No one likes a slow site.
In fact, Google states that 53% of mobile visitors will leave if your pages don’t load within three seconds.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you and your SEO agency can improve your website’s page speed, and bring you closer to your digital marketing goals.
Let’s take a look!
First, what exactly is page speed?
You might have heard of different terms such as Fully Loaded Page, Time to First Byte, and First Meaningful Paint / First Contextual Paint – these are all various ways to measure your page speed.
What’s the difference?
- Fully Loaded Page: The most straightforward method to measure page speed, this refers to the duration it takes to load all resources on a page.
- Time to First Byte: This refers to the duration before a page begins its loading process. If you’ve ever clicked on a link and stared at a blank screen, you’ve experienced TTFB.
- First Meaningful Paint / First Contextual Paint: A better representation of user interaction with a web page, this refers to the time it takes for a page to load enough meaningful or contextual content – so that a user can start reading or interacting with the page even before it’s fully loaded.
So, which of these is better?
To be honest, there’s no single “right” metric that’s better. Instead, what you should be doing is to improve your page speed across the various metrics.
Why is page speed important for SEO?
Page speed is one of the most important aspects when it comes to on-page SEO optimization.
If a visitor stays on your site, Google gets signals that your site is valuable – and that’s one of the factors that helps your site rank organically.
However, if your site takes a lot of time to load, the visitor will “bounce”.
“A bounce is a single-page session on your site. [This happens] when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits. Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page.”Source: Google
A high bounce rate signals to Google that your site does not provide a good user experience or is not valuable to visitors – resulting in poorer organic rankings.
Search engines are evolving
Search engines like Google keep getting smarter.
Google wants to provide the best possible search results to users, and sites that offer a poor user experience (e.g. slow page speed) do not help – in terms of maintaining its competitive edge and ad revenue potential.
After all, the more people use a search engine, the higher the ad revenue potential for the search engine.
If you need further proof about how important page speed is for SEO, check out Google’s official announcements below.
Page speed has been affecting organic rankings since 2010:
Google has further emphasized the importance of page speed in 2018:
So, is your site fast enough?
The best way to understand if your desktop site is fast enough is by running a Google PageSpeed Insights test.
When you enter the URL of the pages you want to check, Google will generate a report showing you:
- Your page speed score
- Problems causing pages to slow down
- Opportunities to make your pages faster
The closer your score is to 100, the better.
For instance, Appiloque has a score of 80, which is pretty decent but not perfect yet.
With page speed, there’s always room for optimization. That’s where the “Opportunities” provided by the tool comes in handy.
Next, it’s time to see how your mobile site fares with Google’s Test My Site – a more accurate and updated mobile site speed tester that Google has released.
This tool is going to show you how your mobile pages perform. It’s incredibly important as Google has shifted towards mobile-first indexing – which means that Google values your mobile site’s performance more than your desktop performance.
Just like the PageSpeed Insights test, Test My Site will generate an in-depth report with problems and solutions that you can fix yourself or engage an SEO agency for.
How can you improve your page speed?
Improving your Page Speed can be tedious, but it has to be done.
It’s also not as simple as doing it once and forgetting about it.
If you want your site to stay fast, you’ll have to routinely optimize it with the following practices:
1. Compress your images
A 15MB image takes a lot of time to load. And since browsers usually load images first, a slow-loading image means a slow-loading page.
You can counter this immediately. Simply compress your images before you upload them.
For WordPress sites, a plugin that is a hot favourite is WP Smush. We personally use it for our clients, and it’s great for compressing images in bulk.
2. Compress your code
If you want to improve your website’s page speed, it’s time to do some code housekeeping.
There’s nothing like bloated code to slow down your site and make your visitors flee.
This covers your website’s:
- Or any other code that it uses
If you’re no longer using certain features or plugins, be sure to remove them.
Additionally, if some features significantly slow down your page speed, consider removing them entirely.
For non-programmers, we recommend finding a web development agency with SEO experience that can help with this – or you’ll risk spending a ton of time trying to D-I-Y.
3. Set up browser caching
When you set up browser caching, your site loads much faster for repeat visitors.
The first time they visit your site, their browser will store the information about your site locally.
When they drop by the next time, your site will be up and running much faster because their browser retained the knowledge of your code.
One of the best ways to set up browser caching (which we personally do for our clients) is to edit the .htaccess file.
This configures how a web server responds to different requests, and is best edited by someone with programming knowledge.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
If you want to welcome international traffic to your website, a CDN is a great solution.
A CDN refers to a group of servers that are distributed geographically. It distributes content from servers that are geographically nearer to your website visitor, helping to speed up the delivery of Internet content.
For instance, if you only have servers in Singapore, your website will load slower for customers in Germany.
However, if you use a CDN, it’ll serve your content from servers in Europe, thus speeding up your pages.
5. Upgrade your hosting plan
Your page speed can also suffer because of your hosting plan. This is common for Shared Hosting, where you rent a tiny portion of a physical server.
With many websites sharing the same server, it only takes a few large websites (or websites receiving huge amounts of traffic) to consume too many resources – resulting in a lack of resources for your own site.
When that happens, your website page speed suffers. In fact, there’s even a chance where there’s a lack of bandwidth and people can’t load your site.
If you’ve optimized everything and your pages are still slow, it may be time to look for a Virtual Private Server (VPS).
You’ll get your own dedicated resources (CPU, RAM, storage, bandwidth). So, even if there’s a larger website, or a website that gets a ton of visitors on another VPS, you’re still guaranteed the resources that you pay for.
Alright! Those are the key things you can do to improve your page speed. Here’s a quick summary:
Speed(y) SEO services to bring you closer to your digital marketing goals
If you need help speeding up your site, drop us a message!
Let’s keep happy visitors on your site and improve those organic rankings 🙂