Your slow website speed may be costing you business! Google recently made updates to their algorithm which prioritizes websites that deliver optimal Page Experience – placing page speed as one of the top-ranking signals. This means that slow-loading websites will sink further in search engine results pages, as speed-savvy site owners will ride the wave of higher SERP placement – and more customers.
Website Speed & Customer Retention
The benefits of improving website speed don’t stop at healthier SERP rank and better SEO. While optimizing page speed is crucial for improving search results rank – it also plays a heavy hand in customer retention.
Studies show that if a website doesn’t load within 1 to 5 seconds, the chances of a customer leaving the site before it loads increases by 90%.
What’s the first thing you do when you need to find a product or service? You search for it online. If you’re in need of an electrician. You’d probably grab your mobile device, pull up a search browser and type in a keyword like, “electrician near me”. Your search would generate a list of local companies whose websites you might visit to learn more or to book an appointment – but what would you do if that website didn’t load?
After waiting a few seconds, you’d smash that “back” button and “bounce” back to the results list to try again. Remember – the people that discover your website as a search result have no allegiance to your brand at that point. You’re just another option.
In making sure that your website speed is lightning-fast, you’re ensuring that your website visitors are instantly engaging with your brand and your content. Optimizing your website speed and decreasing page load time is a way to mitigate the loss before it even happens.
Website Speed & SEO
Google favors websites that offer users an awesome experience – after all, they’ve got their reputation to uphold. This means the URLs that land top placement must be relevant to the user’s search query, but also have strong ranking signals that indicate it’s a healthy site. As previously mentioned, page speed is a significant ranking factor for Google and other search engines.
Based on the statistics shown above, an ideal page load time should be within 1-2 seconds.
Website Speed Ranking Factors
When it comes to site speed, there are a number of factors that can help or hurt – most of which are within your control.
- Web hosting provider
- Site structure and theme files
- On-page images & media
Start with a Site Speed Audit
Not sure how your page speed measures up? You can test your page load time for free with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. When conducting a page speed test, start with an audit of each page on each device. Note these metrics before you start optimizing your site. You can’t track your improvements if you don’t set your benchmarks first.
Once you have your list of pages to audit, run a page speed test on each URL, noting the device scores and optimization suggestions.
How to Boost Your Website Speed
Keep in mind that website speed optimization is a rather technical chore – and it’s an ongoing one.
The same site speed tactics that work for one website, might not work for another. That’s why it’s best to have a technical SEO expert or a digital marketing team that knows the ins and outs of SEO to help you rise in search results.
But – if you’re ready to take on a challenge, check out this video from Moz’s SEO team, then scroll down to check out how to optimize your website speed!
One of the biggest sources of clunky load times is due to large images. A large image is considered to be a file size over 72kb. In another article, we talk about how to optimize images for web – but what about the websites that already have hundreds or thousands of images?
Making use of an image compression plugin can help speed up your site. WP Smush is one plugin that hosts a ton of free features that can help reduce media files.
CSS sprites are image file templates that combine multiple images into a single image file. They save time by reducing server requests and loading one file rather than multiple. They are particularly useful for buttons and icons that you might see site-wide.
Remove Unused Scripts & Plugins
On the note of plugins, less is more. Every time you add a new plugin to your website, you’re packing in new scripts to load, code to index – and creating new pathways for hackers. Plugin owners work to keep your information safe, but not all plugins are trustworthy.
Keep your plugins to a minimum and rely on powerful, clean code – it will help with website speed and security.
Identify plugins, stylesheets, or extraneous code that can be removed from your site. This can drastically increase page speed.
Speaking of clean code, optimizing your code can drastically improve load times. This means removing extra spaces, commas, or other unnecessary characters from your files. Reducing comments, unused code, and special formatting will help increase page speed.
A URL redirect often can help user experience – say if there is a broken link that needs to be redirected to an active URL. However, used too often, redirects can negatively impact UX. How?
Redirects trigger additional request-response sequences that add round-trip-time delays. If your site is stacked with redirects, visitors will have to wait even longer for the additional loading sequence to cycle through. Check out what a mobile redirect pattern might look like:
MyDomain.com > www.MyDomain.com > m.MyDomain.com > m.MyDomain.com/home
These extra steps add on load time for every user, every single time they access your site. It’s important to minimize the number of redirects on your site – especially on your home page. Learn more about avoiding multiple page redirects.
What Your Website Speed Should Be
Your website needs to be fast enough for your visitors. While that is vague and unforgiving, your ranking signals can be traced directly to your audience’s behavior. A high Bounce Rate (70% or more) indicates an issue, which tells Google to continually suffocate your domain in searches.
Start by examining the types of devices your users view your site on. If the majority of your audience visits your site on a mobile device, but your site loads much faster on a desktop, you may need to work on a mobile speed optimization strategy.
Overall, a good rule of thumb for website speed is: the faster, the better.
There are many other ways to optimize your website speed for better user experience and SEO. Using a content distribution network (CDN), leveraging browser cache, or improving server response times can also help – but each case is different.
Your website speed optimization tactics will depend on a variety of factors – and might change over time. If keeping your finger on the pulse of technical SEO and site speed optimization seems a bit dense, contact Next Horizon’s digital marketing team.
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