We all know the sheer frustration that arises when trying to navigate a slow website, it's almost enough to drive you away to a competitor site. In fact this is often the path that many site users take, which can take a toll on a website's SEO
In our last blog post, we took a look at the importance of speed in regards to responsive design. Though something that we didn't touch upon is the importance of speed when it comes to your website's SEO.
We all know that the faster a website loads, the happier its users will be; we are all internet users and have experienced this first hand. Furthermore, from Google and its preaching about SEO tactics and user experience; we know that in Google's eyes that experience satisfaction is judged by the amount of time that a user spends on a page.
If you're an owner of a company in a seriously competitive industry, you will already know that your site is probably your most accessible communication asset between you and your potential clients. Therefore you want your site to have the industry edge and a slow site will only leave you trailing behind the competition.
In fact, site speed is an SEO aspect that Google have been taking account since Spring 2010. In fact a search through the dusty archives led me to this article featuring the following quote;
'You may have heard that here at Google we're obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we're including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.'
So basically, Google, in their never-ending bid to provide users with a prime internet experience, give preferential treatment in the SERPs to the fastest sites. Therefore, to get to the top of the search rankings in the dog-eat-dog world of SEO you will need to ensure that the speed of your site is at its optimum; giving you the lead over your industry competitors.
How much does site speed impact Google rankings?
It has been stated several times by Google representatives, that the page speed algorithm affects ratings for 'fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal'. There have also been a few reports from webmasters of various websites that have had their rankings significantly affected by speed;
- Keri Morgret from SEOmoz reported that a site with issues with their load time saw 'quite the drop in organic referrals from Google' when the page speed algorithm was pushed live.
- Work Coach Cafe reported, after fixing site issues, a 40% growth in traffic.
- Smartfurniture.com reported that rankings for 7 of its top 10 keywords improved after the increase of the site was increased.
While it is suggested in this data that speed doesn't often have that great an impact on rankings, what it does show is that when it does have an effect, it can be serious.
So, should you be worrying about how your site speed will affect your SEO? Well, many, many small algorithmic factors all combine to determine Page rankings, so in theory it is a minor factor. This being said, even the smallest boost in your SEO can be hugely beneficial to your site, so at any rate it is worth getting your website up to speed.
In what ways does site speed impact user experience?
The reason behind Google's implementation of site speed into its algorithm is simple: research shows that faster sites equal happier users. Here are a few examples of site speed having an impact on user experience;
- According to a study by Google, 'slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user.'
- Shopzilla achieved a 25% increase in pageviews and a 7-12% revenue increase after speeding up its site.
- Data presented by AOL showed that page load speeds can impact pageviews per visit by up to 50%.
- Just a 1 second delay can decrease your conversions by 7%.
- 75% of users said that they would not revisit a website that took longer than 4 seconds to load.
- Almost half of users expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less.
How does Google reads the speed of your site?
Google has a number of direct and indirect ways of measuring the speed of your site to determine whether or not the speed is likely to deliver a satisfying experience experience for its users.
Google will regularly crawl your site with their bots in a bid to gather data for indexing and ranking. If your site is slow to respond to Googlebot on a consistent basis, it will be recorded. Google also receives data from ' a variety of sources,' Google Toolbar and it is also speculated that load time statistics are also obtained through Google Chrome; which as of yet isn't clear.
In a more indirect way, Google also measures the speed of your website by gauging how well users respond by its bounce rate. If a user enters a search into Google, and follows one of the links to a site, only to return back to Google shortly after then Google recognises that they weren't happy with what they found on the site and will push it down the list for that particular query.
How can I measure the speed of my site?
To make sure that your website is performing at optimum speed, then the first thing you will need the data that tells you how quickly the pages on your website load. There are quite a few of these on the web, but one of the best bets is from Pingdom. The Pingdom Website Speed Test presents all your information in a waterfall like graphic, displaying how long the various components of each page on your site take to load. Then with this information an overall score is generated so you can see how well your site performs compared to the online average.
As well as the Pingdom Website Speed Test, there are also ones recommended by Google on the blog we visited earlier, though, due to the fact that the blog is over three years old now, these tools are a bit dated. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to have a variety of tools, so I have also listed these ones below;
How can I get my site up to speed?
At this point in time, you should now have a pretty clear idea of how the speed of your site will affect your SEO. The next thing that you will no doubt want to know is the ways in which you can get your website up to speed and those precious conversions flowing.
Well, there are a number of ways;
1. Measure your speed
The first step that you should take is to measure your site's current speed. This will provide you with the base in which you can work your improvements from. To measure your speed, you can use any of the tools that we listed above, though we do highly recommend the Pingdom Page Load Time Tool.
2. Upgrade your server
When it comes to dynamic websites, the strain of executing hundreds of lines of code, responding to loads of requests and making multiple database queries to display a page to a user can cause a site to falter in speed. A way to overcome this is by hosting your site on a more powerful server.
If your site is hosted on a shared hosting account, then you may want to consider upgrading to a VPS or dedicated server. These will typically allow your website to have more server resources available. While these types of server will set you back a little bit more in cost, they will pay for themselves in time when your conversions are pouring in.
3. Optimise your code and files
Here are a few examples;
- Google PageSpeed tools and documentation
- Yahoo's Best Practices for Speeding Up Your Web Site
- 8 Excellent Tools for Optimizing Your Images
The finishing line
With any company website that offers a commercial service, the end aim with any visitor should always be to get a conversion. Obviously the way to do this is to convince the visitor that you are giving them what they want better than any other competitor out there. This needs to be reflected in their experience using your website and it is safe to say that a website that is slower than your competitors hardly reflects a better service.
This issue is granted that they even managed to find your site to begin with. Providing a great user experience is certainly a big concern to any company, but the first concern you should tackle is getting as high up as possible on the Google rankings in your industry.
The answer to both these issues is speed of course. Though Google only uses page load speed metrics as a minor ranking factor, the reality is, in a race a millimetre difference can mean winning or losing and rankings are no different. If you want your SEO to get you to the top then you need to ensure that you crank up your website's speed up the speed to the max.