Increasing the Speed of a Website for Better SEO Results?
Why is it so important?
Seems like a strange thing to worry about, right? But the speed of a website affects every metric you care about.
Bounce rate. Search ranking. Conversion. Page views. Reader satisfaction. Even revenue (otherwise known as money in your bank account).
And just about every major retailer online has come to the same conclusion: increasing the speed of a website can increase conversions.
A slow site can impede your ability to rank well in the search engines, and also provides a frustrating user-experience.
What you need to know from an SEO standpoint is that a slow website can harm you.
First, speed of a website is one of Google’s ranking factors. First announced in 2010, it started to affect a small number of rankings at that point. We now know, the “time-to-first-byte” (TTFB) correlates highly with rankings.
TTFB is exactly what the name suggests: the amount of time needed for a browser to load the first byte of your web page’s data.
If that was the whole story, we’d only focus on improving TTFB. But there’s more.
As per the latest research done, 40% of people will close a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Further, 47% of polled consumers expect a page to load within 2 seconds.
Google may not take total page speed into account, but users do. Even if your TTFB is good, if it takes 3-4 seconds for your full page to load, many visitors will leave without waiting.
The worst part is that they’ll click the “back” button and choose a different search result.
This is known as “pogo-sticking,” and it’s one of the most important signs that a user isn’t satisfied.
Often called pogosticking, this refers to the behavior of users that click on a result, then “pogostick” back and forth between the search results and different websites, searching for satisfaction.
If it happens too often, your rankings will drop in favor of a competing search result that doesn’t have the same issues.
We know that faster websites are good, but page speed has two mechanisms by which to influence rankings:
1.) Directly: Google reps have stated that page speed has a direct impact on rankings for a certain percentage of queries (only 1% in 2010).
2.) Secondary: As page speed affects usage, it can have a secondary effect on user satisfaction. A frustrated user waiting too long for a page to load can often return to search results.
Google obsesses over speed, and scientists at Microsoft have shown that users will visit a site less often if it’s only 250 milliseconds slower than the competition.
Finally, while it isn’t a strictly SEO point, consider that just a one-second delay in speed of a website can cause conversions to drop by 7%. Even if speed of a website didn’t affect search rankings, you’d still want to optimize it.
Not all “speed of a website” problems are of equal importance: While there are hundreds of factors that affect speed of a website, some are much more common than others.
Zoompf analyzed the top 1,000 Alexa-ranked sites for site speed and found that the following four problems were the most common (in order from most to least):
1.) unoptimized images
2.) content served without HTTP compression
3.) too many CSS image requests (not using sprites)
4.) no caching information (expires header)
Unoptimized images were the clear winner, impacting 90% of the Alexa Top 1000.
In this context, we refer to unoptimized images as any image that can be reduced in size without visual impact to your user, also known as “lossless” optimization.
Images that are optimized using lossless methods are visually identical to their original images, just stripped of extraneous metadata that helps describe the image (useful to the designer, not needed for the end user).
Enabling HTTP compression on your webserver can dramatically reduce the size of the downloaded page, significantly improving load time.
This is a high impact change, but is not always as easy as it may seem.
Browsers make an individual HTTP request for every background image specified in your CSS pages.
It is not uncommon for over half of your total HTTP requests from a single web page to be used for loading background CSS images.
By combining related images into a small number of CSS sprites, you can significantly reduce the number of HTTP requests made during you.
HTTP Caching allows the browser to store a copy of an image for a period of time, preventing the browser from reloading the same image on subsequent page loads and thus dramatically increasing performance.
Keep in mind that the sites in that analysis were some of the best on the web. They fixed many basic problems that may affect you, especially if you use WordPress:
— excessive plugin use
— not using a CDN for static files
— a slow web host
Google Has The Need For Speed | Increasing the Speed of a Website
Image Source: Wikipedia
From Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, here’s a description of the tool:
At Google, we’re striving to make the whole web fast. As part of that effort, we’re launching a new web-based tool in Google Labs, Page Speed Online, which analyzes the performance of web pages and gives specific suggestions for making them faster. Page Speed Online is available from any browser, at any time. This allows website owners to get immediate access to Page Speed performance suggestions so they can make their pages faster.
