Why Page Speed is Important for SEO

Technical SEO

Your Page Speed and why it is Essential to Good SEO

Page speed is about user experience. If things load slow, your users will easily click away from your website and visit your competition. Also, the slower your page loads, Google will notice and penalise you in rankings.

You need to know how to improve page load speeds, need to know what page speed optimisation is, and why it is so key to your overall SEO campaign. Read on and let us inform you of these things and more.

What is page speed?

Moz states that:

 “page speed can be described in either “page load time”, (the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific page) or “time to first byte” (how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte of information from the webserver).”

https://moz.com/learn/seo/page-speed

The time it takes to load an entire page is generally the metric used to determine load speed. This is all influenced by your server speed, your internet connection, file sizes, and image compression, to name but a few.

Pagespeed Tools we recommend

To check your page speed and find out if there is something wrong or not, we have three tools we’d recommend using.

GTMetrix

The GTMetrix Speed Tool is powered by Google Lighthouse, an open-source automated tool you can use to improve the performance of your website.

To get a full result and report from these guys you do need to pay, but you can get yourself a good idea of your page speed from the free services they provide.

One of the best features of GTMetrix is the waterfall. This shows the load order and load speed of each element on your website. Web Developers love this feature as it gets into the nitty-gritty of what bits are loading faster than others and in which order they are loading.

There seem to be very few downsides to using GTMetrix, and the ones found by reviewers online are kind of small.

  • They only have a server in Canada, this can give inaccurate results for faraway places like Australia.
  • There can be information overload and you might not be able to identify all the key data you need.
  • Although it finds issues, some people feel it doesn’t explain how to fix these issues.

 

Google Page Speed

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

This site is very comprehensive when it comes to details about your page speed. It is, however, a very hard judge on sites. Your score on the Google Page Speed may be lower than on other sites.

With Google’s Core Web Vitals coming out, page speed has suddenly become very important, so sites like Google’s Page Speed are also important. It slips right in next to the Core Web Vitals in regards to helping you rank high with SERP.

Much like GTMetrix, there are few CONS to using the Google Page Speed tool. Feedback includes, suggestions for fixing the issues can be full of technical jargon and complicated for the common web user. Also, some of the performance requirements suggested can be almost impossible to meet.

Semrush Site Audit

https://www.semrush.com/siteaudit/

Semrush has a vast array of tools to help make your website awesome, including their Site Audit tool to help with your Page Speed.

It presents data in graphs and charts and is very easy to read. The report can give you a diagnosis of any problems it finds.

While it gives you a lot of great information and presented very well, again it may take a bit of technical knowledge to fix any identified issues. There is a large knowledge database you can read, but still, it can be intimidating to the casual web user.

 

How Page Speed affects SEO

Page speed, as an element of SEO, has been a factor since 2010. Google upped the ante in 2018 with their SPEED update which included mobile factors in their scores. 

Ranking Higher

Google ranks pages higher with a better and faster loading time. This makes it a direct ranking factor for SERP. Google measures this speed in time to the first byte.

Crawling your Site

Crawlers can crawl more pages on a site if it loads faster. This convenience to crawl and get data quicker helps lift you up the ranking.

User Experience

User Experience is a factor with page speed. If a user gets annoyed at a slow loading page, they will click away and visit your competition. This bounce rate impacts negatively upon your ranking with Google.

 

Ways to Increase Page Speed

Now that you’ve used one of the tools and found out your page is loading a little slowly, and you understand the importance of page speed, how do you increase it?

Increasing Mobile Page Speed

  • Reduce page redirects
  • www.page.com redirecting to m.page.com redirecting to m.page.com/home
  • Each of these redirects makes your page load slower.
  • Optimise your images
    • Fix file size to fit the page appropriately.
    • Use image tag attributes to fix an image rather than loading slowly.

With mobile browsing always on the increase, and it being a big part of Google’s speed update, having a fast page load for mobile users is important and smart.

 

Increasing Desktop Page Speed

  • Make sure you have good server speed.
  • Optimise your images
    • Like above, make sure the image file size is smaller.
    • And the positions are fixed.
  • Have a good site structure
    • Optimise this so the page loads logically and quickly, with all the images and links working quickly.
  • Reduce Javascript and HTML
    • The more 3rd party code needing to be loaded slows the whole process down.

 

Google’s Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals is a massive update to Google happening this year, 2021. There is a lot out there online regarding the ins and outs of this, but in a nutshell, there are 3 core vitals Google is focussing on in this update to help with ranking. They are:

1. Visual Stability –

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

  • How stable is a page when it loads?
  • Do the images move slightly while the page loads?
  • Do links move while you’re clicking on them, so you click somewhere else?

