How Does Website Speed Effect Your Rankings

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In the advent of Google’s Core Web Vitals Algorithm, where Google takes your website speed as a major factor for its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) arriving in June/July of 2021. Folks seem to think this is something brand new. But, the reality is, that announcement regarding website speed was made in late 2010 and it has actually been a ranking factor ever since that time.

Website Speed and Google

In the advent of Google’s Core Web Vitals Algorithm, where Google takes your website speed as a major factor for its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) arriving in June/July of 2021. Folks seem to think this is something brand new. But, the reality is, that announcement regarding website speed was made in late 2010 and it has actually been a ranking factor ever since that time.

And yet despite this, a lot of webmasters still do not see it as being an integral part of the SEO agenda. And, I would say, despite the increased information Google has thrown out there, and all the hullabaloo regarding Web Core Vitals, it’s still not given the importance required by website owners and some sections of the industry.

At Buzzweb we believe that yes, Search Engine Optimization is important, but we believe that ‘Search Experience Optimisation’ should be more of an important part of building a perfect website and web presence. Building a nicely designed website actually is the easy part. Getting it to the top of the SERPs is where it starts to get difficult. But even so, when you getting there is awesome, but if you get there and your traffic bounces right out of your website due to the failure of the site speed, it becomes all a waste of time.

With so many factors involved to get your website to the top, it’s often difficult to work out what to do first, for the none SEO-minded average person it’s even worse. Search Engines do not make this an easy task. If you get it wrong, you could be punished severely, where you end up going from the top of the pile to the bottom, quickly. Overnight in fact.

This is why you have to SEO your website slowly, methodically, and with great thought as to how you are going to execute your strategy. Using the fundamental parts of SEO such as On-Site, Content, and Link Building. Personally, when completing an SEO task, I make sure the SEO basics are either, completed or set in motion to a well-planned strategy. Before moving into the more technically time-consuming stuff, such as website speed.

However, as I have already covered the SEO Basics, in another blog. This is my take on website speed, and how you should look at speeding up your website.

With this in mind, read below and find some great tips and reasons why Website speed should be part of your SEO strategy.

First impressions count

It was, at one time, to be believed that the first 15 seconds was what counted when it came to First Impressions. Now, you would be very lucky if you get even that long. Google says that the average time it takes for a mobile landing page to load in 15 seconds. However, the average visitor to a website will only take 3 seconds to decide if they want to stay and wait for your page to load, or to simply ‘bounce out’ and go elsewhere. That’s a massive disparity in time, and in this day and age people are just naturally impatient.

Due to the average attention span of a human now at 8 seconds, the advent of Social Media and YouTube giving instant gratification. Now, now, now people!

Folks now don’t want to be hanging around waiting for your page to load. They have come to your site for answers or a product they need or want. And when they want something, they want it now. Welcome to the new world we live in. So while page speed is important for your SEO, it is just as important for your conversion rates and general customer happiness. When sorting your site speed out, the threshold should be 2 sec or less. Certainly, If it isn’t there within 3 seconds, your potential customers will click off and go to your competitors.

As we have already established, a slow loading page will suffer from low user engagement. Anything from increased bounce rates, low average time on page, and of course a lack of conversions. And as Google (reportedly) takes into account user behavior data now, as a search ranking factor, this could adversely affect your site’s rankings. Which, as an example, could then impact web traffic to your site. This would mean you would drop rankings and you may no longer be within the top 3 of the SERPs, or, even worse, not on page 1 at all.

So how can you sort this out?

There are plenty of tools out there that can test your website speed. GTmetrix.comHubspot, to name but two. The latter has a website speed grader, which gives some great insights. And of course, my recommendation would be to use google’s test site for your mobile site speed test. Also, there is a Core Vitals system directly on your own website, called Lighthouse.

So, I am going to show you how to use the lighthouse to check your Core Web Vitals. A little step-by-step guide should be easy to follow and complete.

How to Use Lighthouse to Check Your Website Speed

The first thing to do here is to arrive at your home page. Right-click anywhere below the main menu, and choose the ‘Inspect’ option at the bottom. It should look like this;

Getting the best website speed

On clicking the inspect link, it will take you to the developer tools area of your website. This looks pretty complicated to the uninitiated and frankly, I don’t often deal with it, apart from running these lighthouse tests or finding small snippets of CSS code I may need to Alter. However, don’t let the look of this thing put you off. You won’t break either your website or the full internet by messing about here.

