Does Page Speed Affect SEO? Yes.
It's that simple.
Google has been pushing Page Speed for the last few years and one thing is clear.
They want your website to be fast.
In this article, we will look at why they want the web to be fast.
We will also look at how you can measure your site and make improvements.
Google has provided many tools in this space and we will show you how to use them.
Using page speed in search ranking
In 2010 Google added site speed as a ranking factor for Google Search results. This was on desktop only.
Then in 2018, they added site speed as a mobile ranking factor.
The “Speed Update” as they called it focused on providing the best user experience to Google users.
With the update now live for both mobile and desktop, how does it affect rankings? Google has said that the “Speed Update” will only affect the slowest websites.
Meaning if you have a very slow site then your site could drop in the rankings.
They also go on to say that a slower site may rank higher if the content is more relevant.
So although it has an effect on your search rankings at the moment it is a small one.
Having said that, Google points out that user experience is what you should focus on.
Why does Google care about the user experience on your site?
Google wants to give its users the best experience of any search engine. And they have research to show that users prefer a fast site.
A page speed study from Google found that:
53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.
This high percentage of users leaving a site shows that users are not having a good experience.
Users have less time than ever. If your site does not load fast, then it's easy for the user to press back and select the next site in the search results.
The faster your page loads, the less likely that they will leave. The more likely Google will have happy customers.
Happy customers convert.
The conversion rate of your site also improves as site speed improves. In other words, more customers will buy from you or signup to your newsletter if your page is fast.
A conversion rate study from Akamai showed how dramatic page speed affects conversion.
They found that the conversion rate was at its highest (1.9%) when page load times were at 2.4 seconds. As soon as the load time increased conversion dropped.
A website that loaded at 4.4 seconds saw the conversion rate half to 0.8%.
That means conversion doubled by increasing page speed from 4.4 seconds to 2.4 seconds.
There is one more benefit to having a fast site.
Crawl budget is the term to describe how much time Google will spend looking at your site.
The more crawl budget your site has the longer it will take to read the content.
Once it has read the pages it will then index them, which adds them to Google Search results.
So you want to make your crawl budget as efficient as possible. By having fast pages Google can crawl quicker.
Google has even said:
Making a site faster improves the users’ experience while also increasing the crawl rate.
A fast website improves the crawl rate which gets more of your pages in Google Search results.
Now we know why we need a fast site, how do you check if your site is slow?
Using PageSpeed Insights
PageSpeed Insights is an online tool provided by Google.
It allows you to enter a URL from your site to analyze.
When it analyzes the URL it fetches data from two sources:
- Field Data - this is data Google has on your site speed using Chrome User Experience Report.
- Lab Data - this is where Google will run a tool called Lighthouse against your page.
The “Field Data” is from users of Google Chrome that opt-in to the “usage statistics reporting”. As these users browse the web Google records the performance each user experienced.
This data is very useful and it gives you insight into your page speed for real end-users.
Chrome User Experience Report will give you details on two metrics:
- First Contentful Paint (FCP) - This is the metric to show the first visible change on your site.
- First Input Delay (FID) - Once the page loads this metric tracks how fast the page reacts to touch (such as a button or a link).
The report gives you two graphs to see how many users of your page had a “slow”, “moderate” or “fast” experience.
Google defines each experience as:
- Slow - The FCP is greater than 3 seconds and the FID is greater than 300ms
- Moderate - The FCP is under 3 seconds and the FID is under 300ms
- Fast - The FCP is under 1 second and the FID is under 100ms
The second data set Google uses is “Lab data”. Google uses a tool called Lighthouse to run a series of tests against your page.
The report shows the Lighthouse results. These results are under the “opportunities” section with details of any recommended improvements.
If you have a large site it can be very frustrating to do this one page at a time. Let's look at how we can get this data for your site.
Speed Report in Search Console
Google Search Console has added the “field data” from Chrome User Experience Report.
This means you can now get an overview of the site speed from an entire site in one place.
To do this login to Google Search Console and choose the “Speed (experimental)”.
You will then see two reports one for Desktop and one for Mobile.
Click on Open Report and you will see a list of all the pages categorized by speed.
The grouping of “slow”, “moderate” and “fast” are the same here as in PageSpeed Insights.
You can select the slow pages and then export a list of all the pages. Giving you a list that you can share with the developers to improve.
But what do you need to improve?
Improving your page speed
Now you have a list of slow webpages you can get to work on fixing them.
To do this you can start improving the basics:
- Page Weight - Reduce the size of your web page in megabytes using a budget.
- Optimized Images - Images can get very large in megabytes follow our guide to reducing image size
- Minified CSS and JS - Reduce the size of CSS and JS by minifying the files
- Requests - Reduce the number of requests from your page (target under 50)
- Compression and Caching - Use GZip or BR compression and cache the files using cache headers.
We created a full rundown of 30 ways to improve your website performance. This in-depth guide will look at all the performance improvements you can make.
Wrapping Up, Does Page Speed Affect SEO
So now we know why page speed affects SEO.
Google cares about page speed. And if Google cares, so should you.
Having a fast page will give you three major benefits:
- You will offer a better experience to Google and your users
- Your page will crawl faster which will improve your Google Search Results
- You will increase the conversion rate
To identify if you have a slow website use Google's free tools:
- PageSpeed Insights - To test single URLs
- Google Search Console - To identify your slowest pages
- Google Lighthouse - To get actionable improvements
When making improvements to the site speed check the following:
And if they are all working check the list of 30 website performance improvements.