What is page speed and why does it matter?
Page speed is the amount of time it takes for your website to load. Page speed can depend on a variety of factors, from your website’s design to your server hardware and your data centre’s connection.
The more optimised your website and the higher quality its hosting, the faster it will load for most users. Some aspects of page speed – such as a user’s location and their connection speed – can’t be controlled, but many others can.
Page speed matters for several reasons. The first is that users are far more likely to stay on your website if it loads quickly. The second is that Google and other search engines penalise websites that load slowly with less visible search engine rankings.
The third reason is that a faster page load speed usually lead to a higher conversion rate. Not only will your website rank higher in the search results and retain visitors for longer – it will also produce more conversions, on average, than a slower site.
Why page speed matters to Google
In 2010, Google announced that it would start incorporating page load speed into its ranking algorithm. SEOs around the world rushed to check their website’s page load speed and optimise their server for the fastest possible content delivery.
Google’s reason for prioritising site speed as a ranking factor is simple: it creates a significantly better experience for users. The faster your website loads, the greater the chance that a user will have a positive experience using your website.
Google’s page speed factor prioritises fast-ranking websites, but it’s unlikely to hurt your website unless it loads very slowly. In 2010, Google said that only about 1% of search engine results were affected by the page speed ranking signal.
Why page speed matters to users
Beyond being important for good search engine rankings, page speed is incrediblyimportant for user experience. Websites that load faster create a better experience for users, which often leads to increased conversions. If your website serves content and generates revenue through advertising, having a faster page load speed means users can easily navigate to different pages, increasing your total page views per user.
If your website sells products or services, having a faster page load speed means it’s easier for users to learn about your offer and fill in your lead capture or order form and become a customer.
Even small decreases in page load speed can result in significant reductions in your website’s conversion rate. A case study by Radware shows that a two second delay can result in a 20% increase in shopping cart abandonment by users.
That’s a significant, measurable difference. If your website is slower than it could be, there’s a very real possibility that it’s costing your business a large amount of sales or advertising revenue.
How to check your page load speed
Checking your website’s page load speed is simple. There are hundreds of tools that load your website from various geographical locations and tell you exactly how long it took to deliver. Some even tell you what’s slowing down your page load speed.
PageSpeed Insights is a free tool by Google that analyses your website and provides a full breakdown of page load issues. From uncompressed images to bad CSS, it lists most factors that are preventing your website from loading as quickly as it could.
Pingdom Website Speed Test is another free tool that analyses your website’s load speed and provides lots of helpful optimisation data. Thanks to its helpful graphs, you can find exactly which files are slowing down your page’s load speed.
Web Page Test is another useful tool that lets you select a location and browser from which you can load your website. Thanks to its different locations and web browser options, this is a great tool for optimising for different areas and devices.
How to improve your page load speed
Since every website is different, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to easily optimise your page load speed. Some websites serve lots of unique content and need to have a structure that makes this simple, while other websites only serve a few pages.
Despite this, there are some general tips that can improve your website’s page load speed and overall performance:
- Make sure you have a high quality server that’s powerful enough to host your website and located in a data centre with sufficient bandwidth to handle your website’s audience.
- If your website serves a global audience, use a content delivery network (CDN) to speed up content delivery by hosting images and video on several different servers.
- Optimise your images and video so they’re as compact as possible without sacrificing quality. Selective use of JPG, PNG and GIF image formats can cut your website’s images down to a significantly smaller file size.
- If your website runs on WordPress, make sure you don’t have unnecessary plugins installed. Plugins and external scripts can significantly slow down your page load speed.
Is your website as fast as it could be?
Page load speed is one of the most important yet overlooked factors of conversion optimisation and SEO. Use the speed test tools above to find out if your website is as fast as it could be. If it isn’t, make optimising your page speed your top SEO priority.