Site Speed Effects UX And Rankings
For quite some time Google has been informing the public that site load speed is a ranking factor. The problem is a lot of site owners have no clue how to speed up their site. In this short article we'll cover a few actionable tips to get your site up to speed and better rankings.
In our last post under the web design topic, we wrote about how using a CDN can help speed up your site. Because site speed is so important to both rankings and UX, we thought we would expand further on site speed. Honestly, we could have put this post under the local seo blog because of the ranking factor, but since it's a little more technical, we opted to place it under the website building, design and development category.
First up, lets just cover the FACT that site speed IS a ranking factor to Google. They actually made this public statement about site speed and rankings:
You may have heard that here at Google we're obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we're including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.
Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we've seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don't just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that's why we've decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.
Read The Full Article "Using site speed in web search ranking"
That article is straight from Google's Webmaster Central Blog - all the way back in April of 2010, over 7 years ago! Now that can put to rest any doubt about site speed and it's effect on rankings :)
UX Site Speed And Bounce Rate
A lot of people don't realize how site speed and UX tie together for rankings. If someone clicks a link to your site and it takes more than a few seconds to load, most people just hit the back button to look elsewhere for the information they are hunting. This actually counts against you twice.
The first is obvious, you have lost a customer to someone else. The second is that to the search engines, you are giving a negative bounce signal, which means the person performing the search wasn't given the info they were searching for on your site and decided to search elsewhere. That negative bounce signal can be increased if you are using Google Analytics on your site.
How Do You Speed Up Your Site?
There are a lot of things that come into play when it comes to how fast your website loads. The first that we have mentioned before is where your website is hosted. Where your website is hosted alone can make a HUGE difference in page load time. Cheap shared hosting just won't cut it. We feel that hosting is such a big issue we will cover it more in depth in an up coming post.
There's a whole slew of things in the backend of your website to help improve performance. David Manng just wrote a post today that gives great info about how to get more speed out of your site and a few of the techniques that we also use for our customers site's:
Optimize every single image
A common warning you’ll see when you test your site is that your images are not properly formatted. Maybe you’re using high resolution images when you don’t need to, increasing the page-load time needed to download your images. Compressing and resizing your images to fit your web page can reduce the file size without noticeable quality loss.
The type of image matters as well. It’s recommended to use a JPG for photographs and PNG for everything else. As modern sites become more image heavy, this recommendation becomes more critical. One tool we’d recommend to compress individual images is Optimizilla. If you want to do a crawl for large images on your site, try Screaming Frog.
Leverage Browser Caching
Every time a user visits your site, they are requesting files from the server. If they are revisiting, you should allow them to reuse the local files that are stored in their browser. This will reduce the amount of downloads and make one less request to the server, resulting in a faster page load time. You can do this by marking files to update at different times. For example, a logo is unlikely to change so you can mark that to update less regularly.
Minifying one of these resources is the process of removing unnecessary data without affecting how the page loads in the browser. By compacting the code, you save data and speed up downloading time.
Read David's full article "How to Improve Page Load Speed Performance"
David gives a lot of great tips in the article. One of the biggest speed factors that we see for clients that come to us with an existing website is the point he makes about images. We would add that proper image size is also important, especially if your are using WordPress. Many times we see on site pages an image that is 400x400 pixels, but then when the media library is inspected the image is a whopping 1500x1500. Now WordPress is being slowed down by having to resize these images while loading.
In David's article he also recommends GTMetrix and Google's tool for checking site speed. We found another speed tool that we like - https://tools.pingdom.com
Good News For WordPress Users!
A lot of David's tips from above can be difficult to achieve for newbies. We actually ran across an article from WPMUDEV about the new release of a plugin that can help with solving site speed problems:
Got a serious need for speed? Satisfy it – for free! – with Hummingbird. We’re excited to announce today that our speed optimization plugin is now available to download at WordPress.org.
Hummingbird is the ultimate performance optimization plugin for WordPress. Once activated, it scans your site for potential speed improvements and provides fine-tuned controls for file compression, minification and browser caching. Not only does Hummingbird make your site faster, it also helps you improve your Google PageSpeed Insights score!
Fast AND Free!? Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming
You may have noticed we’ve been looking for ways to give back to the WordPress community and what better way to spread the love than by sharing some of our favorite tools!
Well, everyone’s making a big deal over pagespeed because it is a BIG DEAL. Slow pages have visitors bouncing faster than a rabbit in heat and if your site isn’t optimized to load lightning fast you can kiss your dreams of ranking on the front page of Google goodbye.
This looks really promising, while we will have to do some testing on a few of our own sites to make sure it does what it says it will and doesn't break sites. We do have to admit that we were a little confused by the name "Hummingbird", thinking that it was going to be something that talked too, or tickled Google's Hummingbird update.
Summing It Up
If you have been ignoring how fast your site loads, you better start giving it some thought now and taking action. Even if you aren't driving traffic from Google, but social media or other avenues, visitors to your site will not tolerate slow loading sites. We've given you a few actionable tips through a couple of trusted sources to help get the job done. One word of caution, before making any changes to your site - MAKE A BACKUP of your site, just in case things go wrong.
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