Is site speed important for SEO? You don’t have to dig deep to find the answer to this question. One sentence is all over the place: Site speed is everything. Every day there is an SEO expert from somewhere across the world saying that optimizing for speed is the most important thing right now. As an experienced SEO company, we are a part of the growing trend when we claim: Site speed and SEO go hand in hand.
Everything starts with speed
Speed influences SEO in many ways. You may have put in a lot of effort to make sure your site works well. It has a great structure, and includes targeted and relevant content. But that won’t be the first experience your future customer has, your site has to load first!
The time your site takes to load is a key part of the overall user experience. Waiting for content to appear, and being unable to interact with it creates friction. That costs not only time, but money as well. Research shows that 53% of website visitors will leave if a site doesn’t load within 3 seconds, and conversions drop sharply with every additional second. This creates a bad user experience which can leave lasting negative impressions of a brand. With all that being said, here are the main reasons why your SEO strategy should be speed-oriented:
- Site speed is a ranking factor
- Fast sites are easier to navigate
- Fast loading sites have higher conversion rates
- Greater speed reduces bounce rates
- Greater speed improves the overall user experience
Site speed is a ranking factor
Google has stressed more than once that a fast site helps you rank better. They announced it as far back as 2010. They have also launched the so-called “Speed Update” in July 2018, making site speed a ranking factor for mobile searches too. Although they said that it would only affect the slowest sites and that fast sites won’t get a boost, we can see the trend developing. We’ve been resolving WordPress Speed Issues for Alpha Efficiency clients by switching to Sage Framework for SEO.
Loading times influence navigation
The bigger your site is, the bigger impact site speed will have on your rankings and SEO efforts. This impacts not only user experience and conversion rates, but also crawl budget and crawl rate. This is why it is important to fix your site structure, review old and outdated posts, and check redirects. It is also a good idea to invest in a better hosting plan to make your servers work like a well-oiled machine.
If you are using your website to sell products, having fast pages will help your visitors quickly grasp what you have to offer, and enable them to complete your order forms. On the other hand, if you generate revenues due to advertising on your content, a fast website will ease your visitors’ navigation from page to page and increase the total of pages viewed per user. It’s a win-win situation!
Fast loading sites have higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates
You should aspire to be the Usain Bolt in your niche – faster than every competitor. That is how to do SEO. People have an extremely itchy finger when it comes to hitting that back button. And once they leave, most of them will never come back. This hurts your bounce rate, but there is more to it than just that. Every customer you lose, is a customer your competitor gains. This should be the driving force that motivates you to be the best within your field of expertise. Here is the bigger picture with the exact numbers:
- 47% of people expect a site to load in less than 2 seconds
- 20% of shoppers abandon their cart if they find the transaction process to be too slow
- Amazon found that every 100ms of latency cost them 1% in sales
- The BBC found that they lost an additional 10% of users for every additional second their site took to load
By offering a fast website, you are not only working on improving your conversion rate, but also building trust and brand loyalty. Faster sites reduce visitors’ stress level, so improving site speed in conjunction with SEO translates to happier, more satisfied people. Google recognizes this good deed, as it sees your website being a great search result. That will in turn result in a nice ranking boost.
Speed benefits Google as well
It is not only users that suffer if a website is slow. Google does too. A slow website usually means an inefficient website, as they may load too many large files or their media isn’t optimized. This leads to Google consuming more bandwidth, allocating more resources, and spending more money. So every millisecond they can save, and every byte they don’t have to load adds up quickly. The faster your site is, the faster the entire web is, thus reducing Google’s operating costs.
Optimizing is more than chasing numbers
Good scores and metrics can be alluring, but optimizing your site for speed is more than just getting a high score in speed test tools. Tests emulate the environment, but perhaps unrealistically so. Just like every user is different, so is their internet connection, device, and browser. For best results in site speed and SEO analysis, you need to put in an effort to find out who your users are, how they access your website, and how they spend time there. Combining classic tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse with analytical tools will bring a broad overview of speed issues that your site may be experiencing.
What lowers your page speed
Just as an efficient page speed relies on different optimizations, here are a few things that could slow down your website:
- Unoptimized browser, app, and plugins – Websites behave differently on different browsers, and this is something to keep in mind when looking to increase site speed and doing SEO. Also, if your apps use Flash, it can significantly lower your page speed.
- Cheap web hosting – As your host performance depends on the price you are ready to pay, a cheap host could lead to low site speed. This is why you need to keep the size of your business in mind when selecting hosting.
- Complicated theme – The theme you choose impacts your website performance and loading time. Note that some themes are heavy on the code, and can heavily delay the time your site takes to load.
- Too many ads – There is not an internet user in the world that enjoys being overwhelmed with ads once they enter a website. Besides just bothering your visitors, too many ads will also lower your site speed.
- Heavy images – Some HD images take a lot of time to render, thus slowing your site down. Consider compressing your visuals under PNG or JPEG format to maintain their quality while lowering their weight.
- Widgets – Widgets like social network buttons and calendars impact your website speed.
- Dense code – To improve your loading time you need to clean up your HTML/CSS code.
- Embedded media – Videos from outside sources can negatively impact your website speed, so it could be a better idea to save them on your hosting service.
How to analyze page speed
There are many tools you can use to get a more accurate picture of your loading times. Here are some of those that we strongly recommend:
This is an open-source automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. It has audits for performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, SEO, and more. You can run it in Chrome DevTools, from the command line, or as a Node module. Once you give Lighthouse a URL to audit, it will run a series of tests against the web page. Upon completion, it generates a report on how well the page did. You can use the failing audits as indicators on how to improve the page. Each will have a reference doc explaining why the audit is important, and how to fix it.
This widely used free tool delivers insights about your load time issues. Bad CSS, images, browser caching, plugins… PageSpeed Insights analyzes the most important factors that can affect your load time stability, on both desktop and mobile devices. Google has recently rolled out a new update that uses Lighthouse as its analysis engine. It also incorporates field data provided by the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) into the tool.
This tool provides feedback on your page speed using graphs that show which files are lowering your performance. The Performance Tips area will let you know the ways you can better your website.
The Web Page Test is invaluable since it allows you to pick a location from which you wish to load your website. This gives you the opportunity to optimize your site speed for different locations and devices.
We hope that by now we have convinced you to pay closer attention to your website speed. As you can see, decreasing loading times is not something that only benefits your users. Including site speed in your SEO efforts benefits you as a marketer as well. In addition to benefiting the overall user experience, it makes people come back to your website. This will bring you higher conversion rates, creating brand loyalty and saving Google’s resources in the process. For all that, you are awarded with a nice ranking in Google’s search results. With free tools like Google Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights, site speed audits are just a click away. Don’t let the competition outrun you. Go, Flash, optimize!