This is a bad User Experience. To fix these issues, do the following:

  • Use set size attributes. Browsers will know exactly how big an element is and so won’t need to adjust the page to fit when the element loads.
  • Advertising elements have reserved space so nothing loads there and suddenly appears.
  • Add new elements below the fold so they don’t push stuff around when they load.

 

2. First Input Delay FID

This is how quickly a person can interact with your page, such as:

  • Choose a menu option.
  • Click on a link.
  • Enter an email address.
  • Open up the accordion text on a mobile website.

This factor is important because it reflects how real people use your website. For a page that is mostly passive content, FID is not that important. IF you have surveys, subscription forms, or the like, then this factor is very important.

How to fix this problem?

  • Minimise any javascript on your page.
  • Remove any non-critical 3rd party scripts as well.
  • Use a browser cache.

 

3. Large Content Paint LCP

How long does it take for your page to load from a user’s point of view? This element is directly linked to Page Speed and what we’ve been talking about.

This metric is different from other speed metrics because it is USER CENTRIC, and how a user is able to see and interact with a page.

If you find any of these issues with your website, some ways to fix them include:

  • Upgrade your web host.
  • Set up ‘lazy loading’- images only load when a user scrolls down your page.
  • Remove large page elements.

 

How will Core Web Updates affect your site?

Search intent is now being strongly coupled with user experience. The perception of what the most helpful site for users is being fine-tuned.

You may have the best content, but if your website loads slowly, and the images shift and change during loading, your ranking will suffer.

Engage with your SEO experts to run reports and find ways to hone the speed and user experience of your online presence.

 

Page Speed Benchmark

Where should your page sit in terms of benchmark loading speed? What is the average speed of websites that you compete with?

According to Semrush’s How fast is fast enough article:

  • if your site loads in 5 seconds, it is faster than approximately 25% of the web
  • if your site loads in 2.9 seconds, it is faster than approximately 50% of the web
  • if your site loads in 1.7 seconds, it is faster than approximately 75% of the web
  • if your site loads in 0.8 seconds, it is faster than approximately 94% of the web

 

What ways Different CMS can Improve Page Speed?

If you’re using one of the popular Content Management Systems out there, what are they doing to help you with Page Speed in preparation for the Core Web Vitals update?

Page Speed for Shopify

In August of 2020, Shopify rolled out its Site Speed feature. There is a speed dial at the bottom of your Shopify site when you’re logged into the CMS. What this does is measure your speed in comparison to other Shopify merchants.

Shopify is fast, in general, and what you’re looking at is the speed of your site compared to others in your arena.

Google Lighthouse is used to calculate this speed score for you.

Has this score, looking low, affected sales? No, not really. Is there a reason it is so slow? Images, probably. Should you be that concerned with your Shopify site? In a nutshell, no.

 

Page Speed for WordPress.

Over 40% of the web is powered by WordPress. The fact that it is open source is fantastic. It means anyone with some skill can create plugins to make your WordPress experience better. The problem is, if you begin to install a lot of widgets and plugins, they can dramatically slow your website down.

Many WordPress sites are static, as in they’re just blogs or photo albums, so the general tips for speeding up the site would apply – image compression, structure, and so forth.

But for those who have plugins and widgets, consider these options:

  • High-performance WordPress hosting.
  • Check the aerodynamics of your theme.
    • Disable features you don’t need or don’t use.
  • Mobile Responsive Theme.
    • Very important with the incoming Core Web Vitals as well.
  • Quality plugins don’t slow your site down as much.
    • Quality can cost, but it pays off in the long run.
  • Limit your posts on the Blog feed.
    • No need for 50 thumbnails for past blogs.
  • Look into server-side caching.

 

Page Speed for a Headless CMS.

A headless CMS is a system that ONLY manages the content. A different tool manages and delivers the front-end web experience. An API fetches the content for the front page when required.

A dedicated front end can mean much faster speed results. Less code as well for the bots to read, so more speed.

The separation of these two elements also means you can update and recode the front end dynamically while the back end with the data stays static.

 

The Takeaway

Page speed is becoming a much more important factor in page ranking, thanks to the pending Core Web Vitals. Milliseconds matter.

As it is a reflection of User Experience, and the Mobile First approach is a big factor, the more streamlined you can make your website, the better it will serve you for Google ranking, and the better it can serve your future customers.

We have many other articles on our website to help you with your SEO, and we have our Hawk Academy to teach you how you can work SEO yourself.

If you want to know more or want some awesome people working on your SEO, contact us today and get on board for as little as $500 a month.