Increasing the Speed of a Website Improves User Experience
Image Source: Wikipedia
Speed of a website will also improve the experience for visitors.
This should be common sense.
After all, how many times have you left a website because it was taking forever to load?
Don’t guess your “speed of a website” problems; diagnose!
There are a lot of great tools out there, but we always recommend starting with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Enter a URL, and let the tool do its thing.
Any score above 80 is decent. That being said, higher is better.
If you’d like a second opinion, use a tool such as GTmetrix.
Notice that some tools will give you different scores. That’s because they weigh problems differently.
The following are the two most important things you need to ensure: that (1) your page loads quickly (under 2 seconds) and (2) your page is as small as possible with the least number of requests.
The Google tool is the simplest and a good place to start.
It will give you the most important issues to fix (in red). Fix the orange ones if possible, but they don’t usually cause too much of a slowdown in your loading speed.
You should use other tool for more details: With GTmetrix as an example, you can click on the “waterfall” tab to see the exact amount of time each request took to fulfill.
Once you know what your problems are, fix them. Honestly, there is no way we can cover everything in this guide, but we’ll show you what to do if you have some common problems for increasing the speed of a website.
Start with your images: If you do nothing else, compress them.
Most types of images have unnecessary metadata that take up space, which can be deleted without causing any harm.
In addition, pick your file size carefully. JPEG files are usually smaller once compressed although not as high quality as PNG files. If possible, use vector images (SVG is the most popular format), which can scale to any dimension with no loss of quality.
Aside from optimized images, good web hosting and well-coded plugins, you have to make sure that you’re using proper caching.
For our setup, we use a plugin called W3 Total Cache.
W3 Total Cache is the fastest and most complete WordPress performance optimization plugin.
Here’s a few ways to increase the speed of your website in WordPress.
1. Choose a good host
2. Start with a solid framework/theme
3. Use an effective caching plugin like W3 Total Cache
4. Optimize images
Tools to Test and Improve the Speed of a Website
If you’re still having problems with site speed, or just curious to see how your page is doing in that area, there are plenty of free tools that can test the speed of a website. Here are ten tools that can test and help you improve the speed of a website.
1.) WebPage Test
This tool is supported by Google and allows you to run a free website speed test. It provides waterfall charts that break down content, check for Page Speed optimization, and make suggestions for improvements after receiving a page speed score out of 100.
This is a must-use tool from Google. Besides being easy-to-use, you’ll receive a page speed score out of 100 and analysis of both the desktop and mobile versions of your site. You get recommendations that are divided into high-, medium- or low-priority.
This is an essential plugin if you have WordPress for SEO purposes, plus it can also determine your load time across multiple browsers.
This was designed by Yahoo! and has some pretty neat features like grades determined by predefined rule set or a user-defined rule set, suggestions for improvement and summary of components of the page.
Probably the best feature about this tool is that it performs tests on browsers like Chrome, which better reflects real-world conditions. Another nice feature is that you can see how well your speed is measuring up to parameters set-up by Google Page Speed and Yslow.
Your speed will receive two speed page grades from GTMetrix and Yslow, plus a charted history of page load times, analysis page sizes, and request counts.
If you use WordPress, this is a plugin you shouldn’t miss. It examines which plugins are slowing down your site.
8.) Webpage Analyzer
Provides you with page size, composition, and download time. This tool also comes with a summary of page components with advice on how to improve page load time.
9.) Load Impact
Unlike the other tools we’ve listed, Load Impact simulates a scenario where your page is flooded with users. This simulation will determine the areas where your site cracks, as well as how to fix any problems before they happen.
Site speed remains a big deal: it remains one of the factors used by Google to determine your site’s ranking. It’s also important because the faster a page loads, the more satisfied your customers will be.
You don’t have to fix 100% of the problems that tools highlight, but be careful when you ignore one.
Just because one page may have a fast loading speed doesn’t mean that all your pages do.
We suggest testing at least 10 pages across your site, preferably the ones that are the longest or largest (with the most images usually).
To optimize your website properly, hire search engine optimization expert like echoinnovateIT.