Nothing is more frustrating than when a website page takes too long to load. Even a few extra seconds can send users off to find a faster-loading site. Not only do pages with slow-loading times negatively impact user experience and conversion rates, slow page speed negatively impacts search engine optimization (SEO), especially local searches.
Impact to Local SEO
The majority of local searches are performed on a mobile device because people are usually looking for a business close to where they are at the time. For example, a driver in Miami searching for a gas station is likely in the area and needs a local station before running out of gas. To ensure SEO optimization, you need to ensure your pages load fast for desktop and mobile searches.
What is Page Speed?
Page speed and site speed are often used interchangeably but they are different. Page speed is the time a specific page takes to display all content or the time a browser takes to receive the first byte from a web server. Site speed is the average of several sample pages on a website.
How Page Speed Impacts Search Rankings
In 2010, Google included page speed in its search algorithm. Google believed sites with faster page speeds were accessed more, leading them to be more relevant. Data proves page speed can impact search rankings. Backlinko reviewed one million Google search results and discovered the domains ranked in the highest position were 13% faster than domains ranked lower.
Mobile Page Speed
Local SEO relies heavily on mobile searches and now page speed will be a factor in mobile search ranking. With Google’s own research indicating more than half of searches are now conducted on mobile devices, page speed will be added to its mobile search index in July 2018. The Speed Update, as Google calls it, is expected to only affect pages with the slowest user experience, which they say is a very small number only a very small number of queries.
Analyze Page Speed
Because page load times do impact search rankings, you should analyze your website to determine if the speed is optimal. Several free tools can help determine your site’s page speed. Each tool provides different metrics so it’s recommended to use a combination of all three, if possible.
In addition, remember to test sites on both desktop and mobile devices to ensure page speed is optimal on both.
Increase Page Speed
Several issues could lead to slow page speeds. To improve your page load time, here are some things you should review on your site:
- Find the Best Internet Service Provider – Lower-priced hosting services often use shared servers, leading to slower server performance as you wait in a queue with other websites. Do your research and select the hosting service which meets your business needs.
- Test Your Site on all Browsers – Browsers vary in how they perform. Your site may perform well in Chrome but it may not work well in Internet Explorer. Always test your site on the most popular internet browsers.
- Update content management systems – Whether you use WordPress, Wix, Drupal or another content management system (CMS), make sure you install all software updates and you are using the latest CMS version. Outdated versions can slow down a site while the new versions will be optimized for speed.
- Use simple website themes – A complex website theme slows page loading times. Instead, select a simpler theme and use your content to draw in visitors.
- Remove unnecessary apps, plug-ins and widgets – Just one plug-in or app can slow page speed. If you need to use a plug-in or app, use in moderation.
- Remove excess ads – Ads come with pixels, scripting and third-party calls and too many can slow down your site. Avoid overuse by displaying only those ads providing a good profit.
- Reduce Images – High-resolution graphics and images at a high resolution can require more data and load slowly. Compress images and graphics to can help reduce the size and use a faster-loading format. PNG, JPEG and GIF formats load faster than heavier formats like TIFF and BMP.
- Remove redirects – A redirect is essentially loading a page twice. Avoid using any unnecessary redirects on your site.
- Enable caching – Caching allows visitors to access pages they already visited quickly because each file doesn’t need to be retrieved for each request.
Faster page speed helps improve your site’s performance and can result in faster customer conversions. However, page speed also plays an important role in local search, especially with Google’s upcoming speed update for mobile search rankings. Using the tactics listed here can help you rank higher while also providing a superior user experience.