How does page load time affect your SEO and how can you improve it?
What more people need to remember and recognise about Google and other search engines, is that while they make have robots doing the deciding, the brands want to provide ranking results which benefit the end user. The person searching. As such, every search engine wants to prioritise sites which offer a good user experience. One item above all else which can ruin a user’s experience on any website is the time it takes to load.
You probably know from your own experiences how frustrating it is to watch the little wheel spin on your screen. Chances are, inside of 20 seconds you gave up and tried a different website instead. That’s because we hate it when that happens. This is the reason why site and specifically page load time is such a big ranking factor for SEO.
Google’s own research has demonstrated that just a half second delay in page load time could lead to a 20% loss in traffic and revenue.
GQ Magazine, previously known for its heavy page elements and imagery, reduced its page load time from 7 seconds to 1.5 seconds. This might seem like a very small period of time in the grand scheme of things but the magazine reports its then nearly doubled the number of unique users visiting the site. It also saw average time spent on site increase by two whole minutes! If you could keep your visitors on your site a whole two minutes longer, what difference could that make to your bottom line?
The moral of the story is to take page loading time seriously, both for your overall SEO performance and to help you reach your primary business and revenue goals.
There are many factors which influence page load time. Here are some of the areas you can control. Focus on these to bring down your own page load times:
Hosting and Severs
Your website hosting package can single-handedly kill your page load time all on it’s own if you’ve made the wrong choice. Like many businesses, the chances are you’ve started small and scaled up. The business has grown, the website has grown, your customers have grown, but you still have the same hosting package.
You get what you pay for with web hosting. Speak to your hosting company and then explore options for even faster solutions. Depending on the size of your site, it may make sense to look at your own dedicated server. You’ll also want to consider hosting on servers based in the same location (country) as your main target audience.
Heavy Page Elements
I’ve made myself sound overly competent in coding using words like ‘elements’, but we all know I just mean ‘things’. Put simply the more elements (stuff) you have on a page, the longer it will take to load. When I say heavy, I’m talking about file size. Items which will take a long time for the user’s device to pull from the server.
Videos, high definition images and other widgets and functionality will all increase the overall weight of the page.
Images tend to be the main culprit in most cases. There are many options to help you use smaller images and reduce load time. Use external picture editor tools to resize the images, such as Photoshop and set them to 72dpi as a starting point.
It’s also important to remember for those newer to website design, that size isn’t about the apparent size of the image as it is displayed on the page. It’s the size of the file of the image which is ultimately stored on the server. When creating new imagery, it’s important to check file size prior to uploading. Tools like Adobe Photoshop will tell you the file size when you save a new image and give you the option to reduce this size.
You can also use various online compression tools and specialist software to reduce image size:
- JPEG & PNG Stripper
- Online Image Optimizer
For optimised loading time, stick to standard image formats such as JPG, PNG and GIF.
Be Careful with Plugins
Plugins are a popular way to add functionality with minimal effort. The issue is that plugins typically generate their content from 3rd party servers. This means the plugin has a loading delay separate to your own website. This won’t always be an issue but if you are using significant plugins it could be holding back your page load speed and therefore, driving up your page bounce rate.
Only use third party plugins which pull external content to the site when absolutely no other solution is available.
Redirects serve a purpose, but they aren’t ideal. Every time you use a domain redirect, you’re switching the user from one server to another, naturally increasing load time. It’s important to remember that as well as us users, search engine crawlers, (the programs which index websites) are also affected by page load speed. Crawlers will only spend so long indexing a website; if the load speeds are slow it may not index everything every time it crawls, and your new content or other areas of the site could then be missed or not updated, costing you search engine visibility.
These are just some of the areas you can look to improve page load time which is one of many SEO factors which could be holding you back from ranking better and growing your business online.
If you would like to speak to us about getting more traffic and improving your SEO, get in touch. Feel free to ask for me personally! 😊
Director & Head of Digital
This Article is Part of Our SEO Big Wins Playbook Series
Take a look at the other articles in the series to help you find the big impact areas where you can improve your website’s SEO:
Natural Link Generating Techniques
Local SEO & My Business
Hosting, Server Location and Security
Site Errors (Technical SEO)