How Website Speed Affects Your Google SEO Ranking

Obaro Alidou
Published Aug 07, 2019 by Obaro Alidou in Google, optimization, SEO Tips & Resources
The views of contributors are their own, and not necessarily those of SEOBlog.com

No one can deny that he/she prefers a fast-loading website opposed to a slow one. The two primary reasons why people are starting blogs or making websites are to build or expand a business and to connect and share their passion with the world. Either way, you need your website to be responsive. And, the most important factor that makes a website responsive is “website loading speed.”

But, when hearing “website speed” and “SEO,” they seem to come from two different domains. That is why most people don’t understand …

How Website Speed Affects Your Google SEO Ranking

How Does Website Speed Affect SEO?

It is actually hard to grow your website’s audience without Google search traffic. And, if you want that free traffic from Google, make sure your site runs fast.

Why? A study by MachMetrics showed that in 2018 most websites’ loading time was between 8 to 11 seconds.

The problem?

About 53% of your visitors will leave your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, according to research by Google.

Google released a new ranking algorithm called RankBrain years back and it’s impacted many webmasters. Many website owners have experienced a decrease in traffic. Now, let’s explain clearly …

What is Google RankBrain?

RankBrain is Google’s first machine-learning algorithm. Its role is to understand what should go on the search engine results first page. It studies how users interact with websites.

How Does RankBrain Work?

Google RankBrain considers two factors when measuring websites’ ranking:

  • CTR (Click-through rate)
  • Dwell time

Only the second factor (dwell time) has to do with website speed. Therefore, we’ll focus on that and save you some precious time.

What is Dwell Time?

This is a Google ranking factor related to your website speed and responsiveness.

Dwell time represents the time users spend on your website. It is that simple.

The longer visitors stick around your website, the higher Google ranks you.

Here is how it works:

If most visitors landing on your site leave in less than 5 seconds, it is a bad signal (high bounce rate) for Google. RankBrain automatically tells Google that “users have a bad experience with your site.” A bad experience simply means that people aren’t happy with your site and how it functions.

Then what happens? Google simply drops your ranking because it wants the best experience for users.

So, the higher your bounce rate, the lower your site will rank on Google.

In fact, an analysis of 1.3 million Google search results by Backlinko has shown that websites with a lower bounce rate rank above ones with a higher bounce rate.

Bounce Rate graph

How Do You Make Your Website Visitors Happy?

How do you feel when you browse a website that loads quickly? Wow! You find the information you want quickly and you are happy. That is what Google wants for its users.

Hence, if you want to get love by Google, you have to make sure your users are happy so they don’t leave quickly (bounce). And, one of the best ways to provide a good user experience to your visitors/clients is to have a fast-loading website.

Website speed is a key factor in user experience. Nobody will browse a website that takes ages to load. Remember that 53% of users leave your website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to show up.

The faster your website loads, the happier your visitors are. The happier they are, the lower your bounce rate. The lower your bounce rate, the higher you rank on Google.

That is how website speed affects your SEO.

Another way to understand how website speed can hurt your SEO is through …

Competition

No matter your niche, you probably have competitors. And, that is where website speed can really hurt you.

The same study by Backlinko mentioned above has also revealed that websites that load faster rank above those that load slower.

Load Speed graph

Let’s consider the following three scenarios:

I assume that both you and your competitor have beautiful websites to catch users’ attention and equal domain authority.

Scenario 1: Your content is as good as your competitor. But, his website loads in 1 second while yours loads in 5 seconds.

Who is Google going to prioritize? Your competitor! Because he probably delivers a better user experience.

Scenario 2: You have better content than your competitor. But, your website loads far slower. Again, there is a high chance he wins.

Scenario 3: You have the best content ever made. But, you also have the highest bounce rate because of your slow-loading website.

Once again, your competitor who has good content (not the best) with the lower bounce rate (because of a fast-loading site) might take the edge.

Bottom line:

Slow website = Higher bounce rate.

Higher bounce rate is translated as a bad user experience by Google.

Bad user experience = Lower Google ranking.

That is why website speed matters to your SEO.

Now that you know the SEO drawback related to website speed, the unavoidable question is …

How Do You Check Your Website Speed?

Before speeding up your website, you first need to know how fast it is. Fortunately, there are many free tools to measure your website speed. Below are three of the best tools for measuring your website speed:

Pingdom

The Pingdom tool is one of the best and most popular. It displays speed insights and also shows how to get improvement. Pingdom is similar to the Google Tool and breaks down specific tips to speed up your site.

Google Page Speed Insights

It goes without saying that Google couldn’t exclude itself from developing a website speed testing tool. Actually, Google has the best tool to figure out how quickly your website is running.

This tool provides a detailed description of how fast your site loads both on desktop and mobile. It also breaks down how exactly you can improve your speed.

GTmetrix

This is my personal favorite. It shows you the real loading time of your website in a more accurate way.

What I love about GTmetrix is that it shows you all the plugins, themes, images, etc., that are slowing down your website and how to fix it.

The best part is it even shows you where the issues are coming from. Is it your server or simply your website’s configuration? So, you know where to focus your time on first.

What Makes A Website Load Quickly?

 

1. Web Hosting

The first metric that affects your website speed is your hosting provider. It is what makes your website available on the internet. Therefore, you need a fast web host if you want quick website speed

2. Caching

The problem with speed is file size. While the recommended file size is 500 KB, the same study in 2018 by MachMetrics mentioned above also revealed that most websites’ size is around 1 MB-2.5 MB (that’s 5x the recommended size!).

So, reducing your website’s size is the first caching process to follow to get a quicker loading time.

Reduce the Image Size

Assuming you don’t host videos on your website, the best way to reduce website size is through fewer or smaller images. You can use free tools such as TinyPng to not only compact your images (change the format) but also reduce their size. The tool can compress an image by up to 65%.

Always compress your images before uploading them to your website or blog.

Install the Smuch Plugin

Smuch is a free WordPress plugin that automatically compresses your images before you use them on your website. So, in addition to TinyPng, this plugin can help you gain some website page-loading speed.

Use a Caching Plugin

If you are using WordPress to maintain your website, then use caching plugins such as W3 Total Cache, which can really speed up your website by performing actions like:

  • Browser caching
  • GZIP compression
  • HTML/CSS minification
  • Minimize HTTP requests

3. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

CDN is another tool you can use to increase website loading speed. It serves your website to users all around the world and by doing so, it reduces loading time.

Most of the best web hosting companies provide a free CloudFlare CDN. You can use it if your website is not massive. But, if you have a high-demanding website, then you should consider the premium version or another premium CDN provider.

Now, It’s Your Turn

What do you think about website speed? What will be your next step? Will you optimize your site speed or are you simply going to switch to a faster — and SEO-friendly — web host? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Obaro Alidou

Obaro Alidou
Obaro Alidou is a passionate webmaster, web hosting geek, pro blogger and an SEO lover. When I’m not spying on a server to find the fastest web hosting, thinking about Google’s 200 ranking factors, writing the best "How to start a blog guide," then you'll certainly find me playing Lara Croft relic run game or singing R-Kelly’s songs, such as “I believe I can fly!!!!”

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