With the ever-changing Google algorithm, it can be difficult to understand the correlation between website speed and search rankings. Many would assume that web pages which load faster appear higher in search rankings than web pages that tend to load a bit slower. This assumption is somewhat true but fails to explain all of the factors that go into your web page search ranking. If you are only looking at the amount of time that it takes to load the first byte of your webpage, then you will probably notice a greater correlation with your search ranking. Sites that are faster to load the first byte are typically ranked higher on Google searches. However, if you are measuring the amount of time it takes to load the main content, you are less likely to see a correlation with your search ranking.
Search Ranking and Speed
While the relationship between your search ranking and web page speed, is not the differentiator between a #1 ranking and having a website buried deep onto page four for on a search results page, it is something to look at closely. As Google continues to make updates to increase quality of their search results, increase user engagement and deliver results better and faster on mobile devices, speed plays into all of these factors. Google has also stated that webpage speed is a factor when it comes to ranking, but failed to disclose which area of speed is considered.
Web page speed may have a bigger impact on search rankings than most people think and it has been shown that sites usually have an increase in traffic after improving their speed. Improving the speed of your site increases the user’s experience, ultimately making them more likely to return. If your site is too slow or experiences too much of a lag, users will leave the site before it even has a chance to finish loading. This bounce rate can damage rankings.
Slower sites have been shown to lose substantial revenue. A recent study suggested that a .25 second increase in speed would cost Amazon.com 1% in revenue. Data has also shown a significant increase in abandoned shopping carts with page speeds increasing by one second. In a fast-paced online world speed matters. Slow page speed also diminishes the SEO value. If we look at the ranking factors Google looks at to rank web sites we know that User-Experience is important. Slower sites result in poor user experience requiring a web site to create more links, better content, and longer content to be competitive against faster sites with better user-experience.
Improving web page speed requires a few steps and research. There are many plugins available on WordPress to increase speed and many businesses are using a CDN (Content Delivery Network), like Amazon or Cloudflare, to increase speed. It is important to first asses your site and determine if it is running slowly. First run a test on the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. Look at the mobile results as these are critical since the Mobile-First Index algorithm change. There are several online resources such as Pingdom Page Load Times andGTMetrix that will help measure your site’s load times and give specific data on what is slowing down pages. These tests might take some time, especially for a large site, but it will give you much-needed information about your webpage. For WordPress users, read this article with step by step actions for increasing speed.
After learning more about the deficits in your site, you can now begin to make plans to solve the problem. Slow servers are one of the main factors that slow down web pages. Moving to a faster server could significantly improve your load times. If you are content with your provider and have a shared account, you might want to think about upgrading to a Virtual Private Server. This upgrade could be quite pricey, but slow load times could literally be driving business away.
If your server is working up to speed you might just need to work on your site’s code and images. When the site’s code is not optimized for fast loading, you are unlikely to see any improvements in speed until you fix them. This process can be tedious, but it is necessary to improve the user experience.
Speed significantly impact your user’s experience which increases page ranking in search engines. If your users are discontent with your website they are less likely to return to the site, complete a shopping purchase or even find you through search engines.