on how websites should behave on mobile devices. On one hand some people want to see the true desktop site on their mobile screens – they somehow feel that a mobile / stripped down version just for mobiles is robbing them of 100% of the design and features of a site, on the other hand some people want to see a version of a site that is specifically designed for mobile devices and like the ease of use of one handed operation (no zooming or scrolling etc).

Google has now started to test websites for mobile repsonsiveness and will start demoting what it considers to be “mobile unfriendly” sites from it’s mobile search results on 21st April 2015.

The issue I have with this (as do a lot of other people I have spoken to) is that Google is not giving people the choice of what they want to see – they are taking the stand that a site has to be responsive no matter what – end of story.

So now webmasters need to make sure that their website(s) are mobile responsive and in a lot of cases have to spend money to make them so – usually a new template for their site or in extreme cases a new website.

If this was 1995 then I would 100% agree with Google – back in the day of monochrome / low resolution mobile screens a website needed to have a text only “WAP” version to be visible on a mobile device but come on Google – this is 2015, we have high resolution mobile screens able to render almost all the available web technologies (HTML5, Javascript etc).

No doubt some people will disagree with me, some people like to have a website behave more like an “app” for ease of use and who am I to tell you that your opinion is wrong? (there is no right and wrong answer) but Google has decided to take it upon itself to make the choice for us and this can only be a bad thing…

So back to the 1st line of this post – “Is Google too powerful?” the answer is a 100% yes and it’s only going to get worse…

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