Page Loading Speed for SEO

As of July 2018, Google started including in page loading speed in their site ranking factors. It was dubbed the Google Speed Update, and it further emphasized the importance of page speed and overall site speed, not just when it came to improving user experience, but also for improving SEO site rankings.

For the longest time, it has been no secret that page speed is important for overall visitor satisfaction. Previously, it didn’t matter much if your site was sluggish, because Google and other search engines did not consider it a ranking factor. That is not the case anymore, because Google has gone on record to say that page speed is now a ranking factor especially for its mobile-first index.

According to research from the Search Engine Titan, a website has a 32 percent bounce rate when its load time ranges between 1 and 3 seconds. This bounce rate shoots up to 90 percent when this margin increases to 5 seconds, and goes further up to a whopping 123 percent when a site takes up to 10 seconds to load.

The difference a second in load time can make is enormous. Google knows this because according to another study, conversion rates can decrease by up to 20 percent because of a 1-second delay, which is why for the past year-and-a-half, it has consistently rewarded sites with shorter load times by ranking them higher in the results. Site responsiveness is not something to ignore anymore. Rather, it has become the benchmark for high performing sites that are fast, well structured, and packed with useful content, and for anyone who’d wish to go toe-to-toe with their biggest competitors, it’s one of such things you just can’t ignore.

Exactly what is Page Speed?

Page speed can be termed as the amount of time it take a web page to fully load. Factors that affect page speed include, but aren’t limited to, image size, host server, and page file size. Page speed can be further broken down into three definitions.

The fully loaded page means the time it usually takes for a page to load all of its resources. Today. The average mobile landing page takes up to 15 to 22 seconds to load fully, while a desktop site may take anywhere between 8 and 11 seconds.

Time to first byte (TTFB) refers to the amount of time it takes a page to start the loading process. On a web page, it refers to the few seconds before a page loads its first piece of content during which you get a white screen. TTFB can also be defined as the HTTP request time plus the process request time plus the HTTP response time.

First contextual paint, otherwise known as first meaningful paint, refers to the amount of time it takes a web page to load its first interactive section.

All three of these refer to the page speed of a web page. Here’s how (and when) you may encounter each of them.

TTFB can be calculated when you first land on a web page. The amount of time during which the white screen remains is the Time to First Byte. The First Contextual Paint refers to the 1.5 seconds, or so it takes a web page to load its first fold. Even if it takes the whole 11 seconds (22 for mobile sites) to load, a page that displays its first bit of information in a little over a second can be perceived as very fast. An optimized page should not take more than just a few seconds to fully load all of its resources.

Why Slow Pages Can be the Death of your Website

Apart from creating a poor user experience, a slow web page these days is the quickest way down the search engine rankings. Not only do you lose visitors, sales, and conversions when you don’t optimize your site speed, but you also lose a lot of traffic from organic searches because your web site is nowhere near the top of the results.

Before you can remedy a website with speed issues, it is important to first understand what causes slow page speed. Usually, it takes a few tweaks to improve a web page’s responsiveness.

4 Tools to help you Check your Website Speed

1. Pingdom

Pingdom Page Speed Tool is a free-to-use third-party tool that provides a list of fixes that may help improve your site’s speed and performance. The tool grades your site’s speed based on how quickly web pages load, indicates the page size, and along with it, grades your site’s performance on different scores while suggesting what can be done to make it faster. Pingdom allows you to check site speed from up to 7 different locations. It is recommended that you go with the location nearest to your server as this provides the most accurate results.

2. GTmetrix

GTmetrix provides a comprehensive performance score that includes the PageSpeed Score and YSlow Score as well as the page size, the fully loaded time, and the number of server requests. You may prefer GTmetrix if you’d like to keep your eye on your page speed at all times since it allows you to set alerts for when the speed dips before a preset threshold. Like Pingdom, GTmetrix also provides a graded list of how your page performs on different scores.

3. Google Page-Speed Insights

Arguably the best tool for checking web page speed, Google site speed insight provides the most detailed assessment of page speed on both mobile and desktop platforms. Along with highly accurate speed measurements, it offers suggestions on how you can improve load time while reducing server calls and file size. It ranks actions according to priority, allowing you to tackle the most crucial problems first. The Lighthouse tool, another one of Google’s products, is a more advanced version of Google site speed insight for the technically adept. It offers way more advanced analysis for more refined tweaking.

4. WebPage Test

Along with the option of checking your website’s loading speed from different server locations, WebPage Test also allows you to check how fast your web pages load on different devices. This simple to use yet fairly advanced tool also gives you an insight into how pages load on different browsers, allowing you to make adjustments targeting specific users or demographics.

