Site speed is essential to SEO. In fact, according to Google themselves, it’s one of the major ranking factors for the SERPs.
You’ve heard it over and over, but do you really understand:
- Why site speed matters?
- How you can increase your site speed?
Fortunately, this guide is here to help! You’ll learn everything you need to know about site speed optimization. Read on to find in-depth information on why your site needs to be speedy and a handy checklist to supercharge your site’s loading speed.
Understanding Site Speed
Speed refers to how quickly a web page becomes accessible to users. Generally, “page speed” is used to refer to how quickly a page on a site loads, while “site speed” refers to the average load speed of the entire website.
Just about everything on a web page affects its speed. Whether it’s the HTML code, CSS, images, videos, or any other elements, it will have an impact on its overall site speed. Speed is also measured differently on desktop computers and mobile devices.
Measuring Site Speed
When you measure site speed, you need to measure the speed of your entire site. This means you can’t get good site speed scores by just making your homepage load fast while your other pages suffer from long load times.
There are several tools you can use to measure your site speed. Here are some of the most popular ones:
This is one of the best-known free website speed testing tools on the market. In addition to being easy to use, Pingdom breaks down your speed performance rating into several criteria that you can quickly analyse and create action items from.
Google Pagespeed Insights
Google’s speed testing service is a powerful tool to analyse your site speed. This tool gives you insights and quick action items that you can immediately implement to improve your site speed. Mobile site builders will benefit from its additional UX suggestions.
Your Google Analytics dashboard can give you an on-demand report on page load time, interaction load time, and document parsing time. You’ll also get a rating from 1 to 100, plus action items to improve your site speed.
Important Site Speed Metrics
There’s more to measuring site speed than simply counting how many seconds your site needs to fully load. This metric is made up of several smaller metrics, such as:
- Fully loaded page: This measures how long a page takes to fully load and show all of its elements.
- Time to first byte: This measures how long it takes from your first click on the link to the site starting to load its elements.
- First contentful paint: The time it takes for your page to load enough information for a user to read its content.
- Largest contentful paint: Measures the time it takes for the part of your page above the fold to finish rendering. To the user, this means they see your page as having finished loading.
- Cumulative layout shift: This represents the stability of your page layout during its loading process. If your page elements move around a lot while loading, then your cumulative layout shift score will be poor.
Why Is Site Speed Important?
Site speed matters because faster loading times generally equal better on-page user experience. Users tend to click away and leave a website if it takes too long to load – the exact opposite of what SEO is looking to do.
Google itself began using site speed as one of its ranking metrics in 2010. It then doubled down on this importance in 2017, announcing that mobile site speed would be part of its mobile-first web page rankings.
Fast page load times alone don’t guarantee you a spot on the top SERPs. Even if your page loads fast, you still need good on-page SEO to support it. Concentrating on speed alone without any attention to your content will generally result in your page landing far from the top rankings.
However, with that in mind, it can spell the difference between you and another competitor with good content.
Deadly Mistakes That Cause Slow Websites
While site speed isn’t everything you need to top the search results, having a website that loads fast does help. To build a fast website, you need to learn where others have failed. Below are four common things that kill website performance:
Choosing Bad Web Hosting Services
With all the competing web hosting services these days, it can be hard to separate which ones offer great performance and which ones are looking for a quick buck with no intention of delivering quality hosting services.
Mediocre web hosting services can cause your site speed to plummet before it even begins. They’re especially prone to overloading from sudden traffic spikes, frequently crashing and harming your website uptime.
Installing Too Many Widgets And Plugins
Widgets and plugins can add new functionality to your websites. For instance, a Facebook widget can help your users see your Facebook updates and like your profile without having to visit the page itself.
However, too many plugins can negatively impact your page weight and make your website slow to load. When choosing widgets and plugins, stick to the mantra of functionality over quantity.
Placing Too Many Ads
Selling ad space on your website can be an appealing way to make money on the site. However, like widgets and plugins, advertising increases your page weight and makes your pages slower to load. Users don’t like pages that load slowly, and they don’t like slow-loading pages inundated with advertisements even more. While you’re still getting ad revenue, it may not be worth the high bounce rates caused by your slow load times.
