Page speed is one of the most important factors in keeping your website visitors happy and one of the top things that influence where you rank in search results.
As part of any SEO plan, reducing page load time will greatly improve how your site performs and help move you up the rankings. Many factors tie into this and 2021 will see significant updates to the Google algorithm that determines how web pages are ranked.
So, let’s get 2021 off to a good start by looking at how page speed can be improved and staying on top of the upcoming changes!
What exactly is ‘page speed’?
At its most simple, page speed is a metric that measures how quickly it takes a web page to load.
The complexity comes from the different ways that you can measure it.
For example, you can measure page speed as being the time it takes for a page to start loading OR the time it takes for it to fully load; displaying all images, text and other features on screen.
There’s also First Contentful Paint (FCP), which measures the time it takes to load enough useful information for a visitor to start interacting with the page. A fast FCP speed can make visitors perceive your site as being fast, even if it isn’t.
Why speed matters
The web works fast, and people want to find the information they need within seconds. We all know the frustration of staring at a white screen for too long while browsing online.
If your website pages take too long to load, visitors are likely to click away and possibly never come back. It creates a bad impression of your brand.
Slow page loading leads to a higher bounce rate, where people leave your site without having visited any pages other than the one they first landed on. Websites with high bounce rates can also be negatively ranked by Google.
A good page speed is also essential for SEO.
Since 2010, Google has used page speed as a metric to rank websites in search engines. They want to show people websites that are user friendly and useful, so if your site loads slowly then you’ll be placed lower down the result page.
What impacts on page speed?
Still, there are some steps you can take to help improve your site:
- Large image sizes are often a cause for slow page loading. If you optimise images on your website by compressing them and resizing to the correct dimensions, your website will run faster. It can be a quick win!
- Compress your code – a good web developer will make sure that the code on your website is clean and compressed.
- Activate browser caching. This allows visitors to store some of your site’s information in their browser cache, making it MUCH faster for a page to load next time they visit.
- Your server response time is vital. If your server is slow then you’re off to a bad start from the outset! Make sure the server you use is fit for purpose (or ask us to help you).
- Test, test and test again! There are multiple tools out there that will help you see how fast your site loads and pinpoint issues. Some examples are Google Page Insights and GT Metrix.
Changes are coming – the Google Algorithm Update 2021
The focus on optimising websites for speed has meant that other factors that make up a great user experience have often been given less priority.
For example, a page might load quickly but certain elements within it take a long time to become to use. Or an ad might pop-up just as a user is about to click on something. All highly infuriating for the visitor!
In May 2021, Google will release a new user page experience algorithm for ranking websites.
As part of this, they will introduce a new set of metrics called Core Web Vitals (CWV).
Google says that the metrics for CWVs will evolve, but initially, they will focus on three key aspects of the user experience that relate to speed:
- Interactivity, and
- Visual stability
CWV will be combined with a host of other technical SEO metrics and user experience factors to rank websites. Some of these include mobile-friendliness and safety.
Get your website ready for this change
What’s clear is that User Experience (UX) is more important than ever.
Google has said that it will update all their testing tools to show CWV measurements. The Chrome User Experience Report currently collects real-world data for CWV and is excellent for assessing the UX of a site.
Ultimately, a website that is designed with sound UX principles will do well under the new algorithm. It measures the things that your website should be anyway – user friendly with great functionality!
At Giant Peach, we’ve been perfecting our expertise in this area for many years, designing and building SEO-optimised websites that have users at the heart of every decision. Our SEO experts provide tailored packages for new and existing websites, helping brands stay ahead of the competition.
Get in touch if you’d like us to help you prepare for the new changes that 2021 will bring!