Site Speed – Its Importance in Website Design and SEO
Over the years the advancements in technology have well and truly spoilt us, so much so that the majority of people are now only willing to wait a couple of seconds for a website to load; any longer than that and they will simply take their business elsewhere. In fact, the latest reports have shown that 47% of people expect websites to load in fewer than two seconds and that even just a one second delay in page loading times can result in an estimated 7% drop in conversions.
With this in mind, it is now more important than ever that businesses focus on making their websites as speedy as possible. Here we will explain how elements of a web design can affect site speed and the implications of slow site speeds on SEO.
Slow site speeds can result in poor search engine rankings and a bad user experience.
Site speed and web design
As you may or may not already know, page loading times are directly affected by the design of a website and the elements it holds. Some elements are more obvious than others, but in order for you to improve your site speed, they all need to be considered.
Clean code is probably the most important factor in improving your page loading times. If your code is cluttered and inefficient it can seriously slow down your website. This is especially true if you have things like enquiry forms and affiliate or analytics code embedding into your website’s HTML. The best way to clean up your code is to condense it and get rid of any unnecessary lines. If you have little experience in website coding, it is highly recommended you work with an experienced web developer, to avoid accidentally deleting something important!
Web design / theme
Something else that can slow down your site speed is your web design. If you have used a particularly resource hungry or heavy theme, then it is likely that your page loading times will increase. The theme may look great, but if no one sticks around to see it, it will be a complete waste of money. Make sure you work with an experienced web designer to create a light, yet aesthetically pleasing design for your website.
Whilst multi-media like images, video and audio content can add a nice touch to your website; they can also affect its ability to load quickly. This is why we recommend that you only use images, video content and other multi-media when it has value for your users. If it does not serve a purpose, then get rid of it. Alternatively you could try boosting your site speeds by hosting the content on your own server.
Even social media plugins can slow down your website.
Plugins and widgets
Last but not least, one of the biggest offenders when it comes to slowing down site speeds is plugins and widgets. Even small things like social media buttons can contribute towards your website’s loading times. This is why it is important to only use plugins and extensions that are crucial to your website’s functionality and go a long way in improving the user experience it provides. Only ever use plugins from experienced and reputable developers, as they are likely to have much cleaner code than those downloaded from any old website.
Good site speeds can improve your website’s SEO.
How does site speed affect SEO?
Back in 2010, Google announced that it used page speed (also known as site speed or page loading times) as one of its ranking factors. Of course, it is important to remember that Google uses around two hundred signals and that since the announcement, we have been told that page speed only actually affects around one per cent of searches. Still, it is important to ensure that your site loads as quickly as possible as doing so, will help to increase your website’s rankings on search engines, whilst also improving your conversion rates.
So how does site speed affect a website’s SEO? Well it all really comes down to user experience and we all know just how important that is to Google and other search engines.
If you think about it, the main reasons people go online to get the information they require is because it is quick and convenient to. If your website is loading slowly, then this will defeat the object. However if your website loads within a couple of seconds, users will be able to access the information they need quickly and easily.
Being able to find the information they need within a reasonable period of time, will likely result in users staying on your website for longer. The longer they stay on your website, the lower your bounce rate will be. A low bounce rate will tell Google that users are satisfied with your website (and its great user experience) and that it was a good match for their search query. This information will then be considered by the search engine when it comes to ranking your website and may result in you gaining a better position on search engine results pages. The higher up you are, the more traffic you will receive, giving you a better chance of improving your conversion rates, so it definitely is worth spending the time improving your website’s site speed.
Improving your site speed
As you can now see, improving site speed can go a long way in helping you to rank well on search engines and turn site visitors into paying customers. You may have already got an idea of how to go about improving your site speed by reading our section on site speed and web design; however we thought we would provide a few more useful tips below.
Find out how quickly your site loads by using a site speed checking tool like Pingdom.
Use site speed checking tools
Before making any attempts to improve your website’s page loading times, we highly recommend using a site speed checking tool. This will enable you to determine how fast your website currently loads, so you have a base line to work from.
Pingdom is one of the most widely used site speed tools and is preferred by many as it performs tests on browsers like Chrome, which allow for more accurate, ‘real world’ results. Using Pingdom you will also be able to see how well your site speed measures up against by parameters set up by Google Page Speed and Yslow.
WebPage Test is a site speed checking tool that is supported by Google. It provides a great break down of your content and will inform you of improvements you can make to obtain a better page speed score.
Pagespeed Insights is Google’s primary site speed checking tool. It is extremely easy to use and will give you both a page speed score out of one hundred and an analysis of the desktop and mobile versions of your website. You can also use it to get recommendations, of which it will rank in terms of highest and lowest priority.
Content Delivery Network
Audit your website
Auditing your website on a regular basis will help you to identify what is slowing it down. You may find that it is something as simple as needing to optimise your images (non-optimised images actually impact 90% of Alexa’s top 1000 websites) or it could be something a little more complex like an incompatible plugin slowing down your website. Keep in mind that not all plugins will be suitable for all browsers and some may be compatible with PCs and laptops but not mobile devices.
Always test your website
Every time you make a change to your website, it is highly recommended that you test it using Pingdom or one of the other site speed checking tools featured above. Doing this will allow you to track any changes you make and see if they are actually making a difference to your website’s page loading times.
It could be your host
If you make every possible change to your website and find that it is still loading slowly, then your host could be the root of the problem. When it comes to choosing a host, the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ could not be truer. If you scrimp on hosting to save money, it is likely that at some point you are going to experience slow page loading times that effect user’s ability to browse your website and could potentially have a negative impact on your site’s SEO.
In order to make sure that your host is able to deliver your website quickly and efficiently, it is highly recommended that you upgrade your package. Upgrading to a better host may be more expensive, but it will prove to offer a great return on investment in the form of improved user experience and search engine rankings.
Today site speed plays a crucial role, not only in your website’s ability to rank well on search engine results pages but also in satisfying customers and increasing conversions. This is why it is highly recommended that you regularly check your site speeds and ensure they are meeting users’ two second rule.
Use the Google Page Speed insights checker to get the full picture on your websites speed visit – http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/