Search engine optimization, commonly shortened to SEO, is an umbrella term for the strategies and tactics website owners use to make sure their sites appeal to search engines. The more appealing a website is, and the closer to the first page of search results it gets, the more traffic the site gets. And the more traffic a site gets, the happier everyone who depends on that site as a source of income will be.
While there are dozens of factors that go into a page’s overall rank, there is one that website designers have been overlooking for a while; page speed. However, as the SEO landscape changes, page speed is becoming a bigger and bigger concern for websites that want to get, or maintain, a top slot in search results.
Why Does Page Speed Impact Your SEO?
Let’s back up a moment, and examine SEO as a process, first.
Search engines are, at their most basic, just digital machines. They don’t have subjective taste, so they can’t tell you which website is better looking, and they can’t tell you whether one video is funnier than another. As such, search engines rank websites based on objective factors. For example, which keywords does a site mention, and how often does it mention them? How many times has this website been backlinked by other websites? How often is this site visited? These are all factors that deal with pure numbers, and as such they’re the things that search engines look for.
This puts website owners/designers in a tough position. On the one hand, they want to create content that appeals directly to their visitors, but they also need to make sure they have all the red tape in place to keep the machines happy. Sometimes, though, there is something that search engine algorithms and flesh-and-blood visitors can agree on, and that is your page speed.
In short, the longer it takes your page to load, the less pleased search engines and visitors are going to be with it. In fact, if you have a truly slow load speed, you’re more likely to have users walk away while your page is still trying to display.
You Can Blame Google For This One (Though “Blame” Isn’t The Right Word)
If search engine optimization was a fashion style, then Google would be the designer who sets the standard for everyone on the runway. Google is so big, and so popular, that if Google makes a decision regarding SEO, then that decision is going to be the one people fall in line with. Because, as the most popular search engine, if you succeed on Google, then you’re doing pretty well as a website.
According to SEM Rush, Google first announced that page speed was being added as a factor in their SEO algorithm back in 2010. As with all new announcements regarding SEO changes, Google gave website owners and creators a buffer to implement the new factors into their overall design. However, even once that buffer passed, only a small number of websites were penalized for their page speed. The number is less than 1 percent, and those were only websites who had truly slow page speeds.
How Much Does Your Page Speed Really Matter?
In terms of SEO, your page speed is not your top priority. As long as your website loads at an acceptable rate that’s comparable with other websites, your page rank will be more affected by the keywords you choose to use, your traffic, your backlinks, and other factors that are higher up on the priority list when it comes to search engine optimization.
With that said, page speed matters quite a lot when it comes to the opinions of your users.
Most SEO takes place behind the scenes. Like a set for a TV show, if viewers don’t notice anything wrong, that’s how you know the website is well-built. Page speed, though, is something that viewers immediately see, and which they will make a split-second decision on. If there’s a problem with a slow speed, that decision might be to hit refresh, but it’s much more likely that viewers will just hit back, and try to find a faster page that gives them the information they’re looking for.
How big of a deal is page speed to users? Well, if you’re looking for hard numbers, for every 1 second of load time there’s a 2 percent increase in conversions among websites like Amazon and Ebay, who focus on sales. For every 100 ms of improvement, the sites increased incremental revenue by 1 percent. So, clearly, even a small drop in your page’s load time can have a big impact on how much money winds up in your pocket at the end of the day.
Some Simple Ways To Speed Up Your Page
If you’re really concerned about your page’s speed, it’s important to strip away anything you don’t need in order to shave as many seconds off your load time as possible. For example, you could:
– Remove Unnecessary Ads: Ad revenue is good, but too many ads drag down your page speed.
– Trim Your Widgets: While the functions of these buttons is useful, try and limit how many of them you put on your page.
– Lighten Your Images: High-definition images take a lot of time to fill in… if lower-definition images work, and you lose nothing, swap a few of them in.
– Streamline Your Code: Dense code can take a long time for a page to work through. Streamline it and simplify it in order to get your page loaded faster.
If you’re looking for more information on why your page speed matters to your search engine optimization efforts, and for advice on how to speed up your loading time, simply contact us today!