How Does Page Speed Affect Search Ranking & Performance

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The speed of a webpage remains crucial no matter how far we progress in the digital age.

In fact, it’s hard to escape the constant reminders from SEO experts and search engines themselves that optimizing for speed is a critical component of website success.

And it’s no wonder why – page speed has a significant impact on SEO. From affecting user experience to influencing search engine rankings, a slow-loading website can have damaging consequences. That’s why understanding the relationship between page speed and SEO is essential for online success.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into how they work together and why prioritizing page speed is more critical than ever.

What is Page Speed?

Page speed refers to the duration in which a page displays its content on a user’s browser. Slow loading times can lead to user frustration and ultimately affect their perception of your website. It’s, therefore crucial to ensure your website’s speed is optimized to provide users with a satisfactory experience.

But what are the factors that contribute to a page’s loading speed? Well, it’s not just one thing – server speed, file size, and image compression all play a role in determining how quickly a page loads.

That being said, measuring page speed is a complex process with different methods and metrics.

Three of the most common are listed here:

First Contextual Paint, also known as First Meaningful Paint (FMP), is the time that it takes for a web page to load enough of its resources, such as text and images, for a user to be able to comprehend the content on that page.

For instance, you’re browsing an e-commerce website with many product images and descriptions that take 10 seconds to load entirely. While the time taken for the entire page to load might seem too long, focusing on the First Meaningful Paint can provide a better representation of how users interact with the page as it loads.

In the example of the web page that takes 10 seconds to load, a user would experience a First Meaningful Paint after just 1.5 seconds. This means that the user can start interacting with the page almost instantly, despite the time taken for the entire page to load. From the user’s perspective, this would make the page seem fast.

Onload time refers to the time it takes for all the elements or resources present on a webpage to load entirely.

Time to First Byte is the metric that determines the duration it takes for a webpage to begin loading. If you have accessed a page and had to wait for a few seconds on a blank screen, that is the TTFB in operation.

How Important Is Page Speed for SEO?

Optimizing your website for organic search involves creating top-notch content around relevant keywords, but this isn’t enough.

What good is excellent content if it takes forever to load, and users leave before they see it? To rank at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), both quality content and fast page load times are essential.

According to Google, a page’s load time must be between 1 to 3 seconds to keep the bounce rate low. After this timeframe, users are more likely to abandon your website without even seeing your content.

How Long Loading Time Affects Crawlers?

This is how Google actually looks at SEO:

  1. First, Googlebot crawls the web to identify and index content.
  2. Next, Google examines these pages to determine which ones are correctly optimized for search and adds them to its index.
  3. Finally, when someone enters a search query, Google returns what it identifies as the most relevant results based on its extensive analysis.

However, if your website takes too long to load, Googlebot may simply skip over your pages and move on to the next one in its queue. This can affect yourcrawl rate and crawl budget, limiting how frequently Google crawls your website. In contrast, fast-loading pages allow Google crawlers to visit your website more often and accomplish more in less time.

This highlights the importance of page speed in relation to SEO.

Importance of Fast Loading Sites

Now that we’ve discussed the relationship between page speed and SEO, let’s dive deeper into the importance of fast loading sites.

Sites that load quickly have higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates

Nowadays, people want it all in a flash and if your site can’t give that to them, they’re on their way. Studies show websites with long page load times suffer from higher bounce rates and don’t convert as much traffic into customers. If you gotta keep them hooked, speed is key!

Google’s research revealed that as page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, the likelihood of a visitor leaving the page without interacting increases by 32%.

Furthermore, as the page load time increases from 1 second to 5 seconds, the likelihood of a visitor leaving the page without interacting increases to a staggering 90%.

Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that your website loads quickly, especially if you operate in a highly competitive niche. Slow-loading sites not only result in lost revenue, but they also damage brand loyalty. Visitors won’t hesitate to hit the back button if your website takes too long to load, and they may never return.

On the other hand, by offering a fast-loading site, you can keep visitors engaged for longer and streamline their checkout process, leading to improved conversion rates and increased brand trust and loyalty.

Nobody wants to waste time waiting for a page to load or deal with a frustrating user experience, so it’s essential to prioritize speed and efficiency.

Fast Sites = Happier Visitors

The speed at which a webpage loads is crucial for providing a positive user experience. When users have to wait for content to load or face difficulties interacting with the webpage due to delays, it creates a sense of friction that can result in a negative impact on user satisfaction and loyalty.

By enhancing the loading speed of your website, you can ensure that visitors are happy, leading to increased purchases and more frequent visits. This improves your website’s quality and makes it a preferred search result for Google, ultimately resulting in higher rankings.

Google Demands Speedy Websites

Google values fast websites just as much as visitors do. Slow sites are often trapped down by inefficient processes and outdated technologies that consume more resources and bandwidth, costing Google more money in the process.

