For many website owners, the focus of their attention is on boosting SEO to generate more visitors and therefore more conversions. This typically means that a great deal of attention is paid to key details such as metadata which help to score higher listings on search engines such as Google. Page speed is another crucial factor in the equation, but is often overlooked. Here’s why now might be the perfect time to shift your attention to optimising your website’s page speed.
Why should I optimise my website page speed?
The internet has evolved quickly, from the days of dial-up and chunky desktops through to the latest fibre connections and technologically advanced mobile smartphones available today. Throughout this evolution, the faster connections and devices become, the faster people expect them to work. With more internet pages opened from mobile devices than desktops now, it is clear that people want instant access anywhere, anytime. And what people want online is what the search engines try to provide.
During the past month, Google has fully introduced its latest change, known simply as ‘Speed Update’. This means that Google’s search algorithms will now rank mobile pages by speed so that the fastest loading content will be favoured in searches. While they have been ranking page loading speeds for desktop since 2010, this change is to reflect the change in internet user habits and the fact that internet use over mobile devices has outstripped access from desktop computers since 2018.
Mobile pages that were still achieving decent rankings on average load speeds now face dropping down the ranks. For your website, that could mean potentially losing business. To maintain your online visibility and grab the attention of your website traffic, optimising page load speed should now be an absolutely essential part of your SEO programme.
Page speed factors in detail
How is Page Speed Defined?
Page speed or page loading speed is measured by the amount of time it takes for all of the content on a webpage to completely load and appear in full on an internet user’s device.
Why Does Page Speed Matter?
People are impatient. You have probably clicked on websites yourself and then left before viewing it because it’s taken too long to load and see the full content. You might have a fantastic website but if it’s not loading quickly enough, then you are going to have a lot of visitors leave, or bounce, before even seeing what you have to offer, which equates to lost leads, conversions and sales.
Google research from February 2018 provides statistics on mobile devices, where the average load speed is still 15 seconds, even with an improvement from an average of 22 seconds in 2017. Yet 53% of mobile site visitors will bounce off if a page takes longer than 3 seconds. As page speed goes from 1 second to 3 seconds, the probability of bounce rises to 32% but when it goes from 1 second to 5 seconds, that probability increases to 90%. That’s a significant difference and a considerable amount of potential custom lost. While this data was measured specifically for mobile sites, people sat at their desktops definitely don’t want to be waiting around any longer either.
When it comes to the search engines, faster loading websites are rewarded with higher rankings, slower ones penalised with lower rankings. The aim of SEO is to be as visible as possible on all searched keywords, phrases and images relevant to your business. You may have a comprehensive SEO plan but if you have not included checking and optimising your loading speeds then you will be left behind.
How to Check Page Speed:
You don’t need to know much about SEO to be able to make significant improvements to your website performance yourself. There are plenty of free, simple and accessible tools available to check how your web page loading speeds measure up. With most of them you just need to enter the web page URL and the tool will analyse the page, suggest improvements and clearly explain how to do it. Here are three of the most popular tried-and-tested ones:
Google PageSpeed Insights:https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
Bear in mind there are many factors that can ultimately affect the results. Some will not be relevant to your site, some will be extremely simple to resolve and others may require attention from an experienced developer. In all cases, a page speed check is a little like a health check at the doctor – it is important to consider everything in context.
How can I improve my page speed?
The faster your pages load, the better. In fact, when it comes to page speed, it’s not possible to be too fast. If you have not paid too much attention to it until now, then you really need to take action, especially with Google’s latest changes to mobile ranking. While the checking tools might not be able to do everything that an experienced technical SEO could do for your website, they certainly give you a good starting point by explaining what you need to do. These are some of the areas that they will analyse:
On the majority of pages, it is the images that take up the most memory, or bytes. Yet they are usually the first thing to be unnecessarily taking up too many bytes and slowing your site down when visitors try to access it. Most images can and should be compressed to much smaller file sizes without losing the picture quality. Each image on your website, not just photos but all art and designs such as logos, should be individually checked to see if they could be resized, whether they are saved in the most suitable format and whether any micro adjustments to the quality or colour could be made.
Review WordPress plugins
If you are using the WordPress system to manage your website and content then check your plugins. Too many active plugins, ones that are too large and those that are not updated or are of poorer quality could be slowing your speed. Delete plugins that you don’t need or that were only installed for a one-off use. Look for lighter, more efficient plugins to replace the slowest plugins that you do use. Also be aware that there may be incompatibilities between plugins that cause slow load times (often due to how scripts run). This latter situation can be much harder to diagnose and is generally best left to a WordPress developer.
Apps & Widgets
Don’t just look at WordPress and its plugins, check all apps and additional software you might have installed and do the same, completely delete any that are not required and replace any you do use with lighter, more efficient versions if possible.
Are you paying for the right hosting for your website? Not all web hosts are equal and poor server performance and subsequent slow speeds may well be caused by this. Go through exactly what performance and support you should be getting for your subscription to see if it still suits. If it doesn’t suit your business, find a better match.
Use a CDN
Content Delivery Networks (CDN) do not host content but they are a geographically dispersed network of servers which work together to provide a faster delivery for online content. Because there is less physical distance between your website visitors and their nearest server, they will experience less delay in page loading.
Do not forget to check how your pages load on all of the main browsers, both before and after optimising, as it could act differently or load at different speeds from one to the next. And by this point, you should not need reminding to check how your pages load on both desktop and mobile devices, right?
Even seemingly minor adjustments behind the scenes on your website can make a big difference to the amount of traffic who actually stick around on your website rather than bouncing away. This is one situation where the faster you are, the better experience there is for your end user as well as increased conversions, equalling more revenue for you and your business.
Here at Influx, we are committed to helping both new and existing customers with their SEO efforts. To find out more about how our experts can help you, click here to contact us online or call us today on Manchester 0161 468 2612 or Shrewsbury 01743 626162.