Gotta Go Fast! The Impact of Page Speed on Your Rankings
May 31st, 2017 by
“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.”
Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
That may be a bit dramatic, but time is extremely important. In the digital age where a lot of people barely have the time to stop and say hello unless it was explicitly planned out in their schedule, a slow site can easily get lost in the abyss that is known as the internet. Though the forever relevant Bill Gates quote “content is king” should echo through anyone with a website, there are other factors that can make or break you as well. The best content in the world means nothing if no one sees it. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear, it does not make a sound; it makes vibrations that will never be converted into sound by ears. If a website has amazing content but a Page Speed as slow as molasses, does anyone ever read it? Probably not.
How Optimized and Fast Page Speed can Bring in More Customers
As you may (or may not) have guessed, page speed is the amount of time it takes for your website to load. On the surface, slow page speed will turn visitors and potential conversions away from your site simply based on the fact that they can’t “use” it, per se. But surely someone would wait 7 seconds to view your homepage or interesting product, right? No. Straight from the source, Daniel An from Google provides this handy chart on the correlation of page speed and bounce rates:
As you can see, if your page takes longer than one second to load, you may see a bounce, which is when a user leaves your site after viewing only one page. The bounce risk increases dramatically the longer it takes for your site to load. This stat doesn’t just apply to your home page either—these statistics will affect every single page on your website. Imagine running an online shop and having someone abandon an order because it takes their cart too long to load. Having engaging content is only half the battle; it has to be seen and digested for it to maximize its potential.
Page Speed from the SEO Point of View
From an SEO standpoint, Page Speed has a two-pronged effect on the ranking of your website. Back in 2010 (which is literally forever in internet time), Google spilled the beans on speed having a direct effect on the rankings of websites and encouraged everyone to analyze their page speed to ensure their pages were loading in a timely fashion. Looking at complex Content Management Systems that automatically add mountains of bloat to every single page you publish, it doesn’t seem like many people heeded the warning of Google.
From an indirect standpoint, Page Speed can have an impact on your website’s speed in relation to the crawl speed. Google’s web crawler has an allotted amount of time that it likes to spend crawling a website. Faster loading pages mean that Google’s web crawler can crawl the page faster and move on to the next one, which can lead to more of your pages being indexed. Mix that up with some spicy content and you’ve got a great stew going that can lead to increased Search Engine Rankings!
Tips for What Website Owners Can Do to Improve
I personally like to think of Google as the tough love parents that will always steer you in the correct direction, give you the tools to succeed, but punish you if you stray from the light. With that said, Google gives the entire internet a handy tool to test the speed of their website. My favorite online game, League of Legends, will be the topic of example for this go round. After running their URL through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, a score is given for both the desktop (61/100, Poor) and mobile (40/100, Poor) versions (it defaults to mobile speed, perhaps because mobile users are using the internet more than desktop users now) along with some details on how to fix the issues and exactly which files are causing the issues. An alternative to Google’s own tool (because we want to show our parents we can succeed our own way) is the Pingdom Website Speed Test. From my experience using both of these tools to compose Site Audits for our clients, Pingdom does give some more in depth information. For instance, the main reason for the League of Legends website taking so long to load is a video (listed below) that has to load twice before the website is considered to be loaded.
This video took over 17 seconds to load. Now for a website such as League of Legends that has the clout of millions of gamers fiending to see the details of the next character being released or an overview of the latest patch notes, these 17 seconds are no big deal. However, if your website was discovered by someone using the Google search “boutique new orleans,” that may be a different story, especially if they’re on the other end of our historic Magazine Street. They may have thought about venturing to your end of Magazine Street had they seen the flashy new “romphims” that your store was offering. Unfortunately for your shop, Magazine Street is loaded with boutiques, and potential customers may just tire themselves out on the other end instead of planning their Magazine Street romp around your boutique.
Don’t fret, a lot of these fixes aren’t all that difficult to fix, so here are a few common fixes.
- Leverage Browser Caching: This fix allows some files on your site to be saved on a user’s local computer so that the next time they visit your site, they won’t have to be downloaded again. In addition to increasing Page Speed, it also lessens the stress on your server.
- Optimize Images: This fix involves formatting and compressing your images, which will drastically reduce their size.
- Minify CSS: Minifying your CSS is removing spaces, removing line breaks, and combining elements that have the exact styling to reduce the size of your CSS files (yes, even spaces increase the size of your files). You could do it yourself or use a tool such as CSS Minifier to do it for you, but make sure you test it before you completely remove your old CSS.
- Enable compression: Using gzip to compress your resources allows them to transfer over the server quicker, which leads to faster page load speeds.
These fixes are a great way to start pushing your Page Speed close to preferred industry benchmarks and are also among the easiest to implement. There are many more metrics that can be improved as well, but don’t fear—head to Google PageSpeed Insights and plug in your own URL to see how you fare and what you can do to improve. League of Legends has a team of web experts to make sure that even though their videos take close to 17 seconds to load, the rest of their site renders much faster. Here at Search Influence, we also have a team of web experts that are able to analyze and implement fixes to your website to improve its performance and rankings.
The Importance of Mobile Page Speed Benchmarks
As revealed in an article earlier in this blog, in November of 2016, the number of mobile and tablet internet users surpassed desktop internet users. This adds increased importance on your website’s mobile speed. With a society that is ever on the go, having a high level of accessibility and a mobile friendly website is considered a necessity for every business. A slow mobile site has a large chance of sending business elsewhere.
An important addition to keep in mind is the impending rollout of Google’s “mobile-first index,” which should be rolled out soon according to Google and industry experts. This index will reportedly factor mobile content at a higher priority than desktop content. Though all details have not been made public as of yet since Google likes to release this info intermittently after the fact, mobile website speed will probably be one of the factors that are taken into account.
With cell phones and tablets becoming more powerful and useful in everyday life, it is imperative that your website is optimized to be viewed on mobile if you want any hope of making a splash in the sea that we call the internet. No matter how powerful the receiving device is, there will always be the limiting factor of how quickly files can be transferred across the server. The simplest solution is to ensure that your website is optimized to make it as easy as possible to ford the data transfer river.
If that sounds like a scary thought, feel free to reach out to the experts at Search Influence. We will gladly take the stress out of it and add you to the list of our many satisfied customers that continue to use our services year after year.