Website Speed Importance in SEO

Website Speed Importance in SEO

You’ve probably heard more than once that a slow-loading website is a disaster for online business. But have you wondered why is that? Or is it even true? Simply put, it’s totally true – website speed is one of the most important factors that have an impact on SEO. Read this article and discover how you can succeed just by speeding up your website loading time. I hope to convince you that it’s high time to improve your website speed.

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What is Page Speed? Definition

Page speed is the total amount of time a web page needs to fully load. The page loading time is influenced by many factors, such as page size, server response time (SRT), image compression.

It turns out that measuring page speed is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are several ways to test it, of which the 3 most common ones are:

  • fully loaded page – the time it takes for all resources of a page to fully load;
  • time to first byte (TTFB) – the amount of time it takes for the page to start the loading process;
  • first meaningful (or: contextual, contentful) paint – the time it takes to load enough of the resources to be able to read the content of a page.

As you can see, there is no one way to indicate page loading time. Therefore, there is no one metric that is definitely better than the others.  Every type of measuring page speed has its pros and cons.

What Does Page Speed Have To Do With SEO?

Many people are not aware of it, but since 2010 website speed has been one of the raking factors in Google. As proof of that, see the official information from the Google Webmaster Central Blog:

Page Speed in web search
source: webmasters.googleblog.com

Then, in 2018, Google announced that page speed will also be an important ranking factor in mobile search:

Page Speed in web search - Google
source: webmasters.googleblog.com

The decision to add page speed to the list of ranking factors Google has supported by numerous studies, which demonstrated that users are willing to spend less time on long-loading websites. So if you want to be successful and appear high in the search results, you need to improve your page speed. Simply put, as long as your page loads for too long, for example more than 10 seconds, Google will not like it.

Page Speed and User Experience

If you run a website, you need to make sure that it loads quickly, not just because of Google. It’s true, Google doesn’t like websites with long loading time, but… users do not like them even more! Simply put, users aren’t willing to wait.  If they are looking for some information on the internet, want to buy something or pay bills, they want to do it as quickly as possible.  If your website loads too slowly, an irritated user will go to your competition and most likely won’t come back to your website.

As reported by Google, the longer the page load time, the higher the risk that a user will resign.

Page Speed in web search
source: thinkwithgoogle.com

As you can see, if your website loads for 10 seconds, most users will be unwilling to wait. The risk of losing valuable traffic to your website is then much higher. Well, the losses might be considerable… just because you didn’t ensure the page loads quickly enough.

What’s interesting, it turns out that even when users choose your online store and find there some products they want to buy, add them to the shopping cart and want to make a transaction, but the transaction process is too slow, then as many as 20% of them will leave your site and eventually won’t buy your products. (source: Radware) That’s a huge loss, right?

A study by Google has also revealed that the problem of slow loading concerns mobile devices in particular. As many as 70% of the landing pages they analyzed took 5 seconds to show any visual content, and 7 seconds to fully load all visual content. That’s far too much – a user is not going to wait that long! (source: thinkwithgoogle.com)

So if you have your own website, you need to work on page loading time not only for desktops, but also for mobile devices. Why? The statistics speak for themselves:

Page Speed Statistics
source: statista.com

As you can see, website traffic on mobile devices is constantly growing. Currently, more than half of all traffic worldwide is generated by mobile devices. It is therefore high time to ensure that your website is also well displayed on mobiles, not just on desktops. If you want to learn more about how to speed up your loading time specifically on mobile devices, take a look at the entry on our blog: How to make your website load faster on mobile devices?

6 Steps to Increase Website Speed

I hope I have managed to convince you that website speed is really important for SEO and that if you want to achieve success, you need to improve it on both desktops and mobile devices. And how to do that? Follow these 6 steps and you’ll see quick results!

1. Optimize Images

There may be dozens of images on your website. No wonder – images and all graphic elements are the key elements of practically every website, especially online stores. After all, you need to show users and potential customers how a particular product looks like. However, you have to remember that if you upload lots of huge images, this will also significantly increase the size of your website.  For this reason, unfortunately pages will load very slowly. So what should be done to overcome this problem? Just try to resize the images you have already uploaded to your website. There are many useful tools that will help you to reduce the size of your images. Try out for example ImageKit or Kraken.

1. Compress Your Code

What do I mean by that? You should minify all the resources that can be found on your page. These include above all: HTML, CSS or JavaScript. Simply put: the cleaner the code, the faster your page will be loaded. So browse your website (or ask your developer to do it) and check if there is no extra code for content no longer appearing on pages. After removing the unnecessary code, you should see the difference in website speed.

You may as well clean code with the data compression program, and I personally recommend GNU Gzip.

2. Upgrade Hosting

It turns out that choosing the right server and hosting is one of the main factors determining the speed of page loading. And only few people are aware of it! If you want to improve website speed, but you pay very little for hosting… well, there’s not much you can do about it. You can clear the code or resize the images appearing on your website, but you will probably still not achieve the desired results. Maybe it’s time to change hosting or server? After all, when it comes to hosting, one rule is always right: you receive what you pay for. So looking for cost savings by choosing a much worse server is not a good idea.

3. Reduce Server Response Time (SRT)

SRT is the amount of time it takes the web browser to get a response from your server. According to Page Speed Insights, SRT should be below 200ms.

It is particularly important to select and optimize the server carefully, it will then have an impact on the RST:

Choosing the Right Server

I’ve already mentioned about choosing the right server above, but this issue is worth highlighting – choose the appropriate server very carefully. It’s better to spend more time at the beginning and compare different options and their costs, and it will pay off in the future.

