One statement surrounds SEO efforts everywhere you look. “SEO is a process of accumulation”. This, for just about any industry, will always be true. Without executing some really shady tactics that will ultimately get you filtered out of search results, there is no way to rank a site overnight. As we have said before, auditing the competition and trying to beat them out in specific metrics can lead to higher rankings. There is no singular task you can accomplish to out perform your competitors. You should look at the types of tasks you can accomplish quickly to gain a leg up. One of these quick wins would be to work on speeding up your website. In this blog we will review the tools we use to gain valuable insight into the speed of our website, ways to improve, and the potential effects this improvement could have on your rankings.
Google Page Speed Insights
If you are looking to improve your SEO as it relates to Google specifically (you definitely should), you should use the tools Google has provided. A couple of years ago they partnered with Lighthouse to offer a more comprehensive understanding of your site speed and ways to improve. This tool allows you to insert the URL of your choice and run site speed metrics on the URL. This is great to use for your own website, but can also give you insight into what your competition is doing. Google formats their results into 20 Audits and Opportunities to increase your site speed.
GTMetrix is another free tool created to give you insight into your site speed. The format of the information is a little different than Google’s tool, but much of the suggestions are the same. GTMetrix features 45 potential recommendations to improve your site speed. They have their data formulated around both Google’s PageSpeed scores and YSlow scores.
Other Options & Key Differences
Other options like Pingdom and WebPageTest pull much of the same data with a few differences as well. All of these tools have their own set of pros and cons so it is important to find the one that provides the type of data you are looking for in a way you can understand. The key differences in these options fall to the types of tests they are performing and the locations of the servers they are performing the test from. Google does not allow you to set the location, and their location is unknown. Some industry experts think Google uses a geolocating system to look for servers nearest to the domain, but there is no proof of this.
Site Speed Data
You have run your website through these tools and now you have a giant list of executables with no clear direction. You may find yourself trying to prioritize suggestions, looking for more top level solutions that can knock out a few suggestions at a time, or you may be staring at your screen wondering what a “render blocking resource” even is. Let’s move away from the site speed test for a second and consider what could make a web page load slowly.
Page Load Factors
When you type a URL into your web browser’s address bar, you are requesting information from a server to be sent to your device. We are fortunate enough to not have to make these connections ourselves and have all of this information right at our fingertips. There are certain elements required to display a page properly on your web browser and all of these elements need to load as quickly as possible, work in conjunction with one another, and allow you to continue to navigate through the domain quickly. The main idea to keep in mind when looking to improve your site speed is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Remove all of the unnecessary plugins that are bloating your site out and slowing it down. Remove the chat feature that 6 people have used in the last two years. Taking a holistic look at what you are using within your website can lead to faster performance with minimal effort.
Images can have massive impacts on your site speed. If you are serving images that are twice as big as they are being displayed, you are wasting those valuable milliseconds loading a higher quality image than is needed. There are many tools available that can automatically shrink your images to fit on the devices they are requested from. Overall, you should be intentional about the images you are using, the quality of those images, and the way you are formatting them on your pages. There are also newer formats to serve images which work more efficiently with HTML5 and provide better compression than their older counterparts like .png and .jpeg files.
Server Performance & CDNs
As discussed above, you make a request by typing in a URL and you get a response from the server which hosts the domain. There are a few ways you can improve server performance and a few things to watch out for that can slow your site down quite a bit. Depending on which type of hosting you have for your domain, you may be on a shared server or VPS (Virtual Private Server). These both have you sharing the physical server space with other websites which can have negative effects on your site speed. The VPS is the best option of the two since you have your own “private” area of the shared server, but performance can still be impacted by the other domains hosting on the same server. As you move up in performance, you also move up in cost. Dedicated servers, cloud hosting servers, and managed hosting are all solid options but will cost much more than either a shared server or VPS hosting plan.
A CDN is another service you could elect to run on your server to speed things up. CDN stands for Content Delivery Network and works by placing servers methodically in geographical areas to serve information much faster. A CDN will hold on to pieces of your website and store them more near to the users who are browsing your site. This lets these files display much more quickly.
Site Speed and Rankings
While it is still up for debate how much impact site speed can have on your rankings directly, there are a few key insights to consider when thinking about the effects a faster site can have on your user’s experience, or UX. I’m sure you have noticed particularly slow load times when you have come across them. Your users are no different. If they sit around waiting on a few pages to load, they are probably going to look elsewhere for services or information. More specifics from that link include:
- 70% of users say site speed impacts their purchasing decisions
- A One-Second Delay Results in a 7% Drop in Conversions
- Most Websites Are Bigger Than They Need to Be
A faster site is more engaging. With bounce rate and average session duration being factors in Google analytics it would make sense for them to consider these metrics in their ranking formula. We are not going to pretend to know even part of the behemoth that is Google’s algorithm, but as regular internet users, sites that move quickly, convert quickly.
We hope this has been informative and given you some valuable insight on where to focus your attention when looking to improve your domain’s speed and performance. Reach out today if you have any questions or would like to discuss SEO in general. Good luck site speeding!