In the top right of this new screen you can see a menu starting with ‘Elements’ and at the end a couple of arrows >>, I need you to click those arrows to reveal the dropdown of the remaining menu items like this;

Normally the bottom item should say Lighthouse. Click this!

This will bring you to the Lighthouse tool on your website which looks something like this;

Here you can choose either to let lighthouse assess your website on mobile or desktop. You need to work out if your visitors are mainly Mobile or desktop users to say which one is best for you. Here I chose Mobile. It also allows you to choose which reports that you want to generate. In this case, we want to generate a performance report, which will give us details on our Core Web Vitals. When you have decided and made your choices, click the Generate Report button, and let Lighthouse do its thing.

It will go through a series of tests and will show a progress bar. The whole process takes about 1min to finish. and you then should see something like this;

This is giving the individual scores for all the areas you may have ticked. As you can see in all areas, this website does pretty well. Clicking on the individual scores will then take you to the parts of the report concerning that area. It will tell you where you are failing in your SEO, Performance, and so on. It will also tell you where you can improve and what bits you are good at.

For the part, we are concerned about today, Website Speed, which is indicated within the Performance report. It is here you will find the Web Core Vitals scores for you to review. It should look like this below; As you can see it is showing a good score on mobile for our speed.

So let’s have a look at the individual elements that go to make up our Web Core Vitals score with regards to your website speed.

  1. First Contentful Paint (FCP) – Meaning when the visitor first see’s any movement on the page, such as text and or image. The visitor now knows that the page is now loading
  2. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Meaning the time the website takes to show the largest amount of content above the page fold. Which means everything that appears without you having to scroll.
  3. Time To Interactive (TTI) – Meaning where the last long-task was completed and the visitor can then use the site and interact with your content.
  4. Total Blocking Time (TBT) – Meaning the amount of time your website was blocked from opening by the server.
  5. Speed Index (SI) – Meaning the speed in which the contents of the page are visiably populated
  6. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – Meaning the time your fonts, images and background colours take to unexpectedly shift whilst downloading.

Other Free Tools You Can Use For Website Speed

There are plenty of other tools out there to use and I prefer GT Metrix, which I added a link to them in a paragraph above. There report looks like this;

As you would expect from an SEO company, it’s showing that their website speed is pretty good. It shows the 3 main areas that google is mostly concerned with, LCP, TBT, and CLS. As Google feels these are the 3 major areas that affect the visitor experience the most.

Also, it gives you the full information of what is wrong, and how to fix it. Should you need that. As I say, GTMetrix is free. It does have a paid service that gives you extra features too.

How to fix your Website Speed Issues

There are many different issues that can affect your website speed. Ranging from your server not being optimized to the size of the pictures and files you have uploaded to the site, being too big. It could be CSS and Javascript not being minified, or a simple caching issue that can be fixed quickly with a plugin. So, let’s have a look at the most common issues.

  1. Image size – There is no ‘Ideal file size’ for websites. As it depends on the picture itself. But, if it is a 4MB picture, you know already its just too big. You can reduce the size of your images before adding them to your website, use an online tool like TingPNG or TinyJPG. If you already have them online, use a plugin like Smush to reduce them in situ.
  2. Excsesive DOM – Now for this I have found an amazing blog to explain this and how if effects your website and how you can sort it out. Its a great blog with loads of information, as the explanation here would just be too long. Website DOM.
  3. You are not using a Content delivery Network (CDN) – A CDN consists of differnt servers that are placed in large cities around the world. You store copies of your website there so its pages are quickly loaded by your visitors that are far away from your main server. There are plenty of CDN’s to choose from out there and most Hosting providers come with some sort of CDN attached. For all of our web builds we add Cloudflare and intigrate that with wordpress, as the best option.
  4. Unminified Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and or Javascript (JS) – If your JS and CSS are not correctly optimized this is going to cause your website to be slow. For instance, if you have many external CSS files you need to look at combining them into one file, however, best practice would be to remove the external CSS and use in-line CSS instead. Same with JS files, try and get them into one in-line JS file and load them at the end of the page.
  5. Caching – Browser caching and Page Caching can slow the site down. Make sure you have your browser cache optimized properly for your website. Make sure they have a long lifespan appropriate to your content.

Like I say there are plenty of other areas where your website speed can go wrong and become slow. Keep measuring it and tweaking it so it can improve.

Alternatively, you can build your website with Buzzweb, so that our Tech staff can look after it for you, along with a full year of website maintenance and everything else you need for a great customer-attracting web presence in 2021.