Why Page Speed Matters for Search Engine Optimization

April 23, 2019

The web is moving faster than ever – literally, according to Google.

Google announced that it would be releasing its official Google Speed Update back in July 2018, and since then they’ve seen some drastic changes. After Google gave site owners notice of the update in January of 2018, Google saw that that the slowest one-third of traffic had performance metrics improve by 15% to 20% in 2018. In contrast, it saw zero improvements in 2017.

That’s a pretty vast improvement for a lot of low preforming websites. But why does it matter?

What is Page Speed?

Page speed is a measurement of how fast the content on your page loads.

Page speed can be described in either "page load time" (the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific page) or "time to first byte" (how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server).

Page speed is a huge part of the user experience of your website. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. Longer load times have also been shown to negatively affect conversions.

Page speed is also one of the many, many signals that Google uses in its algorithm to rank pages in its search results.

What was the Speed Update?

The Google Speed Update was first announced in January 2018 as a way to reduce the rankings of very slow mobile pages in the search results. Website owners then had several months to react and improve their site’s performance before the algorithm update rolled out in July 2018.

If your page speed time was too slow, it’s possible that this would have negatively impacted your mobile organic traffic through Google.

Have a Need for Speed?

If you’ve never thought about the speed in which your website loads, now is the time to utilize Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see where you stand and start working to improve your score. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but the better you’re able to optimize your site, the better it will be for search engines as well as your customers.

If you find that your score is too slow, we can help! Give us a call at (407) 682-2222.

If you have more technical experience, and are looking for ways to increase your page speed, read ahead.

How Do You Improve Your Page Speed?

There are many ways to increase your page speed.

Here is a list of best practices provided by Moz.com, a great resource for search engine optimization knowledge: 

  • Enable compression

    Use Gzip, a software application for file compression, to reduce the size of your CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files that are larger than 150 bytes.

    Do not use gzip on image files. Instead, compress these in a program like Photoshop where you can retain control over the quality of the image. See "Optimize images" below.

  • Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML

    By optimizing your code (including removing spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters), you can dramatically increase your page speed. Also remove code comments, formatting, and unused code. Google recommends using CSSNano and UglifyJS.

  • Reduce redirects

    Each time a page redirects to another page, your visitor faces additional time waiting for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete. For example, if your mobile redirect pattern looks like this: "example.com -> www.example.com -> m.example.com -> m.example.com/home," each of those two additional redirects makes your page load slower.

  • Remove render-blocking JavaScript

    Browsers have to build a DOM tree by parsing HTML before they can render a page. If your browser encounters a script during this process, it has to stop and execute it before it can continue.

    Google suggests avoiding and minimizing the use of blocking JavaScript.

  • Leverage browser caching

    Browsers cache a lot of information (stylesheets, images, JavaScript files, and more) so that when a visitor comes back to your site, the browser doesn't have to reload the entire page. Use a tool like YSlow to see if you already have an expiration date set for your cache. Then set your "expires" header for how long you want that information to be cached. In many cases, unless your site design changes frequently, a year is a reasonable time period. 

  • Improve server response time

    Your server response time is affected by the amount of traffic you receive, the resources each page uses, the software your server uses, and the hosting solution you use. To improve your server response time, look for performance bottlenecks like slow database queries, slow routing, or a lack of adequate memory and fix them. The optimal server response time is under 200ms. 

  • Use a content distribution network

    Content distribution networks (CDNs), also called content delivery networks, are networks of servers that are used to distribute the load of delivering content. Essentially, copies of your site are stored at multiple, geographically diverse data centers so that users have faster and more reliable access to your site.

  • Optimize images

    Be sure that your images are no larger than they need to be, that they are in the right file format (PNGs are generally better for graphics with fewer than 16 colors while JPEGs are generally better for photographs) and that they are compressed for the web.

    Use CSS sprites to create a template for images that you use frequently on your site like buttons and icons. CSS sprites combine your images into one large image that loads all at once (which means fewer HTTP requests) and then display only the sections that you want to show. This means that you are saving load time by not making users wait for multiple images to load.

If you’re interested in learning more about the ways your website could be better optimized, call Sales & Marketing Technologies today at (407) 682-2222.

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