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How Important is Page Speed for SEO?

by Seth Richtsmeier

A fast web and user experience is something that Google has long promoted. And at Champ, we advocate speed for our clients.

The importance of page speed is difficult to quantify, but we know this: faster is better. All things being equal, if your competitor’s website loads faster than yours, they’re going to outrank you and steal away your prospects.

Next to the quality of your content and your backlink profile, we believe page speed (on mobile especially) to be the next most important aspect of SEO.

What’s page speed and why does it matter?

Page speed is simply the amount of time (in seconds and milliseconds) it takes for a page on your website to fully load for the user. It’s also referred to as page load time.

Page speed is important for two big reasons: One, a faster page means a better on-page user experience. And two, page speed is a Google ranking factor. The better the experience users have on your website, the more likely they’ll be to hang around and convert. And the better you rank, the more search visibility you’ll get.

Using a page speed tool to see how long it takes a page to load is easy enough. But understanding how page speed plays a part in measuring and scoring the page experience is the important part. This can be done by looking at Google’s Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness, and visual stability, which combine with other signals to evaluate page experience.

Here are Core Web Vitals’ three metrics, which all have thresholds for meeting recommended targets in seconds and milliseconds:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures loading performance. LCP marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded.
  • First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity. FID quantifies the experience users feel when trying to first interact with the page.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability. CLS quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift of visible page content.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures loading performance. LCP marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded.
  • First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity. FID quantifies the experience users feel when trying to first interact with the page.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability. CLS quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift of visible page content.

Is page speed a ranking factor?

Yes, page speed is a Google ranking factor. Back in July 2018, Google confirmed the “Speed Update” was rolled out.

As you might expect, the search giant won’t reveal the weight it places on its page speed ranking factor in relation to other factors, but there are user experience metrics and performance scores that can be used for self-evaluation. To learn how to optimize for page speed, skip down to “How to improve page speed.”

Common factors that affect page speed include:

  • Poor server response time
  • Large file sizes (images are the most common offenders)
  • Video and animation
  • Heavy CSS and JavaScript
  • Inefficient coding
  • Using plugins

Which is more important, desktop or mobile speed?

In short, mobile speed is more important to assess. In 2020, Google announced mobile first indexing for the web, which means Google now crawls and indexes your website with a smartphone agent. Your website’s experience on desktop could be fantastic, but if it suffers on mobile, that’s a problem.

For the longest time, indexing was done by looking at the desktop version of your website when evaluating the relevance to a user’s query (and ranking it accordingly). Since “the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device,” Google ranks your site based on the mobile experience.

How to improve page speed

Start with optimizing for mobile first. With changes in connectivity and hardware being pretty common, page speed is key. Here are a few things you can do to improve it:

  • Reduce image size: Compress your images by making the file size as small as possible without losing quality. You’d be surprised how small in size you can make an image without it becoming blurry.
  • Refrain from using animation: Video and animations are typically synonymous with slow-loading websites, not to mention they can distract the user from the goal of their visit. Use static imagery instead.
  • Change the order of page components: Page content should come first in the source code, followed by CSS or JavaScript that may be required for display.
  • Optimize CSS and JavaScript files: Excessive CSS and JS means more data to load. Combine, consolidate, and minimize these files by eliminating redundancies.
  • Minimize redirects: Redirects can eat up precious milliseconds that add up in longer load times. Google encourages us to minimize these.
  • Avoid pop-ups: Most users find these annoying, obtrusive, and a pop-up is one more thing that your page needs to load. Don’t use them unless you have success using them to convert site visitors.
  • Use PageSpeed Insights to measure speed: This is a tool that indicates how well a given page of yours performs. Powered by Core Web Vitals, PageSpeed Insights suggests performance optimizations so you can work to make your page load faster.

Need help optimizing your page speed? Champ can guide you.

Mobile users are a rapidly growing percentage of your website. At Champ, our marketing team will guide your journey into creating a website and graphics that load fast and function beautifully on any mobile environment and browser.

Talk to us about planning and implementing an SEO strategy to bring your brand into the modern, mobile network.

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