I’m passionate about page speed. I know that sounds a little sad, but take it from someone whose bread and butter comes from making sites that search engines and users love: a speedy site is key to success.
The time it takes to load your website remains one of the critical factors for ranking in search. And, in an era where we are increasingly getting used to voice search, internet users expect immediate answers to their questions.
Here’s why website page speed matters and what you can do to make your site load faster.
Search engines prefer fast-loading websites
Your site is visited by two different groups of users: humans, who look at what’s on the surface, and robots, which look under the hood.
These search engine spiders and screen readers pay little attention to what your site looks like. They only look at the source code, and they want to see code that is “clean”: well-written, structured, and optimised to make their job of reading your site easier.
In November 2019, Google reiterated its commitment to creating an instantaneous browsing experience for users. Posting on the Chromium blog, members of the Chrome team wrote that “speed has been one of Chrome’s core principles since the beginning”.
They explained that one way in which they want to make this a reality, is to reward sites that deliver fast experience, and highlight the ones that may load slowly.
“In the future, Chrome may identify sites that typically load fast or slow for users with clear badging,” they wrote.
We can expect to see the Chrome team experimenting with these badges next to search engine results – perhaps with a gold star next to the speedy sites and some sort of badge of shame next to the slow ones?
Further reading: Pagespeed as a ranking factor by Yoast SEO
Fast websites provide a better user experience
But of course, we have to try to appease both our robot overlords and our human visitors. So how does page speed affect the people you want to buy from you?
One thing to consider is that people’s attention spans are getting shorter. According to the 2020 State of Digital report by Similar Web, internet users are spending much less time on average on any one site.
In 2017, the average was 758 seconds, but by 2019 it was down 6.5% to 709 seconds.
The report authors wrote: “Users today need you to get to the point fast: make your messaging loud and clear right at the start to maintain audience engagement.”
I’m sure we can all relate. We are bombarded with information from all directions, and we want our questions answered instantly.
There’s just no room for waiting for a slow site to load up, as people will go elsewhere or simply lose interest. All your hard marketing work for nothing as they turn back before engaging at all.
And if they do persist, they can easily be put off by a page that keeps jumping around on their screens as graphics keep loading in while they scroll.
They have plenty of other places to go online, so you need to make sure you don’t put them off before you’ve had the chance to show them what you’re all about.
A bad experience with your website becomes a bad experience with your business.
Fast loading websites are better for the environment
In 2021, we need to be looking beyond what’s good for our customers and do what’s right for the planet as a whole.
As mentioned in a previous blog post about how to make your site more environmentally friendly, every action we take online creates a bit of carbon emissions. Whether that’s sending an email, which uses servers run on energy, or hosting a site, it is worth considering the impact of our digital activities on the world.
And – surprise, surprise – slow-loading sites have a more detrimental impact on the environment, because they require more energy.
Why is my website so slow?
Consider the fact that your site needs to be speedy not only on desktop, but also for mobile users. Around 53% of all internet activity takes place on mobile phones, and this number has been rising steadily over the years. Websites selling direct to consumers often have significantly higher mobile traffic than this.
There are many factors that influence page speed, ranging from the number of files used on a page, to the quality of your hosting package.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Choose a good web hosting provider. Not only will quality hosting providers improve your page load speed, but they also offer better security, back-up, and eco credentials. Read more about how to choose a good web hosting provider.
- Compress your images so the files are smaller but the quality remains, by using a tool such as tinyPNG.
- A web page that is made up of 20 files will be quicker for your browser to load than one with 100 files, so reduce the number of files on a page. This is often a problem when using pre-built themes as opposed to custom-built websites, as templates need to load all the functionality on a page rather than just the things that are needed. Read more about custom vs pre-built WordPress themes.
- Avoid third-party scripts. Social media feeds, Google Ads and Analytics scripts are all horrifically slow (not to mention they add loads of creepy tracking cookies to your site). Consider whether your website needs them, and get rid if it doesn’t!
- Uninstall any plugins that are not useful. Do you actually need a resource-hogging Live Chat plugin? Probably not!