How Page Speed Affects SEO: What You Should Know
Search engines analyze a variety of factors to determine the keywords and placement for which a website should rank. Also known as ranking signals, Google’s algorithm looks at hundreds of on- and off-page factors. While most webmasters are aware that backlinks and content affect their site’s search rankings, a lesser-known factor is page speed.
Google’s Algorithm and Page Speed
For more than 18 years, Google has used speed as a ranking factor in its algorithm. The Mountain View company explains that speed is important to all internet users as visitors spend more time on fast-loading sites than slow-loading sites. According to Google’s internal studies, increasing the time it takes for a website to load from one second to three seconds increases the chance of a user leaving without clicking through to at least one other page by 32 percent. And when a site takes 10 seconds to load, it increases the chance by 123 percent.
More recently, Google unveiled plans to use speed as a ranking factor for its mobile ranking algorithm as well. Beginning July 2018, Google will analyze mobile websites’ speed to determine where they should rank in its mobile index.
Bing’s Algorithm and Page Speed
Google isn’t the only search engine that analyzes page speed as a ranking factor; Bing uses it as a ranking factor as well. Bing says that long load times drive visitors away from websites, with speed directly affecting user satisfaction.
So, if you want to rank high in Google, Bing or both, you must optimize your site’s load times. Turning a blind eye to this ranking factor is a serious mistake that will cost you traffic.
Website Speed Test
You can’t expect to optimize your site’s load times unless you know how long it takes visitors to load it. Rather than visiting your site with a stopwatch in hand, consider using the website speed test at Pingdom. Unlike other speed testing tools, it uses 70 different global polling locations to test and verify their customers’ sites 24/7. This is important because the region in which a visitor is located will affect the time it takes him or her to load your site. If your site’s server is located in the United States, for instance, a visitor from the United States will experience faster load times than a visitor in the United Kingdom.
All tests are done with real web browsers, so the results match the end-user experience exactly. Pingdom use a bunch of instances of Google’s Chrome web browser to load websites, record performance data, and so on. Tests are done from dedicated Pingdom servers.
Use a CDN
You can speed up your site by using a content delivery network (CDN). Normally, websites are hosted on a single server in a single location. A CDN, however, hosts websites on multiple servers, prioritizing and optimizing the delivery of content to achieve faster load times.
Implementing browser caching can have a positive impact on your site’s speed by allowing visitors to store parts of your website in their browser. Once stored, the visitor doesn’t have to download your site in its entirety when returning to your site.
It generally takes longer for visitors to load a web page with a large file size than a similar web page with a small file size. To reduce the size of your web pages and promote faster speeds, optimize all images before uploading them to your site. Shrinking and cropping an image to the appropriate size, for example, can significantly reduce its size. There are also image optimization tools that can further shrink the size of your images.
Use PHP 7
Is your site still using PHP 5? If so, you should contact your web host to inquire about upgrading to PHP 7. The latest version of the server-side scripting language PHP, it’s faster and more secure than previous versions.
Most internet users aren’t willing to wait for slow websites to load. When their browser fails to display the site after five seconds, many will click the back button and visit a different site. To keep visitors on your site and encourage higher search rankings, you must optimize your site’s speed.