SEO as a practice covers countless areas that factor into getting your website to rank better. It’s very much like an umbrella with hundreds of little things underneath of it all working together. There are title tags, inbound links, meta descriptions, keyword research, domain trust, image optimization and the list goes on and on. But there is one thing that many people may disregard when it comes to Search Engine Optimization – and that’s page speed. The issue is most prevalent in small to mid-sized businesses and page speed can become a deal breaker when Google comes to check in on your website. Google even has some Page Speed Guidelines if you are interested in looking into it.
What Affects My Website’s Page Speed?
From everything documented by Google it implies that they take a website’s page speed pretty seriously and if your website loads too slow you could be getting penalized for it. And if you think about it, it makes sense. No one wants to click on a high ranking page only to find it’s taking 10-15 seconds to load. There are lots of things that could be accounting for your slow loading site. From text and images to CSS and HTML – all elements of a site play a role. Google has a system in place that determines the speed of any website. What they document as the two main areas they look into are a sites A) time it takes to load a full page and B) time it takes to load a website above the fold (the part of the page you can see initially without having to scroll down). Page speed isn’t just an important factor in SERP’s either. Most businesses can see a 25% boost in conversions and 25% decrease in bounce rates when they increase their site speed. In other words: people are staying longer on your site and your revenues increase because of it.
How Fast Should You Shoot For?
There’s really no concrete answer to this but experts around the web and even within our own firm try and shoot for that 2 second mark. Anything above 2 seconds is worth looking into to see if there isn’t something that can be done to improve loading times. You should also be aware that there are two different speeds you should be concerned with. Both mobile and desktop speeds could vary greatly. Your site could be loading fast on a PC but slow as molasses on a mobile device. So it’s important to keep an eye on both speeds. You can check your website’s speed in the eyes of Google by using their free Page Speed Test Tool.
So Your Website Is Loading Slow – Now What?
There are a few initial things that you should look into first if your website is crawling along slowly. While these few items are in no way the end-all-be-all cure for a slow website they are easily performed with minimal technical background.
- Website Hosting – Check to see who your website hosting company is. If it’s someone like GoDaddy or HostGator consider moving to a more local experienced company that is able to work with you. The advantages of central hosting companies are well documented but the main reason to make the switch is the customer service involved. They can work with you on your website and make specific recommendations to improve your website’s page speed. Trying to get someone at GoDaddy to even call you back is another headache you shouldn’t have to deal with.
- Image Optimization – Those big high definition images sure do look great on your website don’t they? Of course they do. But watch out because those large images could also be bringing your website to a screeching halt. Again, there is no one right answer as far as exact sizes of images but it’s always good practice to not put ridiculous sized images on a site. A 1,920 x 1,280 image should probably be sized down to around the 400 or 500 range. It’s still going to be a good looking image and it will help ease stress on your site. You can learn a little more about image optimization and its effects with this handy guide.
- WordPress Plugins – Both a blessing and a curse, WordPress plugins can be an enigma of sorts. While plugins can do wonderful things (there are even plugins that help with page speed) they can also make a site bloated and lethargic. Common sense states that if you have 50 plugins on your website it’s going to take longer to load than a site with only 10. It’s very easy to use a plugin to solve a problem or add a feature but you need to ask yourself it that plugin is really worth it. Can what you’re trying to accomplish be done another way without the need for a plugin? If so, it’s always better to go that route. This may mean that you’ll need an experienced web developer to get the job done but at the end of the day it is worth it to keep your site light and speedy.
These are just some surface level tips to get the ball rolling on improving your website’s page speed. If you really want to get it flying it’s going to require drilling down into the nitty gritty details. Dealing with code, caching, redirects, DNS lookups and more all requires a level of skill the average business owner probably doesn’t posses. These are all things our analyst look at when we bring a new website to life or inherit a website that is struggling to load efficiently. If you’ve tried the tips above and you’re still struggling and feeling frustrated you can learn more about page speed by visiting our SEO page here.
Also published on Medium.