Why is page speed important for SEO?

Posted 3 years ago

Definition: Page speed is the measurement of how fast the content on your page loads.

What is page speed?

Page speed can be described in two ways:

  • Page load time - This is the time in which it takes to fully load all of the content on a specific page.
  • Time to first byte - This is the time in which it takes for your browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server.

It’s important to avoid confusing page speed with the term “site speed” which is actually the page speed for a sample of page views on a site.

All in all, a faster page speed is better - no matter how you measure it. Research shows that most people find that faster pages both rank and convert better.

SEO best practices

Site speed as well as page speed has been indicated by Google to be one of the signals it uses as an algorithm to rank pages and research shows that they may be using the measurement of time from first byte to consider page speed. To put this into perspective, a slow page speed means that search engines are able to crawl fewer pages which can ultimately lead to a negative indexation.

For any website, user experience is key and page speed affects this greatly. Those pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and therefore a lower average time on page.

How can you increase your page speed in order to achieve more effective user interaction? Following these simple tips will help:

Improve server response time

The time in which your server responds is affected by many things - the amount of traffic you receive, the software your server is using, the resources each page uses, and the hosting solution in place. You can improve your server response time by detecting performance issues like slow routing, slow database queries, or a lack of memory and fixing these issues. 200ms is the optimum server response time.

Enable compression

To reduce the size of your CSS, HTML and JavaScript files that are larger than 150 bytes use a software application called Gzip which is used to compress files. Gzip is not to be used when trying to compress image files, instead programmes like Photoshop allow you to retain control of the image quality.

Optimising images

To begin, ensure your images are the correct size, they are in the right file format and they have been compressed for web purposes. For images that you use frequently on your website, use CSS sprites. These combine your images into one large image that can load all at once. This results in less HTTP requests and allows you to display only the sections that you want to show. Ultimately this allows you to save on loading time by ensuring users aren’t waiting for images to load.

Reduce redirecting

If your user is redirected to another page, they face waiting for the HTTP request response to complete. To put this into perspective, if your mobile redirect pattern looks like this: “test.com -> www.test.com -> m.test.com -> m.test.com/home,” each of the two additional redirects will make your page load slower.

Minify CSS, HTML and JavaScript

You can dramatically increase your page speed by optimising your code which includes removing spaces, commas, and any other unnecessary characters there may be in there, as well as removing code comments, formatting and unused code. YUI Compressor is recommended by Google for both CSS and JavaScript.

Leverage browser caching

In order for the browser to work smoothly, they cache a lot of the information from that page, so that when a visitor comes back to your site, it doesn’t have to reload the entire page each time. To see if you already have an expiration date set for your cache, then use a tool like YSlow. Set your “expires” header for how long you want that information to be cached. Unless the design of your site changes on a frequent basis, a year would be a reasonable time period in most cases. If you’d like more information from Google, you can find it here.

Use a content distribution network

Content distribution networks (CDNs), also called content delivery networks, are networks of servers that are used to distribute the load of delivering content. Essentially, copies of your site are stored at multiple, geographically diverse data centers so that users have faster and more reliable access to your site.