Here’s how Site Speed Can be optimized

1. Cutting down the Number of Page Redirects

Every time a page redirects to another web page, it increases the wait time before the user can access the main page. This is because redirecting increases the TTFB as the HTTPS request-response cycle is extended, making pages load slower. To avoid this, try to minimize page redirects as much as possible.

2. Optimizing your Code

Regardless of how good your frontend is, bad code in the backend will always result in a site that’s sluggish to load. Ensure that your code is clean, non-repetitive, and optimized to make your website load faster. Consider going for a system rebuild or opting for a prebuilt solution as it minimizes the code problems usually witnessed with custom software.

3. Image Optimization

Images are often overlooked when optimizing web pages for speed, but usually, they’re the culprits behind longer loading times. Optimizing images should be done using tools like Photoshop, where you can view the file size in kilobytes (or bytes) before uploading it. A general rule of thumb is to have simple images in PNG format as it tends to be smaller, and complex images in JPG, which usually provides better quality without increasing the file size.

4. Steer Clear of Bad CSS

Cascading style sheets (CSS) are what make your site look professional and beautiful. Furthermore, CSS is easy to learn. Unfortunately, not everyone can master it, and no CSS is better than bad CSS. Practices like importing CSS stylesheets should be abandoned completely as they deprive your page of the efficiency it needs to be fast. If you’re not confident about your written CSS, it is better to steer clear of it altogether.

5. Using Gzip Compression

Sometimes getting quicker loading times is all a matter of reducing the file sizes that are being relayed to the user. This means CSS, HTML, JavaScript as well as image files are smaller, so they take less time to be loaded. How do you achieve this? Using Gzip compression, which is spoken about comprehensively here (https://code/google.com/speed/page-speed/docs/payload.html).

6. Getting Rid of Render-Blocking JavaScript

Render-blocking JavaScript means JavaScript that stops a page from loading. For instance, some web pages may have scripts like jQuery loadind in the first fold. This only interferes with the loading of the website’s first fold, so avoiding it is the best option if you want your web pages to load faster. Alternatively, you can find ways to minimize their usage if they cannot be eliminated.

7. Leverage Browser Caching for CSS, JS, and Images

One of the ways to improve your site’s loading time is to issue specific instructions to the user’s web browser concerning how long CSS, JSS, and Images are retained. This is known as leverage browser caching, and it reduces the amount of data the user downloads every time they visit your site.

8. Optimizing Server Response Time

Server response time can be reduced in a number of ways. Picking the right host is by far the most important thing to be done to improve the TTFB of any webpage. However, server location also matters a lot, so aim for servers that are closest to your targeted traffic. Also, consider the scalability of the server host you select. If you anticipate a high rate of traffic in the future, go for the server that’s most scalable.

9. Reducing File Requests

Each file request that your website makes to the server slows down the loading of the web page. The more requests it makes, the longer it will take to load. Try as much to cut down the use of images and effects where necessary and instead use CSS. Some of the places to start looking are rounded corners, gradients, and buttons.

10. Implementing a Caching System

Every request made by a website to the server requires information to be transferred from a database back to the visitor, a process that can put servers under a considerable amount of strain especially when several requests are made in quick succession. Caching systems eliminate this problem by calling up data periodically and saving it, making it available to visitors for as long as until the next update. This allows the server to handle millions of requests without crashing under the pressure of constantly responding to requests. Caching like this is ideal for medium to large websites.

11. Using Minify on JavaScript, CSS, and HTML

The Minify process eliminates extra characters from your lines of code, which contribute to file size and ultimately lead to longer page load times. Optimizing your code in this manner makes pages smaller, files lighter, and loading times faster as Minification eliminates not just comments but whitespace characters, block delimiters, and new-line characters.

12. Utilizing a CDN (Content Distribution Network)

A CDN distributes the server’s load across different locations, and by only enabling the closest server to provide data to local traffic, it reduces the geographical distance. This, in turn, impacts on web page speed positively and improves overall site performance.

13. Utilizing CSS Sprites

CSS sprites are a good way to reduce image requests as well as overall image size. This method involves the use of one image as a template containing more than one button, navigation headings, and even icons. Since one sprite can be used to accomplish more, there are fewer image requests and a considerable reduction in image file size.

Conclusion

Optimizing your web site, be it on mobile or desktop, is supposed to be a constant process because you can never have a website that’s too fast. The ideal loading time for a web page must be within 3 seconds; otherwise, you stand to lose visitors, leads, conversions, and ultimately, sales. A slow website not only loses your business, but it also puts a dent in your search engine rankings. The best way to optimize a website’s speed is by getting rid of everything unnecessary, be it scripts, redirects, or overly large images. Remember, your website host also plays a major role in determining how fast web pages load.

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