The short answer to this question is yes.
Page speed is a direct ranking factor. It became a critical component of mobile searches in July 2018 and for all pages in June 2021. Page speed can also impact bounce rate and session time on your site, which also affects SEO. However, speed is relative and based upon a multitude of factors such as the website’s performance, the server’s performance, how many tabs the user has open, their browser, the user’s internet service provider, their device and so much more.
So how do you measure this and make sure your website loads quickly?
First, let’s talk about User Experience (UX). Yes, speed is important for SEO, but the reason Google uses speed as one of their ranking factors is because of UX. Fast loading pages make it easier for visitors to navigate your website. Studies by Google and others have shown that humans (especially when on their laptops or phones) have an attention span of just under three seconds – which is less than the mental concentration of a goldfish. This means that users will leave a site if they aren’t engaged. If your site takes too long to load, visitors will drop off. Google doesn’t like ranking sites that provide a bad user experience. As a business, you want your customers to have a good experience – whether they are visiting your website or talking to customer support.
How to Measure Page Speed
A popular tool to measure page speed is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. You enter a website and it then tells you a number of performance related issues or opportunities related to that website. One of those is page speed. And while this is a useful tool, it does have its limitations and faults. For example, it considers the Google Analytics script render blocking, which means you should load it later, in the footer. However, Google Analytics specifies that the script must be placed in the <head> section of your website, otherwise it won’t work properly and won’t initially be accepted as a valid install. It seems like a catch-22.
Page Speed Insights is based on a score, but what really matters are the seconds and the User Experience. I’ve seen websites with good page speed scores rank poorly and those with poor page speed scores earn a higher ranking. So, while this is a useful measuring tool and one that should be monitored, these insights shouldn’t be the only focus.
How to Improve Page Speed
- Use the right web host/server
- The server is something you can’t really improve yourself, but by partnering with a reputable web host and doing a little research you can help ensure your server isn’t causing your website to load slowly.
- Optimize images
- Images are often the source of the problem when a page is loading slowly. It is important to optimize them for web prior to uploading them and good to use an image optimizing plugin, too.
- Activate browser caching
- Avoid bloat
- Many themes, plugins, widgets and other tools come with a lot of extra features that aren’t needed. However, your website is still loading all that data, so it is important to try to use lightweight themes and plugins. When considering if the addition of a plugin to activate some animation makes sense, keep speed in mind. It might look really cool, but if it isn’t necessary and causes your website to be slow, it isn’t worth it.
- Minify resources
- Using too many CSS files can cause numerous HTTP requests, which can also slow down your website. It is important to minify the resources you can in order to strip out unnecessary data.
There are numerous other ways to speed up your website. Feel free to contact us to learn more. Otherwise, just know that page speed is important to both SEO and User Experience (UX), but that in our books, the User Experience outweighs what a particular tool may say about the speed of your website.