Getting to grips with your websites page speed

We are all familiar with using a website that loads painfully slowly, it’s very off-putting to many website users, particularly shoppers. Page Speed is essentially the time it takes for your website’s pages to load. There are a lot of details and different specific factors that make up page speed, but the simple way to think of it is the time it takes your pages to load. It’s commonly thought that the benchmark is 2/3 seconds, that’s what we want to be aiming for.

So, in this blog post I’m going to be taking you through some of the things that can help us work towards that 2/3 second mark:

Does page speed affect SEO?

Now we understand what page speed is and how it affects our users, we can look at how it affects our online presence. Google has stated previously stated that Page Speed IS one of the ranking factors that the algorithm uses to determine the SERPs. This means that page speed does have a direct effect on SEO, which is a very important reason to monitor your page speed and try to achieve the optimum loading speed. Google also has a crawl budget, which is basically the number of URLs Googlebot wants to and can crawl, if you’re pages load slowly then you are at risk of using up the crawl budget and your indexation being negatively affected, meaning all your pages may not appear on Google which jeopardizes your chances of missing out on new users and may decrease click through rate.

We can also see that the speed of your pages will affect your website in terms of user experience. In a blog post in March 2017, Duda stated that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. I understand that this figure will not be exact as it is a year old, however it puts into perspective how severely your page speed can affect your website. This is a significant amount of people that you have lost the opportunity to sell to before they have even seen your website.

How do I Check my page speed?

There are hundreds of tools that you can check your speed on out there on the web, so I’m going to narrow this point down to an option for less technically minded users, and a choice for people that understand the ins and outs of page speed.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Being that Google is the main search engine we use, and often the main search engine we are optimising for, measuring your ranking factors with a tool that Google has created makes perfect sense. If Google tells you they’re happy with your page speed, then you can count on them being happy with your page speed. Google PageSpeed Insights is very easy to understand, interpret and work with to resolve issues. It’s as simple as entering your websites URL, waiting a few seconds and receiving some very clear and concise figures that are simple to interpret, along with a “good” “average” or “poor” rating. This is most definitely the right option if you are not aware of the details of what goes into page speed, and simply want to understand if your pages perform well or not.

Page Speed Insights

WebPageTest

WebPageTest gives a much more detailed insight into your websites page speed. With a huge number of metrics and diagrams that are given to you once you enter your URL, it is a great way to really break down your page speed and get an idea of where you can make changes on the site to improve the specific parts that make up your overall page speed. On this tool you have the ability to change the browser and location, which allows you to test how your page speed is in many different regions and different environments, to get a better overall idea of how your website performs. If you are aware of all the specifics involved in page load time, this tool is a great thing to use to get a proper understand of how a browser loads your site, plus it’s free to use, which is always a bonus.

Web Page Test

How do I improve my page speed?

As I covered in the previous point, there are many specifics that make up page speed, and to go through all the points that are involved in improving page speed is not my main objective of this article. Here I just want to guide website owners through the basics of page speed and allow them to get to grips with what it is and how we can work towards improving it. With a lot of the things that help improve your page speed you will need help from a developer and you can study detailed articles such as this one, to find the things that help.

In the last point, I spoke about Google PageSpeed Insights, on this tool there is a handy link at the bottom of the page that says “Download optimized image, JavaScript, and CSS resources for this page.” If you are not the most technical person on the web this is the ideal way to boost your page speed. It essentially looks at your website and finds all the things that are bigger than they need to be, which are slowing the site down, and gives you a compressed and smaller version which will make your pages load faster. As you can see from the link text this is mainly images, JavaScript and CSS. Once you have downloaded these things, you will have the smaller file size versions of what are already on your site.

With images, if your site is a reasonable size you can go through and simply swap all the old large images to the compressed versions that you downloaded from Google PageSpeed Insights. With the JavaScript and CSS, you may need to consult the people/person that runs your website or manages the technical side of your website. These changes will improve your page speed and in turn have a positive benefit on your websites SEO and user experience.

page speed links

Can Plugins improve my page speed?

If you have a WordPress website, there are also many plugins out there that you can use on your site that will help improve your page speed. We deem these types of plugin as essential on every website we manage. There are many available plugins that essentially cache the static versions of the pages on your website, which allow them to be served to the user quicker, these static versions don’t need to make extra requests to the database for content which of course decreases the loading time of the page. Other features of this type of plugin include ‘images on request’ which means it loads images as the user scrolls through the site, rather than loading every image as soon as the page is opened. This means that there is less to load in the first instance, therefore, the page speed is quicker.

Does page speed affect SEO?

Google is currently rolling out a new update, that will create its listing based on the mobile version of the websites, rather than the desktop. This is not fully in action currently, but we know it is being worked on to become a full mobile index. This is due to the increasing popularity of mobiles being used to surf the web, with more mobile searches than desktop being made for the first time a few years previous. So, if page speed is a ranking factor, and Google will be judging you via your site on mobile, then you need good mobile page speed. Also, the fact that so many website sessions are now carried out on mobiles, it is beneficial for user experience, which is just as important, if not more, than SEO.

You can test your mobile page speed using this handy tool that Google has set up. Similarly to PageSpeed Insights, it gives you an easy to understand score and speed, whilst comparing your site to others in the same or similar industry. The tool also gives you an option to receive a report from then, which will be emailed to you, detailing all the things that you can do to improve your mobile page speed. This will include things very similar to PageSpeed Insights improvements, e.g. Compressed images and JavaScript, like when you are fixing your desktop page speed.

Another great feature that can help you speed up mobile page speed are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) that is led by Google. It is basically a project that is designed to “improve the content ecosystem for everyone” by helping webmasters speed up their websites and ads. This isn’t a vital part of having a good page speed, it is more like above and beyond. You can have a perfectly fine mobile page speed that your users are happy with, but AMPs will propel your page speed and make your website lightning fast. There is a lot more to accelerated mobile pages that you will need to understand before using them, and a lot of it is fairly technical, so you may need help from somebody who is more familiar with the workings of a website. On the website there are very detailed instructions and guidance on how to create and implement AMP, so with a bit of help you should be able to work your way towards lightning quick mobile page speed.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Summary

We all know that the loading time of a page is a vital part of search engine and user experience success, so taking away some knowledge and tips from this article should leave you in a better position to chase that benchmark 2/3 seconds for your page load time. There is a great deal more to achieving perfection on your website and digital strategy than just how quickly your website loads. So many websites out there are lacking the quality to achieve this type of page speed. Are you happy with your page load? Or do you need help improving the performance of your website or crafting an online campaign? Get in touch with us and we’ll make it happen.

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