Both Google and its billions of users put a high value on fast page speed – and you should, too.
Page speed – the amount of time it takes for any given web page to completely load – is one of the key elements of overall user experience. Not only are people less likely to stay on a slow loading page, but Google penalizes pages with sluggish load times.
The good news, however, is that page speed is one of the few SEO elements that you can completely control. Most businesses can speed up their sites quickly, easily and with minimal resources.
The Impact of Page Speed
Google began factoring page speed into its rankings in 2010. The reality is that very few pages are penalized for being too slow – around one percent in 2010. But the relatively small number of penalties should not be taken as a sign that Google doesn’t take page speed seriously. Shockingly, instead of penalizing slow pages in the rankings, the Search Engine Roundtable recently speculated that Google may have simply stopped indexing slow pages altogether.
Either way, it pays to be fast. If Google doesn’t penalize you for being slow, your visitors certainly will.
Faster page speed equals a better user experience. A better user experience can lead to more conversions. If you sell a product, users will have a better experience browsing and filling out forms. If you collect ad revenue, faster page speed will lead to more page views.
Brilliance.com, for example, recently used Pingdom and PageSpeed Insights (audit tools we’ll discuss later) to optimize their Drupal website for speed. This led to a 15% increase in traffic and and a 20% increase in conversions. In another example, when Walmart made efforts to its page speed, the company realized a 2 percent increase in conversions for every second shaved and a one percent jump in revenue for every 100ms of speed improvement.
What Can You do to Improve Page Speed?
Before conducting an audit, consider the following solutions to common problems:
- Review your embedded videos: Videos can boost rankings, but they can also slow you down. Consider saving videos to your own host instead of embedding them.
- Invest more up front to earn more in the long run: Cheap web hosts often make for slow websites. Consider switching hosts or upgrading your plan or server(s).
- Test your site: See how your site loads on different browsers and benchmark load times before and after changes.
- Optimize plugins, widgets and apps: Make sure any add-ons or apps — like those that use Flash — aren’t slowing you down. Also look out for calendars, maps, comment threads and social buttons.
- Lose some ads: Too many ads not only degrades user experience, but can also lower page speed.
- Compress your images: High-res images offer little value in exchange for the amount of load time they require.
- Clean up your code and revisit your theme: Overly dense HTML/CSS code can slow a page down, as can an unnecessarily heavy, complicated theme.
Tools for Analyzing Page Speed
There is no shortage of tools to audit your page speed. Here is a sampling of some of the simplest and most reliable:
- Wattspeed: Wattspeed is a free tool that measures the performance of pages on both mobile and desktop devices, and it’s also available as a free Chrome browser extension.
- Pingdom Website Speed Test: Pingdom uses a simple color-coded and symbol-based system to reveal exactly which elements are slowing your pages down. It also offers optimization tips and 24/7 monitoring.
- PageSpeed Insights: PageSpeed Insights analyzes a page’s contents and makes suggestions to improve speed across all devices, both mobile and desktop.
- OnCrawl: Use OnCrawl to measure, optimize and monitor not only your page speed, but also your website’s “weight.”
- WebPagetest: WebPagetest reveals load time, requests, bytes in and cost from any location you choose. This is an excellent feature for sites that get most of their traffic from a single geographic region.
Page speed is important to both Google and the people who rely on it to lead them to the most relevant and user-friendly websites. Auditing pages for speed and optimizing them to load faster is among the most simple, most cost-effective steps to increasing conversions, improving page views, boosting revenue and achieving better search rankings.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.