When Google announced that page speed was officially a landing page ranking factor back in 2018, marketers knew the game was changing. From then, it wasn’t just about making sure your content was relevant to the search queries or having pretty website designs to greet the users anymore. Quality was also reflected in this very big technical component.
Improving your load speed is synonymous with improving your website, and not just because Google takes it into account when indexing its search engine results. Consumers value website speed a lot too. Around 1 in 4 visitors will abandon a site if it takes longer than 4 seconds to load, and 46% of visitors don’t bother coming back to a site that has underperformed in this department.
And slow pages have a huge effect, which you can likely notice in other metrics as well, from the higher bounce rate as users quickly leave the slow-loading site, to a poor conversion rate, and more.
So business owners and marketers now test the website speed religiously, and Google even offers its own free tool to do it: the PageSpeed Insights tool.
But, if the score comes back less than optimal, some might have difficulties understanding what needs to be changed to improve the speed score.
So, why does your website speed fail to improve, even after you’ve maybe made some changes on your site and improved its SEO?
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Understanding Page Speed
Page speed refers to “page load time,” which is the time it takes for a specific page to fully display its content. It is different from website speed, which is the average speed throughout your entire site.
But when you’re trying to optimise a particular landing page, for instance, it pays to single out that page from the rest of your site. You can have a generally good website speed on average, but a specific page you’re betting more of your resources on could have some bigger problems in this department.
The PageSpeed Insights tool lets you test your page speed on both desktop and mobile devices, and provides certain suggestions on how you can improve your site. It’s as simple as copy-pasting a URL in the tool and clicking on ‘Analyse’, and the tool will then offer a score out of 100 for the URL you’ve tested.
It will also show how your page is in comparison to other pages in the Chrome User Experience Report, which is a measurement of key real user metrics like page speed.
Your speed score will likely be different on mobile versus desktop, but it’s a good idea to see just how much. Mobile is a huge ranking factor, and even if on desktop you have a higher score, if your mobile page load time is underwhelming, it can affect your overall SEO performance.
How Do You Score 100 in the PageSpeed Tool?
Having a 100-speed score in the tool shouldn’t necessarily be a priority. While it’s always good to improve your site, the speed isn’t the make-all-break all ranking factor that will dictate your site’s success.
The real benefits of this free tool aren’t the speed score itself, but the recommendations it can offer to optimise your site speeds and other technical aspects of your site for an enhanced user experience.
Because remember, the PageSpeeds tool doesn’t even analyse the site speeds, just one particular page you’re adding in the tool. This can be great to quickly test out a landing page before you add it to a campaign, such as a Google Ads campaign, but it doesn’t say much about your overall website performance.
But what Google recommends in the PageSpeed tool is applicable across your entire website. Below, let’s look at some of the most common changes your website needs to go through to have a much better page loading time.
1. Use a Content Delivery Network
CDNs, or Content Delivery Networks, are a network of servers distributed all around the world, and working together to deliver your content. Because the servers within a CDN are so geographically-varied, you always have one closer to any users who access your website.
If you only had servers in Australia, a user trying to access your site from a different country, for instance, could experience a much longer page load time, simply because they are not located near a server.
CDNs also use compression tactics, such as file compression, to increase content availability even more, and are less likely to go offline because of hardware malfunction. It’s a great solution especially for websites with a lot of content.
2. Optimise Images
If your website has a lot of images, make sure they don’t slow your site down. To optimise your images, you can use a file compressor which would cut down on the file size and make it more appropriate for the web, while keeping the quality of the image itself.
Also, be sure to choose the right format. PNGs are best for graphics that have no more than 16 colours, while photographs of people or landscapes are better saved in JPEG format.
3. Implement Lazy Loading
Sometimes, image compression might not cut it, especially if you have high-resolution images which can seriously increase the page weights. You could add lazy loading, where only parts of the web page are loading at a time, specifically the section the viewer is looking at during a particular moment.
The next loading process occurs when the user scrolls down, which gives your site plenty of time to show the user your content.
Lazy loading is especially great for ‘infinite scrolling’ sites with a lot of content.
4. Reduce the Number of HTTP Requests
Here’s what happens when a user goes on your site:
- The browser sends a request to your web server (which hosts the web page;)
- The server sends over a file with all the content associated with that webpage. It can have text, images, and other elements;
- Once the browser receives the file, it starts to render your web page on the person’s device;
- If there is more content on your web page that was not received, the browser sends another HTTP request
The more requests the browser has to send, the more it will take your page to load. Ideally, you should remove or reduce the number of HTTP requests needed to load your site, and optimising images should take care of some of that problem. However, you also might want to:
- Reduce the number of plugins (open source or otherwise) on your site, sticking strictly to what you need;
- Remove the images your site doesn’t need;
- Use system fonts when possible (custom fonts need more time to load);
- Remove or reduce third-party HTTP requests.
5. Improve Your Server Response Time
Your server response time can be affected by:
- The amount of traffic your site receives;
- The software your servers uses;
- Your hosting solution;
- The resources each page requires to fully load;
It refers to the amount of time it takes for the web browser to receive a request, and you can greatly improve it by:
- Checking your hosting – if you have loads of traffic coming to your site, make sure your hosting solution can manage it;
- Looking at the web server settings – each site has different needs in terms of web servers, so if yours is set up with its default settings, you could be experiencing some site speed issues;
- Reduce page weight – make sure your website only contains the element it needs for optimal page weight. Additionally, all elements on it (such as pictures and multimedia resources) must be compressed for the web.
PageSpeed Is Only a Fraction of SEO
Page load time matters a lot, but focusing only on this ranking factor won’t do you much good in the long-run. A comprehensive SEO strategy focuses on a lot more than just the website speed and is designed with your business goals in mind.
If you’re looking for an SEO partner who can help you reach your business goals, contact Australian Internet Advertising online, or call us at 1300 304 640.