Search Engine Optimisation

What is the SEO Impact of Page Speed?

April 4, 2016

Have you considered the SEO impact of page speed on your website? In 2010, Matt Cutts at Google announced that page load speed was set to become a factor in search rankings. At the same time, he told people not to panic, pointing out that page speeds would be of fairly low SEO impact when compared with other signals such as quality, relevance, reputation, and so on.

As it stands today, it is definitely worth putting some serious thought into how fast your pages load when developing your website, not only for SEO purposes, but also to provide users with a better experience and reduce the risk that they will bounce off and go elsewhere.

How Google measures page speed

There are various ways Google measures the load speed of web pages, including how long it takes for the return of the first byte of data, known as the TTFB (Time To First Byte), and also what is known as the Critical Render Path (CRP).

However technicalities aside, the actual experience of users is also taken into account. For instance, we’ve probably all had the experience of waiting for a page that is slow to load, only to get impatient and press the back button and go somewhere else. If this scenario happens frequently, and involves a large number of users, the accumulative effect can result in a demotion in the ranking stakes.

Why page speed is important

In 2013, research done on major US retail sites showed an average page load speed of just over seven seconds – something that many online users are likely to find frustrating! And according to KissMetrics, occurrences of this sort can result in serious sales reductions for each one-second worth of lag.

So increasing page speed times can contribute to improving both sales and rankings, and is well worth pursuing. That said, in some ways it might involve a bit of a trade-off. For instance, you might like to use videos to enhance your site because you feel it creates a better user experience. Doing so can cause some lag in load speed, but you might be willing to make that trade-off because the video adds value for your customers and is a valuable SEO tool in that way.

Ways to improve speeds

There are a number of ways that you can keep your page load times down.

  • Aim to improve CRP and TTFB across all devices and networks.
  • Limit the number of embedded videos and share buttons on your pages as these can slow down load times.
  • Reduce the number of analytics tools you use as this adds extra tracking code that can also reduce speeds.
  • Compress and resize images before uploading them.
  • Use caching tools as these store data on local databases and help reduce load times – for example QuickCache (for WordPress users), or ApplicationCache.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN), such as Google’s PageSpeed Service, to speed times over large geographical areas.
  • Add an index to the database used to store your data, as this enables search engines to find data more quickly. If you don’t know how to insert the code ask your site developer. Another option is to put the database on a separate server.
  • Make use of page speed tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights which gives feedback on page performance and ideas for improvement. Another one is the Selenium automation tool.

Google has made it pretty clear that while page speeds make a difference to your overall SEO, they are certainly not more important than relevance. No matter how fast your pages load, if they don’t provide what users are looking for, you will likely lose out in the ranking stakes. All up, it’s best to do both – make quality and relevance your top priorities, and also work on your page speeds to maximise optimisation and create a better experience for your site users.

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By Bill Vasiliadis

By Bill Vasiliadis

Bill Vasiliadis is an Australian SEO and Digital Marketing Consultant with over 20 years of online experience. He has helped businesses of all sizes increase the return on investment from their online marketing spend.

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