Whenever most people think about search engine optimization (SEO), what comes to mind is creating stellar content, crafting enticing titles, writing excellent meta descriptions, choosing the right keywords, ensuring the right keyword density and attracting backlinks from authoritative sites.
All this is certainly fundamental if you want your website to appear at the top of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) for your preferred keywords. But did you know speed is also a key factor in SEO and that a slow loading website (especially mobile) would have negative repercussions on your SEO performance? Here’s why.
Google Requires It
Google has for about a decade now made it clear that a web page’s loading speed affects search ranking. At the start of 2018, the Alphabet subsidiary took the importance of speed up a notch higher when it announced mobile loading speed would be a factor in its search results ranking algorithm.
The search behemoth even has a free PageSpeed Insights tool where you can enter your URL and see how well your page performs on both desktop and mobile browsers. It provides detailed information on what aspect of your site is responsible for your slow speed so you can take appropriate action where possible to correct it.
The World is Going Decisively Mobile
In 2018, a staggering 1.4 billion smartphones were shipped worldwide. That compares to the just under 260 million computers delivered the same year. It’s a stark testament to how decisively the world has moved to smartphones as the primary gadget used in personal computing.
If you only focus your loading speed efforts on the desktop version but don’t do the same for mobile, you’ll be shortchanging the majority of visitors to your website.
It’s The First Impression
It takes a lot of time, money and effort to build a high quality website. You’ve defined an intuitive layout and have targeted, relevant content that’s primed to have a high conversion rate. But before a visitor gets to experience all the great things your website has to offer, they’ll first have to load it. It’s how quickly the page loads that will be your visitor’s first impression and not the actual content on your site.
If your web page is slow, visitors’ expectations of what they’ll find on the other side will drastically diminish. The rationale here is that if you can’t acquire and configure the infrastructure needed to load your website quickly, it’s probably unlikely that the quality of your content or product measures up. It may not be a fair comparison but that’s just how visitors will perceive it.
Conversions and Bounce Rates
Your website doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’ll always be at least dozens of competitors out there who provide a similar product or service as you do. Conversion rates drop and bounce rates rise dramatically with each extra second your web page takes to open.
“People will quickly tap that back button and head back to Google Search results to see if there’s a faster site out there.”
With just a few clicks, a visitor can navigate away from your website and head to a competitor whose pages load quicker than yours. And it doesn’t end there. The more visitors leave your site almost immediately they arrive, the lower down the rankings Google will push your pages.
Loading Speed Affects Crawling
The average website today comprises at least dozens of pages, plugins, images, scripts and other components. Even a seemingly small site can be fairly complex underneath. With websites so unwieldy, untangling them for search engine crawling can be difficult. Optimizing your website for speed has an important positive consequence—orderliness and decreased clutter.
By fixing your website’s structure, cleaning up outdated posts, optimizing redirects and investing in a better hosting plan, you inadvertently make your website easier to navigate for search engine crawlers. The faster your site is, the quicker Googlebot can get around it and therefore the more frequently your site is likely to be crawled.
Overall, Understand Your Audience
Your web page’s loading speed determines whether all your other SEO efforts will bear fruit. While it’s vital you take note of the scores your site receives on Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, it’s more important that you understand your audience.
Other than the things you do on your website, there are other real-world factors outside your control that determine how fast the page loads including the devices your visitors use, the web browser and the bandwidth available to them. Therefore, establish the average profile of your user and ensure your site loads reasonably fast for this group irrespective of the scores your pages receive on the PageSpeed Insights tool.