Google has been very transparent with most of the factors that go into its algorithm for ranking websites in search. In the beginning, major factors that would hurt your site were all about spammy backlinks, keyword stuffing, and domain ownership. But, now that these are (or should be) widely known “black hat” practices, there are some new and interesting determinants of your site’s value and ranking position. This week I would like to focus on one of the major ones – website loading speed.
If you want to rank well in search, paying attention to your website loading speed is an absolute must these days. The following will hopefully explain why page seed is such an important ranking factor and how you might go about improving yours.
Site Speed and Search Engine Rankings
Google is not shy when it comes to explaining its master purpose … making the user’s experience the best it can be by providing search results with the most relevant websites associated with a particular query. To do that, however, a comparison between related websites must occur. And if everything else is equal, but your competitor has a faster loading site, then theirs will rank above yours. So, what exactly is the deal with site speed?
On the most transparent level, if Google’s goal is to offer the most pleasant user experience possible, then it would make sense to deny ranking privileges to slow sites and reward faster ones, wouldn’t it? With “time spent on a webpage” as another factor in determining ranking position, a faster loading site will inevitably retain users more so than a slower loading site. Users don’t want to wait five seconds or more for your site to load, and Google knows that. Unless they’re a loyal follower of your brand, they will most likely choose another search engine result that has a faster page load speed to accomplish their mission. So, what can you do to ensure that your site load speed is as fast as it can be?
Improving Site Load Speed
Flashiness is Not Always The Best For SEO
Though a flashy, well designed website may be wonderful to look at, some of these fancy components will significantly slow a pages load time. To minimize on-page components, Larry Alton from Search Engine Journal says, “If you combine style sheets or replace images with CSS, the HTTP requests that make on-page elements function won’t have an opportunity to slow down your site.”
Unless you are a web developer, this might not make any sense to you. Contact a credible website design company to tackle these issues for you.
Compromise with Long-Form Content
While Google seems to like long-form content, videos, and shareable media as a tool to rank higher in SERPs, all of this content will unfortunately reduce page load speed. Don’t compromise all of this wonderful content … just compress the larger pages so they take up less space and use less bandwidth when loading.
Something that many webmasters fail to utilize is browser caching. This is a simple method for storing necessary elements on a user’s hard drive, and ultimately will result in a faster load time when that user returns to the site.
Visual Content Optimization
We all know (or should know) by now that the Web is becoming more and more visually geared these days. But, this emphasis on visual content seems to have misled an abundant majority of website owners. Continue to use images, videos and graphics because that is what people seem to like, but you must properly format those media pieces or they can cause sluggish page load speeds. Be sure to spend the time on optimizing your visual content by limiting file size, reformatting those images into JPEG form, and get rid of those larger BMPs, GIFs, and TIFFs.
Plugins are surely an easy way to add all of those bells and whistles to your site, especially if you’re using WordPress. But, running multiple plugins on a site will result in slower page load speeds and ultimately a poor user experience. A good rule of thumb is to remove any plugins that are not absolutely necessary. Any credible web developer will be able to replace a plugin with hard-coded CSS to replace those clunky plugins.
Good Host, Bad Host – One Size Does Not Fit All
It is a good idea to check into your hosting plan. Unreliable hosting providers can sometimes have a negative impact on your site speed. It may seem tempting to pick a one-size-fits-all package, but one type of hosting service does not work for all websites. Choose a plan that fits your website’s needs.
Now that you’ve followed all of the aforementioned steps to increase your site’s load time, it is time to monitor your progress. This should not be a one-time thing, but instead, an ongoing activity that you do on a regular basis. Google has come out with a Chrome extension that allows you to track your site’s performance, and I would highly recommend utilizing PageSpeed Insights to help you as you move forward. This handy tool will analyze both mobile and desktop versions of your site and offer up suggestions on how to fix errors that are slowing your site down.
Google has over 200 ranking factors that go into its algorithm, but besides helping you rank better in search, improving your page load speed will help to give your users a much better experience. When your users can rely on your site to load quickly, they will be more likely to return again, and this repeat visit will result in an increase in loyal customers in the long run. That’s what its all about, isn’t it?