As we continue to investigate the best practices related to search engine optimization (SEO) and increasing website visibility, it is important to discuss site speed- why it matters and how to ensure it is fast. According to Wired.com, 47% of people expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds, so make sure you are serving things up quickly!
One point to clarify is the difference between site speed and page speed. Whereas site speed is the average time it takes to load a sample of pages on a site, page speed refers to the load time it takes to fully display the content on a specific page.
You need to recognize that users want faster websites, but so does Google. Since Google's search engine is determined by what the Googlebot discovers when crawling the Internet, you should always consider Google to be the second audience of your website. Having a fast website means Google will spend less time and money on indexing, bandwidth, etc. and your search engine ranking will increase.
To help you get on the right track, I’ve listed a handful of important things to consider when looking to improve your site speed:
Google has included page speed as one of its ranking factors for its search index since 2010, scoring the time of the first byte. What most people don’t know is that Google also has a limited amount of allocated crawl budget. Put simply, if your pages load slowly, Google will only index a portion of your site (opposed to the entire site). From a search engine standpoint, Google views fully indexed sites as a higher authority, so if your site cannot be indexed properly, it can negatively impact your SEO.
Optimize Your Images
We’ve previously touched on the importance of image tags on the blog, but image size can also influence your SEO. Ensure your image files are within the maximum size requirements for your website, and no larger. Graphics and other design elements should be PNG files and JPEGs should be used for photos.
Utilize Browser Caching
Even if you aren’t familiar with caching, just know that it can certainly help with page and site load speed. When you attempt to view a website, the server takes time to retrieve page content, posts, headers, footers, etc. If a snapshot of your website is cached onto a user’s computer, the time it takes to retrieve these elements will be significantly shorter. You can determine how long to cache your site, around the 6 month mark makes sense if you frequently change the design.
Don’t Forget about Mobile
Ensuring you have a mobile-optimized website is always a smart business decision. Now, Google also considers mobile site speed when ranking for organic search. Make sure your mobile site loads quickly (the faster the better!), especially when being compared to your competitors. Although this addition came in the summer of 2018, many businesses still only optimize the desktop version of their site and overlook mobile.
Additional Technical Components
Other items such as site compressions, reducing service response time, and optimizing your site code (CSS, Java or HTML), can all help speed up your site and increase your SEO. If you have further questions, give us a call to discuss some of these technical strategies and how they can influence your search rankings.