Google Hates Your Site Because It's Slow. Here's What To Do.

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VIEWS: 31773 Views CATEGORY: SEO READING TIME: 12 Min To Read UPLOADED ON: 22 Sep 2018

How long do users wait for a website to load?

Well, it seems about half of us don’t even wait up to three seconds, according to data from a study.

And that’s not all: Up to 79% of customers say they won't return to a site with poor performance, including slow load time.

Aren't those numbers telling you something — that speed is sexy?

We're putting together this resource to show you how to get your website speed to its apogee.

But wait: why is website speed so important? What difference can a one-second delay make?

To put it plainly, it makes a huge difference. It can affect almost every angle of your site, from user experience to conversions and yes, to search engine optimization (SEO).


As a matter of fact, according to a recent Aberdeen Group study, every one-second delay in page load time results in the following:

  • 7% decrease in conversions

  • 11% decrease in page views

  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction

See? Websites with fast load times rock, not just at search engine optimization and user experience but also at keeping your bottom-line profits attractive. Let's see how.

HOW WEBSITE SPEED IMPACTS YOUR BOTTOM-LINE

There are several ways website speed influences a business website’s performance:

  • Search engine visibility

  • Conversions

  • Page views

  • Bounce rates

  • Return visits

  • And more!

Google loves speed.

And hates websites that load at a snail's pace.

To put things in perspective, Google takes speed into consideration when ranking sites.

In 2017, Google made the statement below with regards to crawling and indexing websites:

“For Google, a speedy site is a sign of healthy servers so that it can get more content over the same number of connections. Conversely, many 5xx errors or connection timeouts signal the opposite, and crawling slows down.” Google 2017.
Google now ranks websites primarily based on mobile-friendliness, meaning if your website is not mobile-compliant, it better forget about that top spot on SERPs (we'll discuss this in our next post).

Considering Google’s mobile-first index, Google mentioned that from mid-2018, they would start using mobile speed as a ranking factor.


“[Google is] announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches. The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest user experience and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The search query's intent is still powerful, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has relevant content.” Google 2018.

The point: If you care about your site's search rankings, you should have a site that loads quickly on desktop and mobile.

After all, Google itself once suffered a 20 per cent decline in traffic because of a 0.5-second delay in load time, as shared by Google’s Marissa Mayer at a Web 2.0 conference a while back.

You can use our free website page speed checker to test your mobile site speed.

Beyond ranking, slow page load time kills conversions.

“How?” you'd ask!

The faster a website loads, the easier it is for the user; therefore, it is more conversion-ready.

One study reveals that the relationship between load times and conversion rates showed a 25% decrease with just one extra second of load time.

Another study reveals that 47% of consumers expect websites to load in two seconds or less. And about 40 per cent will abandon a page that takes three or more seconds to load.

That isn't good for your conversion rates. And sales.

Here are some real-world examples of how page load time impacted the conversion of some well-known sites:

  • When Mozilla increased page speed by 2.2 seconds, Firefox download figures soared by 15.4 per cent or 10 million annually.

  • When Amazon ran A/B tests in which they delayed pages in increments of 100 milliseconds, they found that even small delays resulted in “substantial and costly” decreases in revenue.

  • When Walmart increased their site speed, conversions and revenue improved dramatically. During their initial tests, they found that visitors who converted had received pages that loaded two times as fast as those who did not convert. They experienced a 2 per cent increase in conversions for every second of improvement. For every 100 ms of improvement, they grew incremental revenue by up to 1 per cent.

These are three of the most reputable sites on the web; if users aren’t kind enough to wait an extra second for them, we wonder what will become of your website if it is slow!

Do you have finicky users? Don’t grump; it's something you have to deal with.

But hey…

HOW FAST IS “FAST”...?

The sheer significance of page load time begs the question above, so let's examine it.

What's an acceptable page load time? What should be your speed goal? For you to work seamlessly and with a well-defined target in mind, it's important to answer this question before you optimise your site’s speed… otherwise, you risk working aimlessly.

Now, as the largest search engine in the world, Google’s standards are functionally the industry standards in most digital marketing domains, so it's not a bad idea to set your site's standards based on their standards, benchmarks, and recommendations.

For page speed, Google recommends a three-second threshold.

In its recent industry benchmark report involving extensive analysis of 900,000 mobile ad landing pages spanning 126 countries, Think with Google found that 70 per cent of sites are nowhere close to the three-second threshold — it took nearly seven seconds for the visual content above the fold to load.

The same report reveals that the average time it takes to load a mobile landing page fully is 22 seconds, but 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. Plus, as page load time goes from one to ten seconds, the probability of a mobile user bouncing increases by 123%

Bad news? Maybe not!

We think that's good news… for YOUR business.

If you get your hands dirty with speeding up your site to an acceptable level, you’ll be well ahead of the pack in terms of user experience, conversion, search engine rankings, and what have you.

Think it's only Google? Think again!

Microsoft speed expert and computer scientist, Harry Shum, stated that 0.25 seconds of difference in page load time is the magic number dictating competitive advantages for online businesses. Remember, Microsoft owns the search engine Bing, arguably Google Search’s biggest alternative.

