Why is website page speed important for SEO

Website speed has always been an important factor, not only for your website visitors who are looking for a seamless experience when they visit your site, but also in regards to your content ranking in search results.

Website speed is something that you need to take notice of because it has been identified as one of the leading ranking factors in the Core Web Vitals update, which will be happening next month (May 2021).

The Core Web Vitals update is looking for fast websites as well as a good user experience (UX), so this should be front and centre when looking at optimising your website.

These two ranking factors go hand in hand, because if your website loads quickly and the user can get to where they need to be and surface your content without waiting then it will directly affect their user experience.

If your website is slow – and therefore not providing a good UX – users will look elsewhere, and Google will notice visitors quickly bouncing off your site, which will have a direct impact on rankings.

How do you go about checking the speed of your pages?

Google Page Speed Insights is a great tool, where you can input your chosen URL and run it through a page speed checker to see how fast those pages are.

This tool will show you mobile vs desktop, which is important to differentiate as page speed will differ for both. Mobile users are accessing your content via a much smaller screen so your content will need to be fully optimised to ensure that their UX is not compromised. Mobile traffic has been steadily on the increase over the last 10 years and accounts for 50.88% of global website traffic, so you need to make sure that you’re not alienating this huge segment of consumers.

Why is website speed important for Google indexing mobile content?

Google has a smartphone Googlebot, which enables it to crawl mobile website content. It will crawl it specifically with mobile users in mind to make sure that they’re getting better UX.

URLs are actually prioritised before Googlebot even sees the content, and there’s an overall crawl budget due to the fact that the internet is infinite. So ideally you need to be making sure your website content is optimised before Google has even had the chance to find it!

Historically, Google used to use desktop content for ranking, however, mobile-first indexing now dictates that Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your content to identify if it is relevant to a user’s query.

This has been the case since July 2019, so making sure your website is optimised for mobile has never been more important.

When you run your website through Google Search Console, there is one issue that you need to take note of in regards to website speed.

That is ‘discovered but not indexed’, which means that Google has noticed the page but hasn’t crawled it yet.

This could be because the crawl budget has already been hit, or it could be that you need to further optimise your page speed and internal linking.

So, is page speed a ranking factor? At the end of the day, if Google doesn’t index your page then it won’t show in search results, won’t rank and you will lose out on website traffic.

So yes, page speed is a ranking factor, as this directly affects the user experience.

There are a lot of competitors out there for your content, and if users can get the content they need quicker and with a better experience, then they will get the website traffic and be ranked higher than you.

Improving website page speed

The good thing about Google Page Speed Insights is that it’ll tell you what is causing the issues and how you can fix them. One of the easiest changes you can make to your website is to make sure you have optimised your images:

  • Can you compress the file size? Large file sizes take longer to load.
  • What format are your images in? Use JPEG 2000, JPEG XR or WebP – these are the best for compression and quality.
  • Lazy loading – This means your images only load as the user scrolls.

The lab data results in Google Page Speed Insights is basically all of the errors and issues that are affecting the time it takes to load your page. It’ll also tell you exactly what each error is related to, and then further down the page, you’ll find opportunities to improve as well as diagnostics (how to improve).

When it comes to your website speed, it’s all about teamwork, as it’ll not only be your content team responsible for on-page issues, but your development team will also need to be involved as there are often issues related to minifying javascript, CSS, and server response times.

Largest Contentful Paint

Largest Contentful Paint is one of the issues that a lot of websites fall down on, and refers to how long it takes your site to load the largest pieces of content above the fold (i.e. content that shows without scrolling).

This is directly related to poorly optimised images or media. What type of content on your page do you have above the fold? Do you have a large video or poorly optimised large photos? This content needs to load in less than 2.5 seconds.

This issue has a knock-on effect on the rest of the page loading, as it’ll affect how long it takes for the page to become fully interactive (time to interactive), how long it takes everything on the page to be fully visible (speed index), and how long it takes between the first item of content loading on the page and the whole page being fully visible (total blocking time).

As the page is loading, elements on the page shouldn’t be moving around (this is known as cumulative layout shift), which is why you need a mobile-responsive site.

More often than not, businesses will optimise their websites for desktop without really thinking about their mobile users, however, Google is indexing the mobile version of your content, and if you’re not looking at that, you’re essentially ruining your ranking chances.

If you're looking for a website design and development agency you can rely on, get in touch with the team at Clickingmad today.

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