For years, Google has described themselves as “obsessed with speed.” As such, it’s not surprising that as of 2010 they’ve explicitly included website speed as part of their search ranking algorithm. So, it’s official: a fast, performance-optimized website may be able to give you an edge (to some degree, at least) over your competition.
Admittedly, website speed is a small part of the 200 or so ranking factors in Google’s algorithm – the content and relevance of your site is still carries far more importance to Google. But, all else being equal, It’s fair to say that Google will prioritize a fast website over a slow one, and it’s reasonable to expect this trend to continue as the use of resource-limited mobile devices continues to grow.
More important than Google’s algorithm per se, is how the experience and engagement of your website’s users is impacted by your website speed. In 2009, Google’s research team found that increasing the latency of web searches by just 100 to 400 milliseconds led to measurable, consistent, and proportionate decreases in the number of searches performed by users. Quite surprisingly, this decrease in engagement persisted even after the latency returned to normal.
The abstract from the Google report states:
Experiments demonstrate that increasing web search latency 100 to 400 ms reduces the daily number of searches per user by 0.2% to 0.6%. Furthermore, users do fewer searches the longer they are exposed. For longer delays, the loss of searches persists for a time even after latency returns to previous levels.
If the almighty Google notices a decrease in user engagement from such minuscule delays in their service, one wonders if site’s with greater competition would lose visitors / customers entirely.
Either way, for any website owner, less engagement means less time on your website, fewer clicks, fewer social media shares, fewer links generated, fewer trackbacks, and a higher bounce rate. It’s clear that performance-related site issues can thus undermine even the savviest SEO strategy.
Luckily, numerous resources exist which allow website owners to gauge and improve the speed of their websites (see below for a list).
DO IT YOURSELF – BUT DON’T GO IT ALONE
These days, getting a website up and running is easier than ever. But as website builders and frameworks (like WordPress, for example) make creating web content relatively easy for everybody, so too do they lend themselves to the creation of poorly-functioning websites unless certain steps are taken. There’s expertise required to create sites which are optimized for performance, so — while the do-it-yourself approach is great — it may make sense to have an expert guide you in the early stages of the creation of your website. It’s easier to build a website correctly from the beginning than to update tons of content somewhere down the line.
PERFORMANCE AND CONTENT – BOTH MATTER
While it’s still true that “content is king” and that quality, value-oriented content is more important than ever, once standards and workflows are put into place regarding website performance, they provide ongoing dividends from day one.
Most website owners would agree — creating content isn’t easy and it can be a never-ending hassle churning out valuable content to keep both your customers and Google happy. With the effort involved in content creation, it only makes sense to set up your website to reach as many people as possible and to give them the user experience they’ve come to expect from a professional business website. The bottom line is that there is simply no reason not to prioritize website speed and performance for all of the content you create.
WEBSITE SPEED AND PERFORMANCE IS EASY TO QUANTIFY
With many of the free tools available online, it’s reasonably easy to gauge the speed of your website. Of course, there’s no universal agreement as to which metrics are most important to measure and improve (not to mention that it’s all too easy to get needlessly-obsessed with shaving milliseconds off of page load times). Generally speaking, however, website speed and performance metrics are a standard of quality that are easy to quantify. For the information they provide, they simply shouldn’t be ignored.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO DELEGATE
Many small businesses don’t have the resources to spend in building or optimizing their website. If your time is better spent on your core business than on development, let an experienced professional construct or tweak your website to perform as well as or better than the pros. As no blog post is complete without a shameless plug, we at Coronite Creative would be happy to provide a free performance report for your existing website, or a free consultation if your website is still in the planning stages. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of performance enhancement in the future, for now we’ll get you started with some of the best tools available for analyzing website performance. While these tools are generally well-known, from the scores of many websites we see, It’s safe to assume that many developers still don’t know they exist.
Google Page Speed Insights
If Google is the king of the search engine world, why not let them guide you in making your site faster? Their Page Speed Insights tool and accompanying guide can do just that. Page Speed Insights provides a site tester and a set of rules Google uses to ensure that sites are fast and optimized for mobile devices.
A favorite of the web world for some time webpagetest.org is an open-source project (now primarily developed and supported by Google) allowing developers and website owners to delve into the inner details of exactly how sites and their components are delivered to users.
GTMetrix.com analyzes both Google’s PageSpeed rules and those of another website performance tester, YSlow. It provides an especially attractive user interface with the ability to track site performance over time and to download PDF reports. GTMetrix also generates letter grades for dozens of various metrics, which makes the reports a bit easier to analyze even if you don’t understand all of the technical details.