Placing Too Much Multimedia Content
Multimedia content like images and videos help convey information better and make your website more fun to visit. However, a page that’s loaded with high-resolution images and videos tend to load slower. This may cause users to click off the page before they even see your beautiful images or videos!
How Optimising site speed Impacts Your Website
Optimising your site speed impacts many things, not just your SEO. Here are two ways that your efforts to improve site speed can positively influence your site:
Increase Site Reliability
Your website’s reliability and uptime are essential. Your site being down means that your site has zero speed, so making sure your site has minimal downtime is a part of site speed optimisation.
As a rule of thumb, good hosting equals better uptime and speed, which usually leads to better SEO. You’re likely to see your rankings and traffic improve if you move from a bad host to a good one because:
- Users are more likely to access your page successfully.
- Google can crawl and index your website easily.
You can improve your site’s reliability and uptime with these steps:
- Pick a reliable hosting service: Find a hosting service that promises at least 99.9% uptime and good customer service.
- Get enough server capacity: It makes sense to pay only for the server capacity you need. However, you may want to buy some extra server capacity so your site has room to grow its traffic. It could also protect your site from going down in case your content goes viral and you get a deluge of visitors.
- Keep a close eye on your site: Even if a hosting service promises 99.9% uptime, there’s still a 0.01% chance that your site may go down. You need to be on top of your site’s status at all times rather than find out from angry users. Use uptime monitoring tools so you’ll be the first to know when your site goes down.
Trim Your Page Weight
Page sizes matter, especially when we’re talking about site speed. Larger page sizes take more time to load, which hurts your overall site speed. Moreover, larger page sizes typically cost you more on hosting since you’re using more of the hosting company’s bandwidth.
Your page weight is especially important if you’re looking to place well in mobile web rankings. Since mobile devices are often connected to networks that have slower load times compared to desktop computers, page weight carries even more importance.
You can cut down on excess page weight with these tips:
- Optimise your images: Images are essential to creating visually appealing websites, but they can take up valuable bandwidth and cause your pages to load slower. Consider compressing your images before uploading – try to shrink images to under 500kb.
- Use custom fonts sparingly: While custom fonts can add a unique flair to your website, they tend to add extra weight to your pages. You don’t have to eliminate all the custom fonts from your site, but consider using them only for important headers or information.
- Minimise video content: While videos are useful in conveying information, they also add weight to your pages. Consider uploading your videos to Youtube then embedding them onto your pages instead of uploading them directly to trim some weight.
Site Speed Optimization Checklist
Now that you’ve learned what site speed is and how it affects your website, you’re ready to learn how to take your site speed up a notch. This quick checklist helps you easily keep track of the tasks you’ve already completed and the tasks you still need to accomplish.
Here are some actionable items to improve your site speed:
- Choose a hosting service close to your target market: To minimise latency, you need to pick a hosting service that’s close to your target market. If you don’t know where most of your target audience is yet, take a look at your user demographics and pick a hosting service from that area.
- Use HTTPS: HTTPS is a secure standard protocol that’s required for all websites. It isn’t only essential for security and SEO – HTTPS-enabled pages can take advantage of a browser’s HTTP2 protocol to make page loading faster.
- Use caching: A website cache is stored on the user’s end and helps them load the page faster the next time they visit. If you have a page that someone may visit repeatedly like a blog or an online shop, having a cache can make sites load faster for repeat visitors.
- Set up a Content Delivery Network (CDN): A content delivery network redirects user requests to a server closest to them. This means that wherever they are in the world, your page’s content will likely load faster compared to sites without a CDN.
- Put up a firewall: A firewall monitors and blocks any malicious traffic that tries to get into your page. This helps you filter out real users from garbage visitors that tend to clog up your website and slow down your load times.
- Prioritise loading above-the-fold content: Lazy loading plugins ensure the content at the top of the page loads first, so users can read what’s at the top of your page while the rest loads.
- Optimise for mobile devices: Mobile devices tend to be slower compared to computers, so apply responsive web design to build separate desktop and mobile versions of your page.
Having a site that loads fast helps your SEO and makes your users more likely to stay on. You can improve your site speed in many ways, ranging from choosing the best hosting service to minifying your code.
However, site speed isn’t everything. If you’re planning to rank high on the SERPs and attract more visitors, you need to make sure other areas of your SEO also perform well.