How Page Speed Affects SEO and Google Rankings
February 24th 2020 | By Steve Grant
What’s great for users is fantastic for Google, because Google is all about delivering the ultimate user experience courtesy of relevant, valuable search results from trustworthy sources.
So if a website delivers what the people love, then Google rewards it. And it’s those rewards that are the gold dust of the digital marketing world: top search positions.
Slow websites are a silent business killer. When we wrote that post, we cited research by Eggplant that revealed a slow running website is more detrimental to business than one that is not working at all. The results of the poll showed that businesses with slow or underperforming websites were likely to lose 73 per cent of their customers to competitors. And there’s more.
70 per cent of UK adults rated website speed as important and 60 per cent said they’d feel negativity towards a brand that had a slow loading website.
Page loading speed has a major effect on whether visitors to a website stay there. The Eggplant survey reported that three quarters of users would without hesitation shift on to another website if they one they were on was slow.
So, it’s clear that the people want speed when it comes to their online lives. And speed is something that Google demands too.
Google says that, as page loading speed slows from one to three seconds, so bounce rate increases by 32 per cent. They’ve also said that 53 per cent of mobile visitors will leave a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Impatient bunch perhaps, but it’s a fact that website owners need to seriously consider.
The Google Speed Update of 2018 made speed a ranking factor in mobile search. Its aim was to reduce the rankings of the slowest mobile pages in the search results. It was an update taken very seriously, with speeds improved globally just a year later. With speed improvements actioned, Search Engine Land reported a 20 per cent reduction in abandonment rate.
Apart from a negative user experience, slower page speeds mean that Google cannot crawl as many pages in its allocated crawl budget, which means page indexing can also suffer.
So we know WHY fast loading pages are so incredibly important. But HOW do you achieve them? Let’s take a look.
First things first – check your page speed
How do you know if your website isn’t loading as quickly as it should? Step in Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Enter your web URL in the field provided, then analyse away.
The results are incredibly helpful and there are very useful insights for web developers who can use the suggestions to make your pages load faster. But overall, it’s your lighthouse score that is going to give you the overview you need, so you know whether something needs to be done.
The lighthouse colour coding works like this:
- 0-49 red – slow loading sites
- 50-89 orange – average loading sites
- 90-100 green – fast loading sites
If you’re in the red then it’s time to take immediate action. Even if your speed check is coming back orange, there will be things you can do to bump it up to green, which will boost your chances of improved search engine rankings.
PageSpeed Insights is also available as a free WordPress plugin, simply search for it in your Add Plugins screen.
What slows a website down?
It’s not just over-sized images and un-optimised video that slows a website down. Here are some more of the worst offenders:
- Large media files like images and videos
- Certain plugins and extensions
- Technical issues
- Low cost website hosting
How to increase page speed?
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways of boosting page speed:
Image SEO – the process of optimising website images so they can be easily found and read by the search engines – should always incorporate an element of image resizing.
Of course you want good quality images on your website, but there is no need for them to be too large. There are ways of compressing images so they are perfectly suited for web use and strike a good balance between quality and size. The Smush.it plugin for example is a real treasure, as it automatically reduces the file size of any image uploaded to a WordPress site that it detects will cause page loading issues. Photoshop is a great programme too as it allows you to control the quality of the image as you reduce its size.
Web developers working to SEO best practice will use strategies that blanket reduce the size of frequently used images like icons and buttons, so that’s those covered too.
There are a few plugins and extensions that are known to slow site speed. Run through everything you’re using and consider whether you actually need them all. Are they really adding value to your website, or are they doing more harm than good in terms of search rankings?
Most of the slower plugins are those that power analytics, sliders, social sharing, calendars, chat, contact forms and anything that constantly runs scans or processes. There’s a list of the worst WordPress plugin offenders here.
You can use page speed checker tools such as PageSpeed Insights to discover whether certain plugins are slowing your website down. Some of these tools though are designed more for developer use, so you may find it helpful to work alongside a best practice SEO agency to get a better picture of what the problem might be. They’ll then be able to offer advice on the best course of action to resolve any issues.
For your pages to load quickly, you need a decent server response time. This will vary according to the traffic received to the site, the resources consumed by each page, the server software in use… and the hosting plan you’re on.
Poorly performing servers take longer to respond to users’ requests to load a web page. So, you may have fully optimised the rest of your website, but still it’s slow to respond. This is more often than not down to the web hosting.
Low cost web hosting usually runs on a shared server, so you are sharing space and resources with a bunch of other websites. Whilst your web page is waiting in a queue for some available fuel to send it to the user who requested it, that user will get fed up and defect to another site.
So review your hosting plan and make sure it is of sufficient calibre to cope with the demands of your website.
Faster site = better Google rankings. Help is at hand.
If you want better Google rankings so you have more online exposure and therefore a better chance of boosting sales, then you HAVE to have a fast loading website. It’s as simple as that.
Need help speeding things up? Our best practice SEO team is on hand to make it happen with a range of techniques and technical strategies proven to make a difference. Get in touch today to discover how we can help.