You can test your site speed on our page speed checker tool to see how fast your site speed is. Another useful tool is Pingdom.

WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR WEBSITE SPEED

Plenty of ways to increase your page load performance, especially if you're using a platform like WordPress. However, we will only consider the top four key methods in this guide.

1. Enable caching

Here's how website visits work:

The first time a user visits your website, they have to download the HTML document, stylesheets, javascript files and images before being able to use your site. That could be as plentiful as 30 components downloaded in as quick as 2.5 seconds.

Once the page has loaded and the different components stored are in the user’s cache, only a few components must be downloaded for subsequent visits.

This means that the next time the user visits the site, their browser can load the page without sending another HTTP request to the server again. This can shave nearly 2 seconds off the load time but only if you enable caching.

For WordPress users, enabling caching is as easy as stealing a pie from a baby. Here's how:

  • Install a plugin called W3 Total Cache

  • Once installed, go to General Settings >> Page Cache

  • Check the box next to Enable.
     

This simple step on its own should give your site a speed boost, but you can do more to improve your results with the plugin.
 

For instance, if your site is hosted on a VPS or dedicated server, you can enable object caching to speed up dynamic elements on the site. This is still available under the General Settings area.
However, if you’re using a shared server, ignore this option. Why? It's because object caching is a resource-intensive process and can end up resulting in longer loading.
W3 Total Cache claims that by enabling caching, its users have experienced 10x improvements in Google PageSpeed results, and up to 80% in bandwidth savings after fully configuring the plugin.

WordPress users can also enable caching with the following add-ons:

  • Cache Enabler

  • WP Rocket

2. Compress your files

30KB is often considered the ideal web page size, including images, graphics, content, and code found on the page. But in reality, web pages with scads of files (images, graphics, etc.) usually run into xxxKB in size, resulting in heavier downloading and slower page loading.

You can solve this problem by compressing the files on your website to become smaller without sacrificing quality. This can significantly improve your page load time because the smaller the files, the faster they download. Yahoo even said compression can reduce download time by about 70 per cent.

File compression can be done with Gzip.

Gzip is a file format and software application that typically finds strings of similar code within your files and then temporarily replaces them to make the files smaller. It improves when you realize that over 90 per cent of modern browsers are Gzip compression-ready.
You can use either WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache for WordPress sites to enable Gzip compression. To do this in W3 Total Cache, simply check the box next to Enable HTTP (gzip) compression.

Does your site have Gzip enabled?

Small SEO Tools has the best and most advanced Gzip Compression Checker on the web. Once you enter your URL, you should see something like this:

3. Optimize images
 

Bulky images are one of the biggest contributors to web page size, and, by extension, slow load time.

In December 2017, HTTP Archive reported that images make up, on average, 66 per cent of the total weight of a typical web page, leading to tardy site loading. Optimizing your images goes a long way to improve page load time.

When thinking of image optimization, the first thing that usually comes to mind is leveraging image optimization plugins like Optimus, EWWW Image Optimizer Cloud, and WP Smush.

Small SEO Tools also run the most reliable image compressor on the Internet.

Here are some tips for using images on a web page:

  • If image quality is a priority but modifications aren't required, use JPGs.

  • Use PNG for images with icons, logos, illustrations, signs and text; use PNG format.

  • Use GIFs only for small or simple images.

  • Try avoiding BMPs or TIFFs.

As a general rule of thumb, keep the number of images on your site to an absolute minimum.

4. Use less plugins
 

Our final thought on increasing site load time is to use fewer plugins on your site.

This is especially true for WordPress users.

Most WordPress users totally enjoy the thrill of plugin hunting. They'll scour the WordPress Plugins Directory repeatedly to find and set up plugins to solve problems on their website. Sure, with over 45,000 free plugins in the directory alone to pick from, it’s easy to feel like a glutton in a free restaurant.

Plugins are a necessary evil. WordPress works fine on its own. But you need plugins if you want to add extra features and functionality. However, plugins can contribute immensely to page load times; the more plugins on a website, the larger the site and the slower it'll load.
 

Many websites pack as much as the north of two figures of plugins. This raises another important question: How many plugins are too many?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, we recommend not using too many plugins.

Here are some things you can do to optimize plugin usage on your site:

  • Test your plugins with a tool like Plugin Performance Profiler to see which plugins are causing issues on your site

  • Identify overlaps in functionality and remove unneeded plugins

  • Eliminate plugins that perform tasks you can do manually

FINAL WORD

The point we're making here is simple: Website speed matters. And it's critical that you get it right.

The faster your website speed, the happier your visitors… and the better your results — search engine rankings, user experience, conversion rates, revenue, and overall bottom line. On the other hand, rocking a website with snail-paced page load time can have a surprisingly negative impact on your entire marketing and sales pipeline.

Anyway, we hope you found some great advice in this post that you can act upon to improve your website’s load time. Is this guide helpful? We'll be glad if you share it with your friends and followers! You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter and learn more about SEO on our blog.

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