Does page speed influence SEO?

You don’t even have to listen very carefully because SEO people are shouting it from the rooftops: site speed is everything. Not a day goes by without a new article, white paper, Google representative, or SEO expert telling us that optimizing for speed is one of the most important things you can do right now. And they’re right, of course! Site speed influences SEO in many ways. Here’s a small overview of how page speed and SEO go together.

You won’t have a second chance for that first impression: Everything starts with speed

Picture this: you have put in a lot of effort to ensure that your site works well, has a great structure, and includes fabulous targeted and relevant content. But that won’t be the first experience your potential visitor/client/consumer has with your site. They will have to load your site first before they can access that killer content. If it takes ages to load, there will be a significant drop-off, and fewer people will visit your site. A much faster competitor is just a single click away. Not investing in a fast site is almost like you don’t care for your customers. No reason for them to stay, right?

15 seconds to load a mobile page google research

On mobile, page speed is even more of an issue. According to research by Google, the average mobile site takes over fifteen seconds to load. At the same time, people expect them to load in less than three seconds before they consider leaving altogether. Every second counts, as conversions drop sharply with every second longer your site takes to load. With that said, what are some reasons to improve the page speed of your site?

  • Page speed is a ranking factor
  • Fast sites are easier to crawl
  • Fast loading sites have higher conversion rates
  • It reduces bounce rates
  • It improves general user experience (less stress!)

It all boils down to this: improve your page speed if you want happy customers and happy search engines! And who doesn’t want that, right?

Read more: How site speed influences SEO  »

Site speed is a ranking factor

Google has repeatedly said that a fast site helps you rank better. As recently as this month, Google launched the so-called ‘Speed Update’, making page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches. Google stressed it would only affect the slowest sites and that fast sites getting faster won’t get a boost, but they are surely looking at site speed across the board. Only the slowest sites get hit now, but what about the future?

Loading times influence crawling

Modern sites are incredibly wieldy, and untangling that mess can make a big difference. Fix your site structure, clean up old and outdated posts and bring those redirects in order. Invest in a better hosting plan and turn those servers into finely tuned machines. The bigger your site is, the more impact of page speed optimizations will have. These impact user experience and conversion rates and affect crawl budget and crawl rate. If your servers are fast, Googlebot can come around more often and get more done.

Fast loading sites have higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates

Your goal should be to be the fastest site in your niche. Be faster than your competitors. Having a site or an e-commerce platform that takes ages to load won’t do you any good. People hit that back button in a split second, never to return. Not good for your bounce rate! By offering a fast site, you are not only working on improving your conversion rate, but you’re also building trust and brand loyalty. Think of all the times you’ve been cursing the screen because you had to wait for a page to load — again — or been running in circles because the user experience was atrocious — again. It happens so often — don’t be that site.

Page speed improves user experience

experiencing mobile delays ericsson research 2015

Did you know that people experience real stress when experiencing mobile delays? And that this stress level is comparable to watching a horror movie? Surely not, you say? That’s what the fine folks at Ericsson Research found a few years back. Improving your site speed across the board means making people happy. They’ll enjoy using your site, buy more and come back more often. This, of course, means that Google will see your site as a great search result because you are delivering the goods regarding site quality. Eventually, you might get a nice ranking boost. It’s a win-win situation!

Optimizing your site is not just looking at pretty numbers

Optimizing your site for page speed is not as simple as getting a good score in all those site speed test tools. Don’t blind yourself to scores and metrics. Most tests emulate an unrealistic environment, but guess what: the real world matters even more. Every user is different. Every visitor uses a different type of internet connection, device, and browser. Find out who your users are, how they access your site, and what they do while they’re there. Combine classic tools like Google’s recently updated PageSpeed Insights, and Lighthouse with analytical tools to get a broad overview of speed issues on your site. Use the recommendations to get started on improving your site speed, but do take these with a grain of salt; these recommendations are often hard to implement and not realistic.

Ps: You are optimizing your images, right? Quick win right there!

Keep reading: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

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10 Responses to Does page speed influence SEO?

  1. jack
    jack  • 4 years ago

    Well written article, I can add a suggestion with new search metrics from 2018 if a website takes longer than 3sec to load then the user closes the website which will increase bounce rate and hurt our search engine ranking. If you don’t know where to start with page speed optimization Google page speed insights provide a lot of info about our site and ways to optimize our site for best user experience

    Jack From Pique Digi Media

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 4 years ago

      Totally agree, Jack! Looking at your data can give great insight into how your site is performing.

  2. Franklin
    Franklin  • 4 years ago

    Thanks for this write-up.

  3. Gregor Ritchie
    Gregor Ritchie  • 4 years ago

    Great article. I’ve been working on speeding up my sites recently. Earlier today I was using pingdom tools and got the error “Remove query strings from static resources” and was wondering how necessary this is to do? Are there any reasons not to do this?

    • Edwin Toonen

      Thanks, Gregor. Well, it depends really. Don’t blindly remove everything in the hopes that it will turn out ok. If you have WP Rocket, you can sensibly remove query strings from static resources with a single checkbox. Read more:

      • Gregor Ritchie
        Gregor Ritchie  • 4 years ago

        Hi Edwin,
        Thanks for getting back to me. I’ll give that a shot!

  4. Jorma J Tontti
    Jorma J Tontti  • 4 years ago

    It is said, that page should open in under 2 seconds. Is this true?

    • Edwin Toonen

      It should load as fast as possible, Jorma. For some sites, it’s just not possible to get anywhere near that score. Be sure to try everything you can to optimize for speed.

  5. Ron Tabor
    Ron Tabor  • 4 years ago

    “According to research by Google, the average mobile site takes over fifteen seconds to load while people expect them to load in less than three seconds before they consider leaving altogether. ”
    But what is the actual time they leave? What is the actual difference between when they consider leaving, and when they actually leave? People have been throwing around the 3 second number for years, yet at last check, 80 + % of the websites take longer than 10 seconds to load. Even with a fast wifi connection, Amazon, Walmart, all the big businesses you’d expect to load fast, don’t. Surely not within 3 seconds. How does Google’s figures take into account the actual speed of the phone or computer? The connection? Not everyone using a device has the latest and greatest. I just wish people (Google and others) would stop throwing around numbers like it’s gospel, this is a disservice and confusing to everyone trying to optimize.

    • Edwin Toonen

      Hi Ron, thanks for your comment. Indeed, that number has been around for some time and many well-known sites don’t get anywhere near that score. Consumers and search engines are a bit more lenient towards sites like Amazon, though. In addition, Amazon’s initial load is pretty quick for a heavy page and you can interact with it within a couple of seconds. Still, we need to make everything as fast as we can. We also need to change a mindset: sites are only getting bigger and bigger without there being a need for that. I think the average site weighs well over 3MB and that’s in nobody’s interest.