The Importance of Site Speed on SEORead Story
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It’s no secret that page loading speed is a critical factor in your website’s ranking. With instant gratification being the name of the game, users have become less patient for web pages that take too long to load. When you have a page that takes more than three seconds to fully load, your users are most likely to abandon your page (and your website entirely) before moving on to the next entry in their search results page.
Google started using site speed as a ranking factor for desktop search in 2010, and in January this year, it once again cracked the whip on slow loading websites: site speed is now a ranking factor for mobile search, as well. Following Google’s lead, Facebook has also taken steps to improve user experience by upranking fast-loading links in mobile News Feeds. With your website’s visibility at stake – and by extension, your online conversion rates and sales – in the world’s largest search engine and social media platform, it’s essential to work on improving your website’s page loading speed as soon as possible.
Before we get started, let’s talk about the benchmarks and the values you need to aim for. Taking into account Google’s latest data on mobile page loading speed and its effect on user behavior, web developers should target the following for each page:
With these metrics as targets, it’s easier to identify which areas of your need improvement and your immediate attention. It’s important to note that the first target on this list, your total page loading time, is the result of the cumulative efforts of achieving the three other goals. When you have this in mind, you can create strategies to improve your server’s speed, reduce bandwidth consumption, and offload on-page bloatware from your website.
Server issues depend on infrastructure, however, there’s only so much you can do to correct a slow server if you aren’t actively managing your own internally. Your best bet would be to invest in an excellent web hosting service that offers a low TTFB (time to first bite). By industry standards, 300-500ms is an acceptable TTFB, but, if you want to get a 100/100 PageSpeed Insights score, look for a service that offers 200ms or lower.
If your TTFB is above 500ms, it’s time to consider an upgrade. Hosting services don’t have the sole responsibility for server speed and site responsiveness, however; web developers can also implement new practices or new technology in an effort to try to reduce TTFB. Additionally, you can use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) or multi-server hosting arrangement to keep your latency periods and downtimes to a minimum.
Reduce the number of clicks users must navigate through to get to the page they want to see most. This will help keep your bandwidth consumption down, as well as improve your site’s overall user experience (UX).
If you don’t have a general audit schedule in place, it’s time to implement something on – at minimum – a quarterly basis. This audit of your website should search for pages you’ve moved, URLs you’ve recently modified, and any 404 or similar errors you receive when attempting to open a page.Correct these page errors and fix any broken pathways your audit finds to declutter your pipeline.
Minifying is the removal of unnecessary characters (i.e., comments, white spaces) and redundant data from your site’s source code. If you don’t need that line of text to execute a line of code, take it out and keep everything else as short as possible. Minified sites bundle redundant requests, making data transfer through the pipes more efficient.
Choose a web hosting service based in or near the regions you’re looking to target, especially if your target market is overseas. Keep in mind that distance is a factor in server and website speeds, and ultimately affects how your pages rank.
Your webpage’s weight is the sum of the size of all content elements on that page. The “heavier” a page is, the slower it loads. Consider that a 1.49MB web page takes seven seconds to load. If your website weight is around that value, the probability that a visitor will bounce from your website would be 106%, if not more. You need to bring your page loading speed down to at least three seconds to bring your bounce rate probability down to the average 32%. However, the ideal loading speed would be 1 second, and the best way to achieve that would be to reduce web page weight. Here’s are a few methods to try to reach this goal:
A high definition image can easily sit at 1.5MB, and even higher, in some circumstances. While visual appeal is always a goal with your website, it’s not worth sacrificing your page speed. There are other ways to feed your visitors’ eyes.
Rather than adding your video directly to your site, consider uploading your videos to YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, or any other video hosting platforms and then embed them onto your site. Most of these video hosting services are often free and using them will free up your server bandwidth for other content.
Rather than converting sections of text on your page into images, leave them as-is instead. It looks better (vector-based text images look less refined when users zoom-in pages), loads faster, and is incredibly useful for search engine optimization (SEO).
Avoid using a ton of different third-party fonts on your website. If your branding truly relies on the visual appeal of a certain font, consider using something from Google Fonts. It offers free fonts and gives load time estimates (fast, moderate, slow).
While minimalism is no longer the most popular word thrown around in website design conversations, it’s still faster and easier to deliver a few pieces of content than a hundred. If you follow the tips in the previous section, you can reduce your page weight significantly; and, if you reduce the pieces of content on top of that, you can reduce your page weight further.
Instead of uploading many images, put them together in a single image or sprite. This will keep your image at your larger, desired size, but will ensure that it’s smaller in terms of bytes, contributing to a healthier page weight and site speed score.
While the use of carousels have been popular since websites adopted the practice, consider settling for one banner to optimize your page’s text copy to convey your message effectively and succinctly to Google (for page ranking) and users (to encourage conversion).
In 2018, Hubspot reported that the average desktop page weight was 2080 KB, while mobile pages weighed 1885 KB. While it’s a great goal to aim for at or below this average weight in order to gain Google’s favor, it can be difficult to take on this challenge on your own.
At RefractROI, our expert digital marketing team has built, audited, and salvaged low-ranking websites for clients across a wide variety of industries. We’ve made it our business to master effective strategies to rank websites — including improving page loading speed. Learn more about how we can help improve your site speed score and more by contacting us to get started today.
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