Website Speed Is An SEO Ranking Factor

14 April 2021

Google has been incredibly proactive when it comes to warning the public of its May 2021 core algorithm update which will include a key “page experience” factor. This page experience ranking factor includes all aspects of how users will engage with your website.  

Ultimately, this aspect of your SEO strategy includes how users interact with a web page and how their experience is evaluated. It also includes factors such as:

  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Intrusive interstitial guidelines
  • Existing Google Search signals
  • Secure browsing capabilities like HTTPS and SSL
  • Metrics in Google’s Search Console Web Vitals

The three most important SEO ranking factors 

Currently, the focus is on three primary categories: loading, interactivity, and visual stability

Not sure what this means? 

(LCP) Loading, in this context, measures perceived load speed. That’s the point in the page load timeline where the main content is likely to have loaded.

(FID) Interactivity refers to when a user first interacts with a page – via a click or a tap, for example –  to the time when the browser begins processing that interaction.

Finally, (CLS) Visual stability refers to preventing annoying and unexpected movement of page content.

When our SEO team became aware that site speed and page experience were becoming such large ranking factors, we decided to develop a process that optimised our own website for speed. However, we wanted something that would allow us to provide customers with an exceptional on-page experience.  

As you can see from the screenshot below, our website was not optimised well for load times across desktop or mobile. 

Digital Eagles Mobile Site

Digital Eagles Desktop Site 

If you haven't tested to see how your website currently rates for mobile and desktop speed, you can check it on Google Developer Tools. This is crucial for understanding how the rate of your load times could be impacting your SEO and user experience.

If your site is not performing well from a speed perspective, now is the time to take action. Why? Well, there’s two main reasons:

  1. User Experience 
  2. Google Search Rankings 

Google research now suggests that pages that take longer to load will result in bounce rates that increase exponentially. Once your website reaches that six second mark, your bounce rate will double. Over 10 seconds and you can expect triple.  

If you had to guess, what do you feel your page load time would be? Three, six or 10 seconds?

On average, websites are currently taking around 10 seconds to load – according to Backlinko. It’s likely your site is turning customers away at a rapid rate. 

What can you do to help fix these issues? 

Mobile-first

Did you know that the average website takes 89% longer to load on a mobile device? This is predominantly due to the fact that most businesses don’t have a mobile web strategy. Mobile content should be shorter, to the point and more punchy than the desktop version of the website. Our recommendation is that you work with your developer or a web development agency to audit your site and produce an optimisation strategy that will help to get your page loading on mobile within three seconds. If it’s on desktop, that should be under two seconds. 

Here are a few things we altered to fix our own website’s performance:

  • Hosting: we moved our website hosting to a dedicated managed server. 
  • Tried different caching plugins: Autoptimize, NitroPack, WP Rocket, LiteSpeed, HummingBird Pro plugins.
  • Tested different image optimisation plugins: Imagify, Lazy Load, Tiny Png and WebP Express.

Conclusion

  • People won’t wait 10 seconds for your site to load when they can click back to Google and select the next result. It’s likely that the next result could be a competitor.
  • Google is all about providing a good user experience. So if your site is too slow, and those search crawlers see people bouncing, you will drop in the SERPs. 
  • It’s paramount that you score high on Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Speed should be towards the top of your list when trying to increase experience and search rankings. 

To get started, you first need to diagnose what issues are plaguing your site. Is it images, the page elements, too much text, bad coding, or all of the above?

Here’s a few handy tips to get you started:

  • Images are going to be the bulk of your work. Start by compressing and optimising your images with a plugin or website image compressor. 
  • Use a plugin to leverage browser caching. You can find plugins that help your site load much faster and use fewer server-based requests.
  • Then, consider minifying your coding. This step will help you remove any unnecessary coding that slows down your site.
  • Pro tip: Try implementing AMP to make your pages load instantaneously.

By using these are proven tools you can stay one step ahead of your competition.

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