How important is site speed for SEO? Is speed even a ranking factor? Well, the truth is, many different factors can affect SEO or search engine optimisation – the process by which you improve the ranking of your website on search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo! when somebody uses them to search for a relevant term.
Making sure that your content is relevant and uses the right keywords is also important. Organising your website properly can make it easier for web crawlers to explore your pages, which can help boost your SEO. The major search engines also put a great store on site performance as it affects visitor experience – and yes, that includes the loading speed of a website.
The Importance of Site Speed for SEO
Why is website speed important? Search engines not only want to direct users to the most relevant pages for their searches, but they also want these pages and websites to provide a good user experience. In today’s high-performance world, fast site speed is a key part of that user experience – and expectation.
Impact of Site Speed on User Experience
If you’re still asking the question, ‘Why is site speed important?’ think about the last time you clicked on a link and the page you were directed to took forever to load. Did you stick around and wait for it to finish or head elsewhere? And in this context, just a couple of seconds can count as ‘forever’.
According to Google, as page load speed goes from 1 to 3 seconds, the bounce rate increases by 32%. By 5 seconds, the probability of a visitor leaving a page without interacting increases by 90%. At 6 seconds, it more than doubles (106%) – and at 10 seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 123%.
Analysis of 100 million page views across 20 business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) sites also showed that a site that loads in 1 second has a conversion rate 3 times higher than a site that loads in 5 seconds and 5 times higher than one that takes 10 seconds to load. The BBC, meanwhile, found that for every additional second, a page takes to load, 10% of users leave.
Mobile-Friendly and Mobile-First Indexing
One of the most important factors of recent years in terms of both SEO and website design, in general, has been the increasing switch to mobile. In the UK, more than 60% of all searches are now carried out on mobile, with the figure for some sectors including health, food and drink, news and media and retail) being considerably higher.
Despite this, mobile websites are often overloaded, with too many slow-to-load elements. Sites should be designed so that they display properly and are easy to use on a range of mobile devices. They should also load quickly, as this can have a big impact on SEO, as well as user experience. Google has said that it now “predominantly uses the mobile version of a site’s content”, crawled with the smartphone agent, for indexing and ranking. This is known as mobile-first indexing.
Useful Tools to Measure Site Speed
There are a number of useful tools that can help you to monitor and measure different aspects of your site speed. It’s important to remember that this isn’t just the time it takes for the entire page to load. There are elements such as time to first byte (TTFB), which is the time it takes to load the first byte of information; time to Interactive (TTI), which is the time to load the first interactive element and first contentful paint (FCP), which marks the first point in the page load timeline where the user can see anything on the screen.
Google’s own free PageSpeed Insights is an important tool as Google is by far the most widely used search engine both in the UK and globally. It offers a range of diagnostics and suggestions to help you improve your webpage speed and is one of the most accessible ways to gain insights on Google site speed considerations.
GTMetrix is another popular tool offering a speed test for website evaluation and improvement with potential areas for improvement identified. WebPageTest provides detailed information on your website’s performance, as well as base page speed results.
Other useful tools include:
- Website Audit
Technical Considerations for Site Speed Optimisation
So now you know why page speed is important, but how can you improve page speed? There are a number of things that can be done ‘under the hood’ or behind the scenes of your website to improve the loading times of different elements of your website.
You can take steps to reduce the number of HTTP requests, for example. These are used by a web browser to fetch different parts of the page, such as images, stylesheets, and scripts from the web server. Using mobile-first code can improve your performance on mobile devices (see ‘Mobile-Friendly and Mobile-First Indexing’ above).
Content Optimisation and Site Speed
The above techniques require a certain level of technical knowledge and are generally best left to web developers and SEO experts. There are also some things you can do to optimise your actual content – the images, videos, text (to a lesser extent) and other elements that people see when they visit your website.
Compressing photos and resizing images can have an enormous effect on load times, as can limiting videos and other graphical elements. Sometimes it might be better to concentrate on prioritising critical content for the sake of page speed rather than adopting an all bells and whistles’ approach.
Testing an improving your site speed can have a number of benefits, improving your users’ experience, reducing bounce rates and improving conversion rates. It can also provide a major boost to your SEO, helping customers and visitors to find you in the first place.
Need Help with SEO? Get in Touch
If you need help with your SEO strategy, reach out today. We have a team of SEO experts who can ensure that your website is as optimised as it can be, giving you the best chance of attracting your target audience to your business. Contact us today for more information.
Posted on Friday, August 4th, 2023 in SEO.