Page Speed Matters for SEO

12 Jun, 2019

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Rookie Mistakes

At some point, everyone has had this experience: a friend proudly drags us over to their study to show off their new fangled website redesign.  

They type in its URL, and we wait uncomfortably for 10 seconds for the home screen to load, pondering the polite answer we will give them when they inevitably ask us what we think.

Eventually, the site greets us with a kitsch flash video that, it must be said, is rather impressive for a weekend's work from the owner's nephew, who's still doing his Computer Science BA,  but from an SEO perspective, this new design has done more damage to the site's search engine ranking than an angry drunk email to a Google Webmaster.

Unsurprisingly, when another friend tries to check out the site, googling it with their smartphone, it is nowhere to be found, and when they use the exact URL, the page does not display correctly on their device.  

These are all symptoms of classic mistakes that are the result of a lack of attention to  key factors for SEO: data size, code length efficiency, and mobile accessibility.  These factors can all influence SEO in their own way. Working together they can make or break a site's load speeds.

These days, speed matters: anyone who Ignores it, does so at their own peril. Here's how to make sure you are ahead of the curve.  

A Neglected SEO Factor

The value of speed to usability is clear: having content that loads quickly makes a website more appealing resulting in higher traffic and better conversion rates.

This is the case, even more so, for smartphone users who are often on the go.  We know that if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load, 58% of mobile users will go elsewhere.   

On the other hand, the role of speed for SEO is not so clear to everyone. Ask most people what they think the most important factors for SEO are, and the majority who know what SEO is, will probably talk about keywords, content strategy, and maybe backlinks.

The term page speed will only be mentioned by the most knowledgeable. Page speed is a measure of how fast content on a website loads.  It has a big impact on SEO and site traffic in general.  Speed is also very important for search engines.  

Google has used page speed as a ranking factor for desktop searches since 2010,  awarding higher page rank to sites with quicker page speed.

Page speed also plays an important role in technical SEO, because faster page speeds make it easier for pages to be found and crawled by search engines.

Trimming The Fat On Your Desktop

One of the key ways to keep your website's load speeds low is to avoid excessive site code and data usage.  

One of the methods of doing this is to ensure that the images on your website are compressed appropriately. If you are not compressing your images using the correct software, like Photoshop, you will be adding precious seconds to your site page speed - one image and video at a time.

Use unconventional programming codes like Flash sparingly on your website and keep an eye on their impact on your page speed. Look into minify resources such as those recommended by Google to eliminate unnecessary coding from your website.

Optimizing your website's cache utilization can also do wonders for load times. Ensure your website has appropriate caching plugins, this will reduce the number of assets that must be reloaded by repeat visitors to your site.  

Smartphone Speed  

Google's ranking preferences on page speed with smartphones have evolved over the years, with separate criteria and usability certificates fading in and out of use over the last decade.  

Last year,   Google finally brought the page speed algorithm for smartphone ranking more closely in line with its desktop counterpart, making page speed a key ranking factor for smartphones. As a result, it has never been more important to ensure that your site loads quickly on the smartphones of visitors.  

AMP It Up!

The tips mentioned above will also improve page speeds for smartphone users, but there are also specific things that can be done to improve page speed for these users.

The AMP plugin is a must for all users of the WordPress CMS looking to optimize page speed for smartphone users. Since its release in 2015, the plugin has been used to publish over 4 billion pages.  

AMP creates a special version of your website that contains all of the important aspects of the desktop version but with more efficient coding.  As a result, AMP plugin versions of pages load much faster on Smartphones. The median load time of an AMP page is less than 0.5 seconds. 

Stone Temple's study of the AMP plugin found that it increased organic traffic to a site by 27.1% and increased the SERP click-through rate by 23.1%. 

With the right combination of plugins, site code, and compression you can shave valuable seconds off page speed times.

If you need help getting this right on your website, rankingCoach will guide you through the process, and ensure that your website always takes full advantage of the latest developments in SEO and Digital Marketing.

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