Page Speed 101 – The Importance of Page Speed for Search Engine Optimization

Have you ever visited a website and it takes forever to load? I think it’s safe to say we have all experienced the slow, snail like speed of some websites. When I encounter one of those slow websites I typically bounce if it’s not loading within a few seconds because I have places to be, things to Google, paint to watch dry, etc. Website users are no different – they want fast results, I mean instantaneously fast.

As cellphones continue to increase for search, users are not going to wait for pages to load. This ties directly into mobile-first indexing and the reason it was implemented. As our society continues to become more reliant on technology and accustomed to instant gratification the page load time on your website better be meeting these standards as well, especially with Google’s “Speed Update” that was implemented in July 2018.

What is page speed?

Page speed is based off two components – speed and optimization. Optimization meaning the technical components of your site are being addressed, such as: compression of unminified JavaScript and CSS files, browser caching, etc, Speed is evaluated on two separate metrics – the first being First Contentful Paint. According to Google, First Contentful Paint (FCP) “measures the time from navigation to the time when the browser renders the first bit of content from the DOM.” The second metric is DOM Content Loaded, which is the time it takes an HTML document to be loaded and parsed.

Page Speed Componentspage-speed-metrics

 

Why is page speed so important to Search Engine Optimization?

Page speed is a critical component to SEO since Google implemented mobile-first indexing. It’s more important than ever to make sure the page speeds on your website are fast and responsive to accommodate the ever-increasing searches that are done on mobile.

Lab Data vs. Field Data for Page Speed

Since Google has made a huge push to make the internet more oriented for mobile search they’re testing websites with actual field data opposed to lab data.

  • Lab Data: is performance data collected within a controlled environment with predefined device and network settings.
  • Field Data: Also referred to as Real User Monitoring (RUM), is performance data collected from real page loads your users are experiencing in the wild

Now that websites are being tested and ranked with field data it’s imperative to test your websites page speed with different testing tools that are utilizing actual field data to see how your website is performing – compared to controlled testing data. Your page speed might look great in a controlled environment but could be performing very poorly for actual users with real page loads.

Page Speed as a Ranking Factor

Another reason page speed, specifically mobile, is critical to SEO is it became an actual ranking factor in July 2018.  Google wants websites to be fast and responsive for users searching via mobile. Pages that have higher load times tend to have higher bounce rates because users aren’t going to wait around for a page to load.

It’s also important to think of your competitors – actual industry competitors and SEO – because if their website is faster, easier to access, etc. they’re more likely to continue returning to that website for business. If you’re not optimizing your website for page speed and treating it as an ongoing technical task you’re continuing to expand the gap between you and your competitors.

The Impacts of Page Speed on the Crawl budget

If the pages on your website have high load times that’s a problem. Google and other search engines have a certain allocated crawl budget for every website it indexes. If your website is bogged down by high load times the search engines aren’t going to be able to crawl as many pages within their allocated crawl budget for your website. However, if your website is optimized for page speed and the pages are quick to load the various search engines will be able to maximize their crawl budget for your website, which results in more pages being crawled and indexed on your website.

What Technical Components Contribute to Page Speed?

There are multiple factors that contribute to page speed across a website. That’s why it’s important to continuously test and optimize your website for mobile search. Below, are components that should be tested when considering page speed that are listed under Page Speed Insights – Google’s page speed testing tool:

  • First Contentful Paint
  • First Meaningful Paint
  • Speed Index
  • First CPU Idle
  • Time to Interactive
  • Max Potential First Input Delay
  • Serve images in next-gen formats
  • Eliminate render-blocking resources
  • Ensure text remains visible during webfont load
  • Serve static assets with an efficient cache policy
  • Minimize critical requests depth
  • Keep request counts low and transfer sizes small
  • Properly size images
  • Defer offscreen images
  • Minify CSS
  • Minify JavaScript
  • Remove unused CSS
  • Efficiently encode images
  • Enable text compression
  • Preconnect to required origins
  • Server response times are low
  • Avoid multiple page redirects
  • Preload key requests
  • Use video formats for animated content
  • Avoid enormous network payloads
  • Avoid excessive DOM size
  • User timing marks and measures
  • JavaScript execution time
  • Minimizes main-thread work

Your Website Host Could be Affecting Your Website Page Speed 

When deciding on a host for your website it’s important to do your homework. How many websites are hosted on the server you’re looking at? How much are you paying for your hosting? If you’re sharing a server with thousands, if not millions, of other websites that is going to most definitely impact your website page speeds due to the sheer volume of websites hosted on it. If you’ve done the technical optimization for mobile and are still seeing slow page speeds it might be time to start exploring a new website host. For more information on hosting, click here.

Contact Ecreativeworks

Our ECW team provides comprehensive and digital marketing strategies that help business owners navigate the ever-changing requirements of Google and other search engines. Contact us for more information on our digital marketing program and options – and how we can help optimize your website for the “Speed Update”.
Written by: Hadley Purdy, Digital Marketing Specialist

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