Ranking a website relies on countless factors, prioritized by search engines like Google. The tricky thing is, not even the developers who helped shape modern ranking algorithms fully understand all the factors that go into choosing who gets to be on the first page, or in the top spot. This can frustrate web developers and website owners, who want desperately to rank their content, but struggle to comprehend all the finer details of SEO, or "search engine optimization."
Is Page Speed Important to SEO?
Ultimately, if you want your website to rank highly in the SERPs (i.e., the search engine results pages), you need to recognize that there are dozens of factors that can directly impact where your site falls. One of those often underestimated factors is page speed. In fact, SEO guru Backlinko once conducted a survey that found no correlation between page speed and ranking, backing up the misbelief that page speed isn't important. Of course, you have to look at the bigger picture.
Content marketing expert, Neil Patel, pointed out that Google released an entire update about page speed, denoting its importance, and highlighted the research Google shared on how bounce rates go up substantially as page load time increases. It's all within Google’s new PageSpeed industry benchmarks. Neil went on to summarize that "BigCommerce found conversion rates for e-commerce websites average somewhere in the one to two percent range [and] Portent found page speed can increase conversion rates drastically."
So, whether you believe page speed directly impacts your rankings, it most certainly does so indirectly. And, since the average load time of a website ranking on the first page of Google is just 1.65 seconds, it's extremely important that you work to reduce your average load time so that you can compete.
What is PageSpeed Insights?
If you're unfamiliar with PageSpeed Insights, there's a good chance you haven't checked your website's page speed in the past, and that's okay because this tool will prove extremely helpful. PageSpeed Insights is a free tool from Google that will analyze your website to determine how long it takes for pages to load. Many tools exist like this on the market, but not only is this tool-free, it also comes directly from the developers at Google, so you can trust its functionality and accuracy.
Features and benefits include:
- Check unlimited URLs for free, without signing in or creating an account.
- Get a report that shows a website rating (the higher the score, the better).
- See an overview of "Lab Data" explaining how long it took for the website to become interactive, etc.
- Review opportunities to improve your score and page load time.
- Review diagnostics to identify potential errors in your website's coding and design.
By using PageSpeed Insights, you can quickly determine whether your site's load speed is up to par, with the ideal load time being about three seconds or less.
How to Use PageSpeed Insights?
The tool is very simple to use, just put in the URL of your website (or any of your competitors' sites, if you want to see how you stack up) and the tool will check your website's load time from random servers in various locations, giving the most accurate average of how long your site actually takes to load. This is different from any test you try to run manually because your website is likely to load faster for you since it's cached in your browser.
Once the tool analyzes your website, which generally only takes a few seconds, you'll get a results page that shows you a rating, with 0-49 being bad, 50-89 being average, and 90-100 being ideal. If you have a new website that gets little traffic, you might see a message like: "The Chrome User Experience Report does not have sufficient real-world speed data for this page." That's because Google factors in real users' data when giving your site a score and a lack of traffic means that data simply isn't available.
"Opportunities" and "Diagnostics" will help you identify potential areas for improvement along with big issues that should be addressed sooner rather than later. The difficulty here is knowing what you're looking at — that's easy for a web developer, but not so easy for a website owner who is unfamiliar with HTML or web design best practices, in general.
Pros and Cons of PageSpeed Insights
- A completely free tool, use it without signing in or creating an account.
- Information directly from Google, ensuring it is accurate and trustworthy.
- An easy-to-understand scoring system summarizes multiple metrics.
- Diagnostics and Opportunities give you suggestions for improvement.
- A non-techy user may not know what to do with the suggestions.
- Suggestions can be lacking, and overlook basic best practices.
- Other tools exist to do the same thing and maybe bundled into a tool you already use.
Improving Your Page Speed
If you put your URL into PageSpeed Insights only to find that your website scores poorly, it's worth walking through the best practices for improving page speed — simple things that Google's suggestions often overlook. Here's the list, with advice to help anyone take action on them.
Compress your images: One of the biggest causes of a slow-loading website is having bulky images throughout your design and content. First off, make sure you aren't using too many images, and then try compressing them. This is easy if you're running your site using a CMS like WordPress, as free and premium plugins exist that will compress or "smush" your images for you, automatically, so you don't have to manually download, compress, and re-upload.
Check your hosting: A commonly overlooked cause of a slow-loading website is hosting your site with a provider or plan that doesn't offer the space you need to quickly load and serve your site to visitors. Always check reviews before you buy into a hosting plan and make sure you have enough allowances to support traffic effectively. Consider upgrading or changing providers if you're on an entry-level or basic plan.
Clean up your code: While the average website owner is often unfamiliar with HTML and coding best practices, cleaning up your code often has the most major impact when it comes to speeding up your site's load time. You can either call in a developer to help or try your hand at Google's PageSpeed Modules, which are tools you can run that automatically minify and simplify your code.
Utilize caching: "Caching" your website can help drastically reduce load time by saving a snapshot of your website in browsers so that the site doesn't have to load from scratch with each new visit. Caching can present issues with dynamics elements, but it's worth trying if you're facing a low PageSpeed score. Again, if you're using a CMS like WordPress, plugins exist to help you cache your site automatically and improve load time.
If you've tried these best practices and you're still running into issues with your site's PageSpeed score, it's best to reach out to an experienced web developer and ensure that your side is minimal, clean, and well-constructed. It's a common problem for free themes and "drag-and-drop" webpage builders to end up over-using elements and failing to follow best practices, so make sure your code is in order before you start looking into other big changes (like switching hosts).
Drive More Organic Traffic to Your Website
While boosting your PageSpeed score in itself may not put you on the first page, it can make the difference between a user staying on your site and falling in love with your brand, or "bouncing" and finding a competitor instead. Of course, if you're trying to drive organic traffic, you already know that optimizing your PageSpeed is one of the last things on your to-do list. In order to get more visitors to your website and keep them there, you must start with engaging content.
Scripted's service helps you attract and engage more visitors thanks to a fully managed content strategy that fills in keyword gaps and ensures you're hitting all the targets. Interested in learning more? Explore all features today.