Google is constantly modifying its algorithm to sort sites based on keyword relevancy and while keywords and backlinks always have the lion’s share in terms of weight, more and more seemingly minor factors are taken into account. For instance, take website speed. You might wonder what at all it has to do with search rankings but actually it is also a factor (though with minor importance, to be precise) that influences your position with Google.
How Website Speed Affects Rankings
First, if you expected that website speed influences your rankings big time, we need to clarify that this isn’t so. While the two are related, you won’t find a direct correlation – i.e. low ranking sites might load fast and vice versa.
The results depend on which metric you use to measure website speed. For instance, if you take into account the time needed to load the first byte of the page, then it turns out this is a huge factor because sites that are fast to load the first byte of a page typically rank higher in Google.
If you take other metrics into account – i.e. the time necessary to load the main content or the time it takes to load the complete page (with images and ads), then things change because it seems these two factors are not of that importance to Google.
Nevertheless, many sites report increase in traffic (from search engines or otherwise) after they optimize their site for speed. This is a pretty good reason to do the same, if your site is slow – you are not doing it for Google, you are doing it for your users, your traffic, and your conversions. Website speed is key to user experience, so if your site is slow, there is no reason to keep it that way. What’s the use of getting traffic from search engines, when your visitors have to hang for 10+ seconds before they can see your content – they will have left much before the page has loaded.
Recent research found that 47% of your target audience expects your website to load in under two seconds. What’s more, slightly more than half of all U.S. online shoppers won’t buy from a site if it loads slowly.
It makes sense. After all, don’t we all hate to wait? And the instant-gratification of the web has only made us more impatient.
So it makes sense that Google cares about page load time. From the Webmasters Central Blog:
Back in 2010, Matt Cutts announced that web site speed will carry less weight than other key ranking factors such as relevance, authority backlinks, and so on. That’s no longer quite so accurate in 2015. Nowadays, website speed is essential.
Recent studies show that a delay of a single second in page response time can yield a 7% reduction in conversions.
So, in case it wasn’t already clear, site speed absolutely affects rankings, as asserted in this infographic:
What to Do to Improve Website Speed
If you want to improve website speed, there are a couple of steps to be taken. First, you need to measure your website speed – otherwise how do you know it’s slow?
01. Measure Load Times
In order to measure load times, you need a good tool. The choice here is quite rich. Pingdom Page Load Time tool and Google Analytics Site Speed reports give a good idea of your site’s general performance. WebPageTest is a more advanced tool because it allows to test your site in different browsers and spot slow areas on your site.
On the homepage, type in your site URL (e.g., woblogger.com). Click the “test now” button.
Next, analyze your speed.
As you can see, it took Woblogger 1.16 seconds to load. Yours may be higher or lower, but since the ideal load time is 2 seconds or less, you need to optimize your site to increase its speed.
You could use Pingdom’s speed test tool to check your current page load time. But you can and should take it a step further by identifying your competitors and comparing their site speed with yours. You can do this by using the tools at WhichLoadsFaster.info.
Next, see the result:
If your results aren’t optimal, don’t worry – there are many ways to increase your website speed. The quickest and easiest way, which often will cost some money, is by using content delivery network like MaxCDN.
02. Move to a Faster Server
One of the obvious reasons a site is slow is that the server you are hosting it on is slow. The reasons here could be numerous – from a web hosting provider that lacks the capacity to offer fast servers, to the type of your hosting account.
The easier solution here is to upgrade your account. For instance, if you have a large site with many pages and frequent database reads/writes and you are still using a shared account, then no provider to Earth can offer the speed you need. In this case, if you are happy with the provider per se, your solution is to upgrade from a shared account to VPS (Virtual Private Server) or even to a dedicated server. The costs for VPS or a dedicated server a month are much higher than what you are paying for your shared account but if your site is making you money (or at least has the potential to), the problem with website speed is literally killing your business.
On the other hand, if your web hosting provider is not good even if you upgrade your account, this won’t solve your problem. The only thing you can do is migrate your sites to a good web hosting provider. Here is a list of some of the best web hosting providers for you to choose from.
Here is a graph of a research conducted by How to get Online.
When conducting their study, they tested the page load speeds from 3 different locations. they did a lot of research on this and surprisingly, many of the most popular web hosts (like Bluehost, HostGator, & iPage hosting) were the slowest! GoDaddy hosting did better than we expected. A2 Hosting actually did quite well too. Ultimately, InMotion Hosting and Web Hosting Hub were the fastest.
Additionally, you have to be wary of who you can trust. Hosting affiliate commissions are usually $50+, so some bloggers will say anything to get you to sign up for certain companies. This is why so many bloggers aggressively promote hosting sites like Bluehost and HostGator.
03. Optimize Your Site’s Code and Images
Your server might be fast but if your site itself is slow, you will still experience speed issues. If your code and images are not optimized for fast loading, you won’t see speed improvements till you fix them. This task could take a very, very long time, especially if your code and images are bloated but you’ve got to do it.
If you care about your search engine rankings, and the experience of your users, you should be improving both the Website Speed and Performance of your website.
But, website speed is not a factor with huge importance for search engine rankings, though it does count. The bigger problem with slow sites is that they are not user–friendly, which in turn kills conversions. If you don’t want to lose money because of the speed issues of your site, take the time to fix them – it will pay in the long run.
In my next blog post, I will discuss simple ways to optimize the website speed and performance of both the front and back ends of a website. So, keep in touch..
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