In this digital age, we are rewarded for our advances in technology with instant results when we want them. Whether we are booking a table at a restaurant, checking with Mum what shoe size Dad is for Christmas or finding out what Miley Cyrus has done now, we expect to be able to get it, see it and do it all at the click of a button. About 3 years ago, Google declared that it had started considering site speed into their SEO ranking algorithm. Since then, SEO experts have argued how important an effect page speed has on Google and other major search engine rankings. Some still argue that while Google may be using site load speed as a ranking signal, it might not be a significant signal.
Optimizing your website for rankings is nice, optimizing it for conversions is even better; but optimizing for rankings, traffic and conversions is probably the best for any website’s SEO scores. If you are actually concerned about your site’s SEO, you should start caring about how fast your web pages load. Right now, speed may not be the most important ranking factor, but it’s an important factor and no webmaster would want to neglect this factor since Google has started giving so much importance to page loading speeds these days. In such an information-hungry world, the speed that a website loads can directly impact how much business that site can do. Research by Akamai found that for every additional second a site takes to load, the business loses seven per cent of its conversions. Add to this the revelation that 73 per cent of users will not return to a site that they deemed to be ‘too slow’, and these small delays could be killing your business.
How Load Time Affects Google Rankings?
So it’s clear that a lethargic website will lead to a poor user experience, but what about SEO? Surely the speed a website loads can’t affect its ranking too? Actually it can, and since 2011 Google has been using website loading speed as one of the factors in their ranking algorithm, penalising sites that take ‘too long’ to load. In Google’s view, this is over 7-10 seconds and should only affect around one per cent of websites.
However, in addition to this direct penalty that Google can apply, there are other consequences to consider if your site is running too slowly. The Akamai study also found that around 40 per cent of users will navigate away if the site takes over three seconds to load, resulting in a high ‘bounce back’ rate. This bounce back rate is another, more important factor in the Google algorithm, and could see your site dropping way down the rankings if the number is too high.
How Page Load Speed Impacts SEO (and User Experience) and How to Improve it?
With businesses investing thousands in SEO for their websites, site-loading speed is clearly an important factor to be considered if your page rank is to be defended. Here are three key elements that will help you get to grips with site loading speed to protect your SEO.
1. Identify performance: Use a website test tool to find out how your website is performing right now. Highly recommended testing tools available from the NCC Group will not only give you the rundown on how the site performs right now, but will give you a heads up to what elements can be optimized to improve SEO scores and the user’s experience.
2. Optimize for speed: The areas that require optimization will depend on the results of your UK website speed test, but might include:
- Images: Reduce file size, use sprites where possible and do not scale them using HTML
– Content: Make fewer HTTP requests, reduce the number of DNS lookups and avoid redirects
– Server: Use a content delivery network, use a cache and use GET for Ajax requests
3. Monitor your speed: Website speed is not a onetime operation, as over time changes to the site and browsers might result in slowing down, breaking of links and messing up of coding. Monitor your performance by running routine website tests, and keep abreast of how your competitors are performing to ensure you are providing the best user experience.
Although website’s page load speed matters it has very limited SEO advantages at the moment. There are several websites that scores less than 80 in Google page speed test and yet are top ranked within their niche. Having said that, page loading is one of the various search engine ranking factors, if you are serious about providing your readers with a better user experience then you should work on your page load score.