Optimizing Your Server

If you have already chosen the right server, one of the main things you have to do at the very beginning is to correctly optimize it. Try not to choose default setting, it seems to be the easiest way to optimize, but it can do more harm than good. After all, not all websites are the same and each of them needs a customized configuration.

4. Consider CDN

Content Delivery Network (CDN) will be useful especially for all website owners who want to operate on a global scale. CDN recognizes the physical location of users and therefore provides the nearest server to them. This way the page will load considerably faster.

The main CDN suppliers are:

Content Delivery Network graph

5. 301 Redirects

Correct redirects to one main version of the page will certainly improve loading time. Try to avoid the redirect chain – this happens when redirect goes to another redirect instead of going straight to the main address. Below you can see an example of a bad redirect chain, which certainly has a negative impact on the loading time of the page.

Technical SEO - redirections

The Most Recommended Website Speed Tools

Google PageSpeed Insights

This is the basic tool offered by Google to control website speed on both desktops and mobile devices. All you need to do is to enter the URL you want to check, and Google PageSpeed Insights will give you a report indicating the page loading time and, what’s more, it will give you tips on how to improve it. It’s a great starting point for you!

Your website will pass the test if its score is above 90 points out of 100.

Page Speed Test - results

Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, you will also receive Diagnostics which will indicate what else should be done to improve your website speed score:

Page Speed Test - diagnostics

I recommend each time you make changes (e.g. reducing the size of the images or clearing the code) to check with this tool how they influenced the page speed.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse is an open-sourced extension you need to add to Google Chrome to get a page speed report. Once you install it, you can generate such report:

Page Speed Lighthouse - analysis

The tool, after auditing your website, will show the result in 4 main categories:

Page Speed Lighthouse - categories

What do these categories stand for?

Performance – It mainly refers to factors that influence the page speed and shows similar metrics as Google PageSpeed Insights.

Accessibility – Checks if the site is accessible to all users, in particular those with visual impairment.

Best practices – Draws attention to the elements necessary for the proper functioning of the website, such as HTTPS protocol, HTML doctype or JavaScript libraries.

SEO – Optimization of the most important elements of the website: title tag, meta description, robots.txt, alt attributes for images, hreflang, rel=canonical or legible font size.

WebPage Test

WebPage Test is a free tool that will allow you to check the page loading speed. Moreover, you will also find out what specific factors are slowing your site down. And believe me, the WebPage Test takes lots of factors into account!

Web Page Speed Test

This tool is worth choosing for several reasons:

  • it shows you very accurate data, so you can find out which specific elements, files or images are most likely to slow down the site,
  • it tests the page 3 times and then shows you the average value,
  • you can test website performance for different browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Opera), Android and Apple devices, and with different locations (in Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Oceania, Africa, Middle East).

GTmetrix

This is another recommended tool for testing the page loading speed. It works similarly to PageSpeed Test, but GTmetrix takes into account slightly different factors. Unfortunately, there are not so many locations to choose from (Vancouver, Dallas, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, Sydney, São Paulo). If you want to choose the right test server region, you must create an account.

Page Speed Test - GTmetrix

As with PageSpeed Test, GTmetrix shows the page load timing scale with different stages: time to first byte, first paint time, first contentful paint time, DOM interactive time, DOM content loaded time and onload time.

Page Speed Test - GTmetrix

The Best Website Speed WordPress Plugins

If you have a website built on WordPress, I present 3 top plugins that you absolutely must have if you want to easily and effectively improve your website speed.

WP Smush

WP Smush is a completely free and award-winning image optimizer. If the total page size exceeds the recommended 2MB due to too large images, this plugin will help you to compress them, resulting in a significant reduction in page size. Importantly, WP Smush will compress your images, but they remain in quality condition. This plugin has many useful features – download it and see for yourself!

WP Smush
source: wordpress.org

W3 Total Cache

This is definitely one of the best plugins for improving website performance you can find. However, you have to be careful if you are a beginner, W3 Total Cache (W3TC) may seem a bit complicated at first. But this plugin can do wonders!

What W3 Total Cache can do?

  • minify HTML, CSS and JavaScript files
  • improve web server performance
  • manage CDN
  • provide SSL and AMP support
  • cache CSS, JS files, pages, posts, database objects, search results pages
  • and so much more!

WP Super Minify

As I explained earlier, one of the most effective ways to improve website speed is to clean the code and remove unnecessary code elements. And that’s what WP Super Minify does best! This plugin efficiently compresses CSS and JavaScript, so you don’t have to try to clean the code yourself (and it might end up badly), WP Super Minify will do that for you!

Super Minify dashboard
source: wordpress.org

Conclusions

As you can see, website speed is extremely important for both Google and users. That’s why you need to improve your page loading time to desktops and mobile devices. Remember, website speed is one of the ranking factors in the search results. So if you want to succeed at Google, improving website speed is one of the first things you have to do. Try to constantly monitor it – even if you’ve improved it once, it doesn’t mean it won’t get slower in a while! If you need specialist help to improve your website speed, please contact us. We will be happy to help you!

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Author
Head of SEO & SEM - Matt Calik

Head of SEO & SEM

Technical SEO specialist experienced in creating scalable processes based on agile methodologies. Responsible for international SEO strategies. He has strongly analytical approach to online marketing supported by over 12 years of experience. Previously associated with IT, motorsport, tobacco and financial markets. He has been building Delante for 5 years where he is Head of SEO and SEM department.

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