Why Site Speed Matters in SEO
While things like better aesthetic appeal, more functionality, and more content have an important role to play on your website, the hard fact is those components come second to site speed.
50% of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, according to surveys done by Gomez.com and Akamai. If your site takes 3 seconds to load, the users leave. Worse still, they are highly unlikely to come back - at least 79% of them - and at least 44% of them will advise their friends not to visit the site. Page speed (which we will differentiate from site speed soon) also determines search engine rankings. In this article, we will look at why site speed matters in SEO.
Site speed versus page speed
Let’s begin by differentiating these two terms. Site speed is simply the time it takes your web pages to load. Page speed is the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific page. Page speed can also be measured by the time it takes for the browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server (time to first byte - TTFB).
Why should your site or page speed be less than 2 seconds?
Speed is incredibly important to your visitors if you want to keep them on your site.
Web user behavior
Web user behavior should be the biggest consideration when it comes to your site’s speed. At the end of it all, you want them to do something on your site – buy a product, use your service, or simply get informed or entertained. As we had mentioned above, half of them want the site to load in less than 2 seconds.
Web users are generally impatient. They get frustrated when a page takes long to load and leave to find better options. Since you want these people to access your site, you are bound to ensure your page or site loads in less than 2 seconds. After all, the customer is king, right?
Search engines do use site speed when ranking pages. In fact, Google has been using site speed as a ranking signal since 2010. There is a high likelihood that Google’s bots may be measuring TTFB to determine page speed.
When your page speed is slow, search engine spiders are only able to crawl a few pages. This means only a few pages get indexed, thus your site ranks lower in search results.
When your site ranks poorly, no one gets to click on it. There is less traffic, leads, and ultimately, lower conversions.
Talking about conversions, a delay by just one second in page load time can reduce conversions by up to 7%, according to a report on Fast Company. This report goes ahead to put Amazon.com into perspective. Amazon is a giant online shop that hosts thousands, if not millions, of products and services. Despite this fact, users still expect page loading time to be less than 2 seconds. They are currently under .50 seconds.
The Fast Company report states that Amazon loses $1.6 billion annually in sales for every extra second it takes to load a page. Well, this may not be the case for small businesses or organizations. The fact remains that slow page or site speed will make you lose customers. Even if you worked with the 7% in your own company, it would still translate to a significant amount of money in your business.
At WooRank we measure the Load Time based on these criteria:
1.02 seconds: Red
More than 0.84 seconds: Orange
Less than 0.84 seconds: Green
While some countries are still in 2G and 3G internet speeds, the standard of 4G LTE speeds or the next 5G speeds are being implemented for many users, people expect load time to be a thing of the past. Home internet speeds are faster than ever before, and with powerful processors powering up computers, milliseconds are the new norm.
If your page takes a long time to load, it probably has high bounce rates and lower average time on page. These two factors are aspects of user experience. Poor user experience leads to a poor brand image and fewer conversions. In addition, it is an indicator to Google that something is wrong with your site. Google will not send users to a site where they are likely to have a frustrating experience. This way, your ranking in search results is lower.
Stay ahead of the competition
A survey by Clutch in 2016 showed that, despite the fact businesses now know the importance of site speed, only 1 in 5 plan on improving their site speed. This means that if you do improve your site right now, you have a very high chance of beating your competition. When your competitors’ sites take longer to load, the users will skip those and click on yours.
If you’re using WordPress, you can check out our Ultimate Guide to Increase WordPress Site Speed.
How to check your site’s speed
Now that you know what side speed is, and why it is important, how do you check your site’s speed? There are tools like PageSpeed Insights by Google. It gives you a detailed analysis of your site’s speed, on both mobile and desktop. You can also check out Google’'s developer tutorials for tips on how to to make your website run faster. Pingdom, though it could get a bit technical here, is another tool you can use. Monitor your server and receive SMS alerts when your website is down with a web monitoring service. You may need to work with a developer to help you see where you can improve in terms of your site and page speed. When you perform a Review with WooRank, the review will help identify with ease how your site is performing in all scale of SEO.
Each criterion has a color:
Green if it passed
Orange if it needs to be improved
Red if it's an error
What can you do to increase website speed?
After doing an analysis of your site, you will be able to see where you need to improve. Some of the things are easy and you can implement them right away. For some of them, though, you may need help from your developer.
You need to confirm with your web host if their servers use Gzip compression and deflation. You can check whether your site is already "Gzipped" with Gidnetwork. Do not use Gzip on images, though. We will look at some image options below. Or, by running your site with WooRank, we can identify this for you.
First of all, your images need not be larger than they really need to be. They should be in the right format too. Use PNGs for graphics that are less than 16 colors. JPEGs are better for photographs. They are also compressed for the web.
You can use CSS sprites to create a template for frequently used images. What this does is combine them into a large image that will load at once, thus there will be fewer HTTP requests. Only the sections that the user needs will be displayed. Users will not have to wait for multiple images to load.
There is still so much more that you can do to increase site speed. For a start, the above 2 things should improve your site speed significantly.
All in all
When it comes to SEO, speed matters - it could make or break your website. Find out what your speed is, and you can begin to work towards better ranks, conversions, and user experience.