Speed up Your Website to Optimize SEO and Increase Conversions

speed up your website

Site speed, server speed, or page speed – there are several different ways to think about how fast your website is, but the bottom line is how quickly your content loads. Google is phasing in a new metric designed as an SEO ranking factor that assesses your speed and a tool that offers suggestions to speed up your website — called Core Web Vitals. Below you can see a report available through the Google Search Console to help you identify opportunities to speed up your website in preparation for the change.

speed up your website

Generally speaking, ‘page speed’ relates to how fast a single page of content loads, whereas ‘site speed’ is a measure across multiple pages. Optimizing a single high-value page can produce immediate returns by increasing conversions while optimizing site speed across your entire website can deliver compound gains in terms of SEO, especially as the impact of Core Web Vitals increases in importance in determining rank.

As a leading web development agency in Manchester, Visionsharp works with businesses across all sectors nationwide to ensure they get the best possible performance from their websites.  For recommendations on how to improve your website’s load speed and conversion rate, get in touch on 0161 971 7948 or their website. Here’s some advice they shared with us to help you speed up your website.

What is page speed?

Page speed is one of Google’s ‘Core Web Vitals’ which are used to determine a page’s search rank (in addition to other signals such as backlinks and social media engagement) – so if you want to increase your website traffic from Google Search results, you must address your load time for individual pages as well as the site as a whole.

Google’s rationale for including site speed as a ranking factor reflects the impact of site and page speed on the user experience. In a study, Google found that more than 50% of users will wait a mere 3 seconds for a page to load. Here’s data from another study on load speed.

speed up your website
Image courtesy of Website Builder Expert

Google’s Core Web Vitals include three metrics relating to page speed that impact your rank:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long it takes for the largest visible image or block of text to fully render. This should be less than 2.5 seconds.
  • First Input Delay (FID) measures the delay before interactive elements like hyperlinks become responsive. A good value is below 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how much the visible elements on a page move after their first rendering. The calculation is a little more complicated than a simple time delay, but a good value for this is less than 0.1.

These are just some ways to think about page load speed, including the visibility, stability, and interactivity of page elements.

How to measure page speed

Page speed has not always been easy to measure, but Google’s commitment to Core Web Vitals led to those metrics being integrated into all of the search engine’s main analytics tools and platforms.

This includes Google tools such as:

  • The Chrome User Experience Report
  • PageSpeed Insights
  • Google Search Console Core Web Vitals Report

Site speed is slightly different and is a measure of how quickly content loads across your website as a whole, instead of on a single page. To measure site speed, you should aggregate and average data from multiple pages and, ideally, multiple times of loading each page, for an accurate overview of how your site performs.

Best practices to speed up your website

Optimizing site speed is sensible for any SEO campaign. The direct benefits are multiple:

  • Make pages faster, more stable, and more interactive for human visitors
  • Meet and exceed Google’s ‘good’ Core Web Vitals thresholds for better rankings
  • Make it easier for search engine robots to crawl your website faster and more fully

This last point is important. Search robots typically assign a limited ‘crawl budget’ to each website they visit, either in terms of a fixed number of pages, or a finite amount of time. By helping pages load faster and improving FID so they become interactive sooner, you ensure the search robots stay on your site and find more internal links to other pages, so none of your content is missed.

Negative effects of poor page speed

In addition to the positive effects of faster loading times already mentioned, there are some negative impacts to look out for when diagnosing poor page speed:

  • Higher bounce rates due to slow initial loading times
  • Lower dwell time (the amount of time spent on a page or site)
  • Reduced conversion rates and negative impact on revenues

Ultimately, a slow-loading website leads to a decline in revenues even if, once they finish loading, your pages are stable and work correctly.

Ways to improve page speed

If you are concerned about your page load times, there are plenty of strategies you can deploy to improve your page and site speed.

Compression

You can compress large HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files so users have less data to download when loading your page. There are also image compression options (since images often reflect a large size with slower load times), although these can affect the quality of the image, so should be used with care.

Minified code

As well as compressing your page code and scripts, you can use efficient coding techniques to remove unnecessary data from the page sent to users. For example, most end-users do not need to see programmers’ comments in JavaScripts, and you may be able to combine common styles to reduce the size of cascading style sheets.

Redirect reduction

When a page is moved or deleted, it’s good practice to redirect the URL to a relevant page that still exists. Over time, this results in a daisy chain of redirects. By ensuring your historic redirects all point to existing pages, you can eliminate this unnecessary additional loading time.

Server response time

Server speed is the technical aspect of loading speed – the time taken for your hardware and hosting software to respond to incoming requests. A response time of more than 200 milliseconds suggests you should investigate slowness and improve performance by dealing with any database errors and eliminating performance bottlenecks.

Use caching

Web browsers ‘cache’ data so they don’t have to load pages from scratch on subsequent visits. This can help pages to load faster the first time too if they use the same external files like CSS and JavaScript, and the browser has already cached those files from a different page.

How to optimize images

There are several options to improve image load speed or to speed up the loading of image-heavy pages.

Image format

Different image formats are suited to different pictures. For example, a compressed JPEG can reduce the size of a photo, whereas a PNG may be better for line art, logos, and transparent backgrounds.

CSS sprites

CSS sprites load repetitive images like navigation buttons and icons, which are used across many pages on your website. These are loaded and cached as a single image, which is then split up using CSS to display only the relevant sprite, making for a very efficient way to load the data.

Thumbnails

If your content management system supports it, use small image thumbnails which only load the full-size picture when a user clicks or taps on them.

Lazy loading

‘Lazy’ loading means images are only downloaded as the user scrolls down the page and they come into view, reducing the data the browser must download in the first instance.

Final thoughts

Speeding up your server, site, and individual pages all helps them load faster, so the search robots can crawl and index them, and so human visitors can interact with content sooner. This is good news for your search rankings and site traffic, but crucially, it can also help to boost your conversion rates, to make sure your website delivers maximum return on investment at all times.

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