Are you just focusing on the “tangible” aspects of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, such as your keywords and page design? What about your page loading time? Did you know Google considers website load speed an important ranking factor?
Slow load speed can impact your business in numerous ways. Two of the most crucial ones are your ranking and ability to convert. When your site server’s response time is slower than two seconds, Google reduces the number of crawlers visiting your site.
Building off of that, let’s dive deeper into how page load speed affects different site parameters.
Today, users will accept no excuse for poor website performance. And they are extremely particular about a site’s loading speed.
If facts are to be believed, 47 percent of users expect a page to load within two seconds. Meanwhile, reports show that 75 percent of visitors bounce (leave the page) if the loading time exceeds three seconds.
This tells us every second of delay in page loading time causes a significant loss in customers.
A Think With Google survey shows that bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave the site after only getting to one page) increases with an increase in page loading time. The increased bounce rate also affects overall user engagement and interaction metrics.
In 2018, mobile devices accounted for over 53 percent of the total website traffic. And that same year, Google officially introduced mobile page speed as a ranking factor. Ever since then, page load speed has become all the more crucial.
When Google announced its focus on mobile-first indexing a few years ago, businesses had no choice but to optimize their site for mobile devices. Sites with poor mobile performance have since plunged down the search engine results page (SERPs).
Simply put, if your mobile page speed is not up to standard, it’s virtually impossible for you to achieve higher rankings.
Do you know that a one-second delay in your page loading time reduces conversions by 7 percent?
If your site is plagued with low performance, there is no way around it – you’re losing a substantial amount of sales. The increased bounce rate due to low site speed already pushes away a great number of potential customers and minimizes any chances you have of converting visitors.
Amazon surveyed the impact of page load speed on their sales. It determined that the company can lose 1.6 billion in revenue annually if their site’s load time increases by one second. Data from Search Engine Journal also reports that 70 percent of consumers believe site speed to have a significant impact on their buying decisions.
So, by optimizing your site speed, you can expect decent growth in rankings, conversions and, ultimately, sales.
Let’s re-consider the points we highlighted above: A slow page loading speed drives away consumers and leads to lower conversion rates.
In addition to these, customers are less likely to revisit a site that offers a poor user experience (UX). Thus, a slow website speed also takes a toll on customer loyalty.
In fact, HubSpot says that 80 percent of customers dissatisfied by a site’s low performance won’t buy from that site again, proving that slow-loading pages reduce your repeat orders significantly. A slow page is a particularly tough loss for eCommerce sites, whose revenue greatly depends on repeat sales.
Moreover, research by Akamai unveiled another important concern for businesses: 40 percent of dissatisfied visitors share their negative experiences with their contacts. This negative social proof is likely to affect the overall conversions and customer loyalty.
A low site speed only leads to lower rankings on the SERPs. And this also means lesser organic traffic to your site. Did you know that the top five rankings on Google capture 67.6 percent of the total organic clicks?
If your loading is less than ideal, you are already losing a significant amount of organic traffic. Meanwhile, if mobile page speed isn’t optimized, you lose out on mobile traffic, which can make up to 50 percent of your potential customers.
Since the launch of the Mobilegeddon Update in 2015, businesses have been redirecting their focus towards page load time. They’ve also been investing more time and effort in mobile-friendliness and mobile page speed.
But the question is: What is the ideal page loading speed, or how fast is fast enough?
As per Google, the recommended page load time is less than three seconds for both desktop and mobile devices. However, the average page loading time across all the sites on mobile devices is currently 22 seconds. Screaming Frog surveyed 20,000 URLs to check if they passed Google’s PageSpeed assessment. It found that only 12 percent of mobile and 13 percent desktop results passed the test.
You also have to consider that users expect an even faster load time from eCommerce websites. Google’s Maile Ohye talks about the eCommerce page load speed in a Google Webmaster video. She says, “Two seconds is the threshold for eCommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half-second.”
Now, half a second could seem unrealistic. However, if you are an eCommerce website owner, you must aim for a page load speed that’s under three seconds at most. This benchmark is for both mobile and web devices.
Google wishes to leave no stone unturned when it comes to UX. And that’s why it recently enrolled Core Web Vitals as an important ranking factor.
These Core Web Vitals, in harmony with other crucial UX signals, now affect ranking. And one of the metrics, called Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), is related to page load speed.
LCP refers to the time taken to render the largest content element on a page. This can be an image, a video or any other element.
As per Google, the ideal Largest Contentful Paint on a page is less than or up to 2.5 seconds. Anything from 2.5 to four seconds needs improvement, and anything beyond that is considered poor.
One of the best practices to reduce the website loading time is using a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN can help you reduce the site loading time from 20 to 51 percent.
In a traditional setup, you host your entire website on a single server. And this server processes all the requests by the site users. Now, when your site experiences high traffic, the number of requests significantly increases. And this increases the load on your server. As a result, the request processing time increases, thus delaying the page load time.
Moreover, when a user is physically farther from the server location, they experience a higher page load time. This is because the data has to travel a larger distance, increasing the load time.
A CDN can solve these challenges. CDNs work by hosting your website across a global network of servers. So now, when a user sends a request, the data is routed from the server closest to their location.
Also, as your files are cached across several servers, this saves the bandwidth up to 60 percent. Now, a single server doesn’t have to process all the requests.
When a user requests a page, an HTTP request is sent for each page component. Yahoo reports that web servers use 80 percent of page load time downloading these components. These include your page images, scripts, media, stylesheets, etc. Hence, the page rendering time increases if there’s a huge number of on-page components.
So, how can you check the number of page components and the time taken to load each of them?
Chrome users can follow these steps:
Note: Use Chrome browser’s Developer Tools to check the number of HTTP requests.
You can now check the elements that are not useful and the time they take to load.
You also need to reduce the number of HTTP requests. One way to do that is by minifying and combining the webpage files. Find out how in the next point.
Minifying your page helps you remove all these unnecessary elements and make the page leaner.
It becomes all the more crucial when you have a template-based website. Template-based websites are easier to develop, but they can offer messy code pieces that slow down site performance.
By enabling browser caching, you are allowing your browser to store a page in the cache memory. So when you revisit this page, it loads from the cache without sending HTTP requests.
One way to leverage browser caching for your site is by adding the “expires” header.
The “expires” header tells the web browser to load a page from the cache memory. So, the “expires” header only works for users who have previously visited your site. They must also have your page stored on their cache memory.
When this user revisits your site, the “expires” header instructs the browser to load the cached version of the page.
Now, since many page components are already in the cache memory, they load faster. And the browser requests only a few page components, leading to a decrease in the page load time.
Browser caching reduces the number of HTTP requests, which further increases the page load speed.
As the word suggests, when scripts load synchronously, they load one after another. And each script follows a loading order according to its position on the page. On the other hand, when loading asynchronously, multiple scripts can load simultaneously.
When your browser loads a page, it follows a top-to-bottom loading pattern.
Images optimization or compression is crucial to reducing page load time. Often, image files are large, and they delay the page load time. However, you cannot limit the use of images or eliminate them. Images are crucial for your site’s user experience, especially for an eCommerce site. As per a survey, 66 percent of consumers require at least three product images before buying the product.
A simple way to compress site images for WordPress websites is by using the WP Smush plugin. This plugin works in the background to compress the images while uploading them. The result is reduced image size without compromising on quality.
The WordPress site owners can simply enable deferring by using the WP Rocket plugin. You just need to check-mark the “Load JS files deferred” and save the changes.
So, there you have it! Implement these tips for your website to boost your page speed and enhance your visibility in search engines.