The Relationship Between Site Speed and SEO
We’ve all felt the frustration of dealing with a slow-loading website. So you understand that, from a user experience perspective, you want to make sure you and your clients’ websites all load quickly.
But it’s about more than just user experience. A slow site can actually negatively affect SEO. How does a slow site damage SEO? How can you tell if a site is loading slowly? And what can you do to fix it if it is?
Read on to learn more about the connection between SEO and site speed.
Google’s Ranking Algorithm Likes Fast Sites
The algorithm that Google uses to rank sites is notoriously opaque. There are supposedly hundreds of factors that go into ranking websites, and Google has never released all of the factors that they take into account.
They have, however, confirmed that site speed is one of them. If you or your client have a slow-loading site, you’re going to get dinged in the Google ranking algorithm. The thing is, some of the other ranking factors are complex (or unknown). Boosting site speed is usually a quick fix, so this is some low-hanging fruit for you or your clients when it comes to increasing where you land on the SERPs.
Slow Sites Aren’t Indexed Properly
Google crawls each and every website so that they can better understand the content on the site. Based on what they find, they then index sites. When someone types a query into Google, the search engine goes through its indexed information on each site. Based on whatever information they have indexed, they then display the sites they think contain the most relevant information for that search term.
As you can imagine, indexing every site on the internet is a time-consuming task (even if it is being done by a machine and not a human being). Google doesn’t have the time to sit and wait for slow loading sites, and so if a site takes a long time to get up and running, Google will simply crawl and index less of the information on the site.
When Google crawls less information, they don’t get the full picture of what the site is about. And that means that they might not be considering your client for search terms that would be highly relevant for their site. This is a major missed opportunity.
User Experience and SEO
Of course we know users don’t enjoy encountering a slow site. Most people will only give a page a few seconds to load before they grow impatient and bounce back to the SERP.
If most visitors are only staying on a few seconds, waiting for client’s page to load, before clicking the back arrow, that’s establishing a pattern of short dwell times.
Dwell times are how long someone stays on a page, and they’re indicative of how good the user experience is. If the page has a great user experience—easy to load and navigate, with rich and meaningful content—then visitors will stick around and read all of the content thoroughly. Google takes note of the dwell time, and rewards those sites with longer dwell times by moving them up in the rankings.
Dwell time is at the crossroads of user experience and SEO best practices. What creates a good user experience (a quick load time), will increase dwell time and therefore boost SERP rankings.
How Does My Client’s Site Stack Up?
Now that you know how site speed can affect SEO, you probably want to be sure your client has a lighting fast site, right?
That’s where Google PageSpeed Insights comes in. It’s a free tool, and it provides insight into any site’s load time on both mobile and desktop devices. If your client has a site that comes up short in either arena, you know there’s work to do.
My Client’s Site is Slow, Now What?
Fortunately, improving site speed is often a pretty quick fix. Sometimes it’s something on the page that’s dragging the load speed down. Other times it’s an issue with the server. And if you’re noticing a difference between desktop and mobile load times, it might be about the size of your client’s website components being too big for a small device to handle.
Check out this infographic for a full rundown of the factors that might be slowing down the site’s load time, and what you can do to fix them. If you’re not well versed in programming, reach out to a web developer to give you a hand.
Increasing site speed is about more than creating a great first impression for visitors. It’s also a component in SEO. If your client has a slow-loading site, they’re not only driving traffic away, they’re harming their rankings. Luckily, you know how to find the problem, identify the site’s issues, and get them up and running at a speed that will keep both their users and Google happy.