Google are pushing their site speed tool, Google Page Speed, more and more in an effort to educate website owners on the importance of site speed, in particular for mobile users. It’s long been clear to anyone working in digital that this will have an effect on ranking on Google & User engagement.
Websites have become far more visual, many with large graphics and interactive features but these do slow the website down if they are not correctly optimised. If your website loads slowly your bounce rate will increase and visitors will spend less time on your website.
A faster website will increase your website’s conversation rate & give a better impression of your business. Think about how frustrating a slow website is and whether you’re likely to engage with that website.
Google’s aim has always been to provide the most relevant information with the best user experience. Anything you do for search marketing should bare this in mind. With the huge increase of mobile device usage Google have added a focus into making sure that people using a mobile device get a great experience on the sites it recommends and it even looks as though there is going to be a separate mobile index due imminently.
Why is site speed so important?
- Google clearly indicates this is a major ranking factor.
- Mobile only index is going to be created.
- User Experience, a slow website leaves a bad first impression and will put off users from engaging with your website.
Tools to monitor Page Speed
To educate and give a tool for website owners to use, Google created a tool called page speed insights which ranks both the Usability and the site speed of your website on a mobile device out of 100. If you’ve not tried your website yet, try it now at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
The results are broken down into Mobile & Desktop with two separate scores. As a very rough rule of thumb here are some targets we advise on achieving:
- <50 – Urgently look at website speed, you’re ranking is probably being negatively affected.
- 50 – 75 – Further optimisation is a good idea depending on the cost involved, some websites may require more work than others to achieve a higher score.
- 85 – Don’t worry too much about site speed, you are outperforming the average but stay aware.
The great thing about PageSpeed Insights is that it pretty much gives you a hit list of things to work on, and explains why. Some of those will be easier to fix than others, so pick your priorities.
Pingdom have a fantastic free tool that will also test the site speed, it goes a bit further than PageSpeed Insights in showing you the individual elements that make up the score. You can see where the bottleneck might be (e.g the Server the website is hosted on).
Create a backup of the website before you make any changes, some of these changes are major and without a backup it could be disastrous.
Top 5 Ways to Improve the Page Speed
- Optimise the images on your website, depending on the CMS there may well be a decent plugin to do most of the grunt work for you. Be careful when uploading large images as they can be slow to load If not compressed or used correctly. Couple of rules to bear in mind too is use the correct image format, on a website you normally use JPEG or PNG.
- If there is no transparency required save as a .JPEG
- If you need transparency use a PNG but watch the file size
- Update all your CMS & Plugins and make sure it’s hosted on a decent environment, you want a solid base for your website. If your website needs a lot of resources consider upgrading to your own virtual server which will have the added benefit of improved security
- Minify the code.
- Leverage Browser caching.
- Compress your resources (like html files) with GZIP to reduce the bytes sent over the network.
Naturally depending on the site issues there will be other things to speed up too, but those are our top 5 most important issues to address.
Case Study SEO results from site speed
Need further evidence into the importance of site speed on Google rankings? We recently completed a simple speed up for a local business. They came to use as PageSpeed had suggested it needed a speed up, the proposal was for us take over the website maintenance & fix the immediate issues and we would look into an ongoing campaign in the future.
The site is built in WordPress and has been built with some methods we would not use today, so we were limited in how far we could go with PageSpeed insights and couldn’t get the score as high as we would like.
Since I was already working on this article I decide to track a few keywords to see what difference site speed would make to them as a business. MOZ Domain Authority had the site on 24, and the competitors had no higher domain authority. All we changed on the site was site speed optimisation as per Google’s suggestions.
I have removed the keywords & rankings to hide the client’s identify but I think the results speak for themselves. (These rankings were achieved within 1 week with no further changes to the site).
||Moz Keyword Difficult Score
That’s a real world example of the difference simply having a faster running website can make to your business.
If you would like help with your website, please get in touch.