Every millisecond and byte count, and even the smallest changes to your website’s configuration or code, can make a significant difference in its speed. Google knows this and is always pushing for faster sites to improve user experience and reduce operating costs.

So if you want to improve the performance of your website and climb up the search engine rankings, speed should be at the top of your priority list. After all, a faster web is a better web for everyone!

Page Speed As A Ranking Factor

Google has made it clear that website speed is a crucial ranking factor. In fact, since 2010, Google has been measuring the speed of websites and using it in their ranking algorithms. A slow website can negatively impact user experience, leading to high bounce rates and low engagement. Google knows this and wants to provide its users with the best possible experience, which is why website speed is so important.

In 2018, Google launched the “Speed Update,” which made page speed a critical ranking factor for mobile searches.

In 2021, Google announced the page experience algorithm update, which focuses on the relationship between page speed and user experience.

While creating high-quality content remains the most crucial factor in ranking, page experience signals become more important when multiple pages with similar content compete for visibility in search results.

Google wants to provide searchers with the most relevant information, but website speed remains a significant factor in determining your website’s visibility.

How Core Web Vitals Affect Page Speed?

Google’s Core Web Vitals is a set of metrics that measure the user experience of a webpage. Google’s set of metrics evaluates user experience based on webpage speed, interactivity, and visual stability.

The three metrics that comprise Core Web Vitals are:

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how fast your main content loads. Ideally, it should take 2.5 seconds or less. If your website takes longer, visitors are more likely to bounce off to another site.

2. First Input Delay (FID) measures the time it takes for a user to interact with your website. A delay of more than 100 milliseconds can lead to frustration and a poor user experience.

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how often the layout of your website shifts unexpectedly. An example of a layout shift that would contribute to a high CLS score occurs when a user is reading a page, and banner loads, causing the page to jump down, causing confusion and a disruption in the visitor’s experience.

To provide an optimal user experience, your CLS score should be 0.1 or less.

When assessing the performance of a webpage, it’s essential to keep these Core Web Vitals in mind, as they could mean the difference between a great user experience or a frustrating one.

Google categorizes your website’s Core Web Vitals into three groups: “Good,” “Needs Improvement,” and “Poor.”

You can check your website’s Core Web Vitals scores in the Google Search Console.

Google has made it clear that their page speed updates will only impact pages that provide the slowest user experience. However, it’s still a good idea to aim for the“Good” threshold to provide an exceptional user experience to your visitors.

Factors That Affect Your Page Speed

There are numerous factors that can impact the loading speed of a webpage, and you may already be aware of some of them. However, one factor that is beyond your control is the quality of your end user’s internet connection. Apart from this, there are other elements that can affect your page speed, such as: 

Bad Hosting Service

The hosting service you select is significant for your website’s performance as it is responsible for providing the server where your site resides. The efficiency of their server has a direct impact on how well your website functions.

The quality of your host’s performance is influenced by several factors, such as server configurations, uptime, facilities, and specifications of the machines operating the servers. Opting for a dependable and effective hosting service ensures that your web server can promptly handle all requests and activities on your website.

Poorly Written Code

Not all website developers possess the ability to write code that is efficient. Consequently, some websites are developed with extensive code blocks that only serve limited purposes. This can lead to poorly coded websites that also have slow loading times.

Improve the quality of your code by tidying it up, removing errors, and eliminating unnecessary lines that do not contribute any significant value.

Too Many Plugins And Widgets

If you run a WordPress website, you probably have some cool plugins and widgets that make it better. Plugins are like magic spells that can do almost anything for your site. However, if you overuse them, your website’s speed can slow down.

That’s because every plugin you add is like a backpack with extra weight, making your site heavier and harder to carry. And if you use plugins that haven’t been optimized, it’s like taking a huge rock on your back, making your website slow. 

Heavy CSS and JavaScript Use

When it comes to your website, the size of different types of files like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript can affect how well your page performs. Even shaving off a few bytes or kilobytes can make a difference.

JavaScript is particularly important for adding dynamic elements like cool animations to your site, but if you go overboard with it, your page can become slow and heavy. This is especially a problem for mobile devices, which don’t have as much processing power as desktop computers.

So, you might end up with a low score for FID (First Input Delay) on Core Web Vitals, which means it takes longer for your page to process JavaScript files and respond to user inputs.

Absence of a CDN

CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. It is a network of servers and data centers distributed globally that can store your website’s static content, such as images and CSS files.

This approach allows for faster and more efficient delivery of your website to visitors, particularly those geographically distant from your server. Without a CDN, your website may suffer from slower loading times and reduced functionality, especially if your audience is in different parts of the world.

