How website speed affects your site’s search engine rankings

One of the key things an SEO audit will check is your website’s load speed. This is because the time it takes for a website to load directly impacts how well your website performs in search. Fixing a slow website may be one of the quickest ways to improve your site’s chances in search. But how slow is slow?

In short, Google (and other search engines) doesn’t like websites that take a long time to load. It knows that searchers are impatient and wants to serve them with the best possible answers to their search queries in as little time as possible.

This applies to mobile as well as desktop versions of websites.

How to check your site’s page load speed

Google has a handy and free tool for checking load speed called PageSpeed Insights. You’ll have to test individual page speeds by adding their URLs to the tool. The results are then divided into desktop and mobile speed reports.

The tool won’t give you an overview of your site’s overall speed, but by putting some of your key pages through the tool you’ll soon be able to get a good sense of your site’s speed overall.

You can try it yourself at:

A detailed SEO audit will give you page-by-page insights on load speed and will help you identify large resources that could be responsible for increasing load speed.

How slow is too slow for a website?

Google’s PageSpeed Insights provides a score out of 100 along with a three-tier evaluation; either Good, Needs Work or Poor.

Getting a low score can seem quite alarming but the reality is that your website doesn’t have to necessarily achieve a high score to rank at the top of Google. It only needs to perform better than its search competitors.

…your website doesn’t have to achieve a high score to rank at the top of Google. It only needs to perform better than its search competitors.

An SEO audit should check the page speeds of your direct search competitors and will be able to place your own site’s performance within that context, helping you identify whether your website really needs work and in what area.

Common factors decreasing website speeds
Amongst the biggest culprits for slowing down websites, as identified by Google are:

  • Redirects
  • Slow servers
  • Data-heavy resources
  • Large image file sizes
  • Unoptimised CSS
  • Render-blocking JavaScript

But those factors affecting your site specifically may differ and an audit can usually help you narrow those down.

What you can do about slow load speeds

The options available to improve page load speeds depend on your particular website’s design, code and setup as well as the resources available to address any resulting errors. Google’s PageSpeed Insights will most commonly suggest the following actions:

  • Avoiding landing page redirects
  • Enabling compression
  • Improving server response time
  • Leveraging browser caching
  • Minifying resources
  • Optimising images
  • Optimising CSS Delivery
  • Prioritising visible content
  • Removing render-blocking JavaScript
  • Using asynchronous scripts

Often significant gains in speed can be made through addressing image sizes alone. If your server is slow moving to a faster provider can be another fast solution.

It’s also worth noting that whilst some sites may place extremely high value on load speed, others see it as a necessary tradeoff to ensure a visually rich user experience. It’s best to run this past someone who can help you put it all into context before you make any final decisions.

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