Believe it or not, getting your website to the top of page one in the search results does not, in fact, require a human sacrifice. It just feels like it sometimes.
The process of making that happen is called search engine optimization (SEO) and what’s required for SEO is continually evolving. Over the years, Google and other search engines have progressed to new methods that enhance user experience and provide relevant high-quality results.
Well, that’s what they say on paper anyway.
While many digital marketers and business owners love to focus on keyword research and target audiences (both important), page speed has gotten largely ignored, but ignoring this aspect of SEO is a massive but frequent mistake. Page speed is a ranking factor that’s here to stay.
Why? Simple. Because it reflects the way people search online. We want what we want super quickly. Like, NOW!
What Is Page Speed Anyway?
In a nutshell, page speed refers to the amount of time it takes for a website or page to load. A page’s loading speed involves many factors including image compression, file size, and the server in which the site is hosted to list just a few.
Of course, as is the case with search engine optimization in general, attacking the issues surrounding page speed isn’t as simple as it sounds. Google (and its competing search engines) have more than one way of measuring page speed, though a fully loaded page is the most common.
Methods of Measuring Page Speed
Measuring page speed by a fully loaded page means that the time it takes for your page to load to 100% will affect your search engine rank. This method is the easiest way for bots and humans alike to estimate page speed.
There are other ways that search engines measure your page’s speed, including the time to the first byte. Not to get too nerdy, but this process measures how long it takes for a page to begin to load.
First Contextual Paint is how long a page takes to load enough of its resources to read your page’s content. If you have a blog post that takes seven to ten seconds to load, but a user gets their first context after only one or two seconds, then you’re in good shape.
The bottom line here is that there are many different ways that site speed is measured. It takes more than one metric to accomplish it, and none of them are right or wrong. They each have pros and cons, so it’s best for you and your digital marketing team to focus on improving your page’s load speed from all angles.
You can measure your site’s page load speed simply enough by using Google pagespeed insights or GT Metrix. With either, you simply paste your website URL and wait for the results.
Making sense out of the data you get after you click go is the hard part.
If you’re using Google’s Page Speed Insights, you may feel like you need a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from MIT in order to adequately understand the results. GT Metrix is slightly easier to understand, but it can all get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly.
Slow Page Speed Affects SEO Rankings
Some call it technical SEO, but there’s no question that slow website speed will affect your search engine rankings, especially in Google. Since Google has come out and stated, more than once, that slow websites will not rank as high as their fast-loading competitors. It’s rare that they declare something as clearly as that, so when Google speaks that clearly, it’s really important to pay attention.
The logic here is pretty simple. Google figures that if it takes too long for your site to load, users will be less inclined to stick around, so they’ll bounce away to other sites that do load quickly. Given that more than 60% of search queries are now done on a mobile device, it makes sense that we don’t spend a lot of time waiting on loading websites.
The Best Practices for Increasing Website Speed
There are various ways to increase your site speed efficiently, and with a little guidance, many of them can be easy to implement. Trust us when we say it all begins with compressing your images. There are still web designers out there who don’t get this, but when you use gigantic images on your site, it takes longer for them to load. It’s as simple as that.
Compressing your images is essential to decreasing the amount of time it takes your site to load. Images take up a massive amount of space, ranging from 50% to 90% of each page.
Image compression is somewhat simple, depending on where you host your website. WordPress is one of the most popular hosting platforms. It allows you to download and activate various plugins that offer quick, easy, automatic compression of your site’s images.
It’s better still to use a website like https://tinyjpg.com/ to upload your image and compress it prior to loading it onto your site.
If you don’t use WordPress, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding an option for your site platform, especially if you have a professional’s help. With the right team on your side, you can successfully compress all of the images on your site, and they’ll still appear crisp and clean.
Upgrade Your Hosting
Sometimes, you find that you do all the things you can do to improve your load speed and you find the rest of the problem is on the server-side of your website. If you get here, it’s decision time.
There are dozens of fantastic hosting companies out there, but let’s be honest, if you’re paying a low monthly fee for your server, you’re sharing it with millions of other websites. Like most things in life, when it comes to where you decide to host your website, you’re likely to get what you pay for.
Depending on where you are on your business journey, you might want to consider upgrading your server. Your marketing experts can help you find a premium or dedicated location to host your site.
Clean Up Your Code
So often, website owners experience bloated, unnecessary code left from features that they no longer employ or web developers that weren’t quite sure what they were doing. If you have a dated website (more than 2 years old), it very well may be that the designers weren’t paying as close attention to “code bloat” back then. Once you have it cleaned up and compressed, your website speed will increase substantially.
Initiate Browser Caching
Browser caching allows your website visitors to store bits and pieces of your website and its pages in their browser. This storage option means the next time they visit your page; it will load faster.
It’s important to note that activating your browser cache will not help you with first-time visitors. Still, if you’re building an audience and expect repeat customers, browser caching is a fantastic option for speeding up your website.
Search Engine Optimization is Here to Stay
Every year, at least one website designer or developer insists that SEO is on its way out or that SEO is dead. However, this isn’t the case.
Search engine optimization is still one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site without paying for advertising. Page speed is an essential part of implementing SEO because it genuinely enhances the user experience, thereby decreasing your bounce rate (the percentage of visitors that come to your site and “bounce” right away again).
When you have users that stay on your website and navigate through the pages, not only will your conversion rate rise, but your search engine rank will do the same. Make It Loud is fully equipped to provide your business with a high-quality web design and an effective digital marketing plan.
We know the aspects of good SEO inside and out, and we’ll help you get your website in front of your target audience. Contact us today for more information.