Tools to Check Your Website Speed

To ensure your website is performing at its best, having a benchmark is key. There are many tools available for testing the speed of your website and detecting any issues that need to be addressed. Here are the most popular ones:

1. Google PageSpeed Insights Is a highly effective Google’s own page speed testing tool that offers real user metrics for your website. When you run the test it will  provide a score out of 100 for both desktop and mobile versions of the page.

2. WebPageTest is a tool that allows you to check the speed of your website by providing a visual representation of how all the different assets load on your webpage. It is a great tool for identifying slow resources and bottlenecks.

3. Lighthouse, for Google Chrome  is one of the most powerful performance measurement tools available for measuring website performance and offers a wide range of metrics and insights. You can read our guide to learn more about this tool.

4. GTmetrix is another great tool that gives detailed information about your page speed and performance score. Additionally, it offers details on how to resolve the problems the test revealed.

5. Pingdom Website Speed Test is a free tool that analyzes a page’s load time and offers suggestions on how to make it faster. It analyzes a single URL rather than your entire website.

Best Practices to Improve Your Page Speed

As the world becomes more digitally focused, page speed has become a top priority for website owners. If you analyze your page with a page speed tool, you’ll likely receive various recommendations to improve its performance. While some fixes may be simple, others may require a more technical approach.

However, there are five common ways to improve your page load speed time that are worth examining:

Optimize your Images

Large and unoptimized images are one of the biggest culprits of slow-loading pages.

One of the fastest ways to improve the speed of your website is by compressing your images.

Although it may mean sacrificing a little bit of image quality, optimizing your images can significantly reduce their file size and help to speed up your pages.

The key is to keep images as small as possible without compromising the quality or user experience.

If you’re using WordPress, a great option is to use a plugin like Smush to optimize your images in bulk.

By doing this, you’ll be able to improve your site’s largest contentful paint and give your visitors an efficient and enjoyable browsing experience.

Cache Your Web Pages

Caching is one of the most effective methods to boost your web page speed.

By storing copies of your site’s files, caching significantly reduces the workload required for the server to generate and serve pages to visitors’ browsers.

It limits the number of resources necessary to load a page which considerably lowers the Time to First Byte (TTFB).

There are many ways to implement caching, including using a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache, a free option specifically designed for WordPress users.

Alternatively, your hosting provider may offer server-level caching to handle caching for you.

Whatever option you choose, incorporating caching into your website’s optimization efforts is an effective way to enhance user experience and ensure your site performs at its best.

Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML

Improving page speed is essential for any website owner. You can reduce the file size and boost the page loading speed by minimizing JavaScript, CSS, and HTML.

This involves removing unnecessary elements such as spaces, characters, and comments. Going through every line of code may appear to be a difficult task, but a free plugin like Autoptimize can do the job for you.

Not only does it aggregate and minify your scripts and styles, but it also streamlines the code, resulting in a cleaner, faster-loading website. While configuring the plugin can be overwhelming, the benefits to your page speed and overall user experience are worth the effort.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

We’ve already covered the fact that the absence of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can, unfortunately, result in slower loading times and reduced functionality, especially if your target audience is scattered across different parts of the globe.

CDNs can determine a user’s location and send a cached version of the website’s content from the closest server, reducing load times and improving the user experience. Utilizing multiple CDNs in different regions is a common strategy for serving users worldwide. Reputable CDNs like Cloudflare and Jetpack are excellent options for website owners looking to improve performance and user satisfaction.

Reduce Excessive Redirects

Excessive redirects on your website can be a real hindrance to your users’ experience, as they lead to longer loading times.

Request and response processes are inevitably prolonged every time a page redirect happens, causing frustration to your visitors.

While some redirects may be necessary, like those required when moving to a new domain, it’s crucial to eliminate unnecessary redirects on your site to ensure faster page loading times.

In WordPress, there are several ways to minimize redirects, such as avoiding creating unnecessary ones when building internal links and menus and ensuring that your Top-Level Domain resolves with a maximum of one redirection.

If you need help identifying redirects on your site and where they lead, you can use a tool such as Screaming Frog.

Wrapping Up

Optimizing your website for page speed is an essential aspect of search engine optimization, as the impact of page speed on SEO cannot be ignored.

However, it’s important to remember that optimizing your site goes beyond just looking at numbers. While page speed is crucial for SEO, retention, and brand loyalty, it’s essential to understand that every user is different and uses another type of internet connection. Blindly focusing on scores and metrics may not represent all your visitors.

To truly optimize your site for both page speed and SEO, it’s essential to identify your users, how they access your site, and what they do while they’re there.

By creating great content and optimizing your website and pages to meet Core Web Vitals’ standards, you can improve your website’s ranking, enhance the impact of page speed on SEO, and provide a great user experience, leading to increased sales and brand loyalty.