Business owners who want to improve their Google search rankings often need to take a deep dive into their websites and make several changes to improve it based on the search engine’s requirements.
A common issue that may lower your search rankings is the website speed. Simply put, if your site has a long loading time, it’s very unlikely for Google and other search engines to give it a good position in the SERPs. But why is a slow site the bane of a marketer’s existence, and what does it have to do with SEO?
Site Speed and SEO Are Highly Intertwined
Google made a formal announcement back in 2018 that site speed will be a factor for Google Search and Ad rankings for mobile searches. And we could pretty much end the article here because there is really no point in trying to go around a criterion that Google publicly announces it really cares about.
But does this mean only mobile sites need to be fast? Can desktop versions take a bit more time to load? Not exactly.
Page loading speed ties in with user experience, something every single search engine out there cares about. Simply put, people don’t like waiting a lot of time for their page to load. Google found that 53% of mobile users abandon a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
On a mobile device, users have the least amount of patience. But things aren’t much different on desktop sites. The BBC found they lost around 10% of users for every extra second their website took to load. It’s very clear that the vast majority of internet users want their pages to be fully loaded almost instantly, and anything that takes too long is considered not worth their time.
Okay, But Why Should Search Engines Care?
Google and search engines do anything they can to make sure users can type in a query and get thousands of results within microseconds. But why would they care about the page load times? The page itself is not a Google property, so the search engine’s reputation isn’t affected at all.
Except it is. Google provides users with an amazing (and free) service of answering people’s most burning questions. To ensure that users keep coming back to use the search engine, it needs to make sure that the search rankings match people’s expectations.
Why do people keep turning to Google? Because it’s:
- The results are relevant to the user query
- You can use it from a mobile device
- The websites are functional, trustworthy, etc.
Now think about an alternative universe where you’d go search for something in a search engine, and the top result would be a slow site, with a terrible design, that doesn’t even match what you initially looked for. Would you ever use that sort of search engine again? Probably not.
So because of all of this, improving your site speed should be a very big priority.
How Do You Know If Your Site Speed Needs Work?
Google rankings are complex, and just the fact that your site is not yet on the first page of the results doesn’t mean it’s a website speed issue. It could very well be a plethora of other reasons such as:
- Poor design
- Low-quality content
- Complicated website navigation
- Improper page structure
- Targeting the wrong keywords, etc.
There are some signs that could suggest your website speed needs some work, and you can find them in your Google Analytics data:
- High bounce rate – the bounce rate refers to the rate of users who close the page quickly after clicking on a link. If the page is slow loading, it’s likely it will have a high bounce rate since the user will not wait until all the elements show up.
- Low conversion rate – if they take a few extra seconds for the page to load (if you’re really lucky, that is), then their patience is already wearing thin, and will most likely abandon their action quickly after. For instance, if a user clicks on a product page, wait 3 seconds for it to load, they are already in the wrong mindset. Say they click on the add to cart button, and encounter the same problem; most of them will abandon the process and move on. Low conversion rates are very common on a slow site.
- Low ad performance – it’s not just organic traffic that’s affected by site speed. Ads often don’t perform well when the landing page loads slowly either.
- Site speed reports – Google Analytics will track the speed at which your pages load, and even offer suggestions for optimisation.
Additionally, you can opt for several speed testing tools that may provide more insights into your site’s performance.
You can go on Google’s PageSpeed Insights service and copy page your URL. The speed test will provide separate reports of mobile speed and desktop speed, as well as suggestions on how to improve. If you don’t want to take Google’s word for it, you have several different free tools available, such as GTmetrix or Pingdom that provide a similar solution.
How Do You Improve Website Speed?
To improve how fast your site loads, you likely have to get into the technical aspects of your website. There could be several different reasons why your site takes ages to load, but on most websites, the issues are due to not making website speed a priority.
Some fixes for a slow website could include:
- Optimising image sizes – compressing images lowers their size (in MB terms) without affecting quality. Lighter images load much faster;
- Reducing server response time – a slow DNS (domain name system) makes it harder for browsers to locate your site. If you have this issue, you may need to look for another DNS provider;
- Choose a better hosting option – most new websites tend to go for the cheapest hosting available. This is fine for a while, but as your traffic grows that cheaper hosting may not be able to accommodate the higher influx of users;
- Enable browser caching – this allows web browsers to download and store certain elements of a web page, so when the user visits the page again, the browser takes over part of the process;
- Use external hosting platforms – if you want your page to have videos, you don’t need to store them yourself. You can upload videos on YouTube, for instance, and embed it to your site. Videos are very large files that really pull your site speed down;
- Reduce plugins – websites usually need a lot of plugins to get extra features, but it’s easy to gather too many.
A fast site may not be the sole way to get a good Google ranking, but it certainly helps move things along. If you need additional support with your website SEO, book a free 30-minute strategy session with our Search Engine Optimisation Expert at Australian Internet Advertising now to get started.