Website speed is vital to the point that Google has made it a ranking factor. Because search engines consider user activity on a website and the results of their crawlers, your site should be fast for both of them.
Various speed factors affect SEO, including the page load time and Time To First Byte (TTFB).
This article will explain how website speed affects SEO and also provide six ways to optimize it for SEO.
How Website Speed Affects SEO
Google has indicated that speed and page load times are some of the most critical factors used by their algorithm to rank web pages. This is further supported by research that states Google measures
Time To First Byte (TTFB) when considering page speed.
How exactly does website speed affect SEO? There are many reasons, but we’ve compiled the three most important ones below.
Website Design and User Experience
Search engine bots are designed to mimic human user experience. What’s considered bad for human users will also be bad for search engine bots.
If you have a poorly designed website that’s hard to navigate, users are going to leave. Search engines will pick up on the fact that people are leaving your website, lowering its rank accordingly.
Slow load times, outdated designs, or hard-to-read text are some other barriers preventing people from engaging with your website.
38% of users will leave a website if they don’t like its design or if it takes a long time to load. Featuring quality visuals in compressed sizes lets you maintain an appealing web design that boosts your authority and builds customer trust while keeping load times low.
What’s more, make sure to offer quality content. This way, you’ll encourage users to stay on your website longer. This will let search engines know that your website is reputable and worthy of rank higher on search engine result pages (SERPs).
While web designers should prioritize the needs and wants of human users, they mustn’t forget the requirements of search engine crawlers.
If you make a wrong design choice or fail to optimize the website’s themes, plugins, images, or elements, you can unintentionally make it more difficult for the crawlers to index your website. This, in turn, will damage your rankings on search engines.
How to Optimize Website Speed for Search Engines
There are various methods to optimize your website speed. Below are some of the best ways to significantly reduce page load times and improve your website speed.
1. Leverage Browser Caching
This process hastens a page speed tremendously and also reduces server lag. Hence browsers are able to quickly load a web page when a user visits it again.
However, the more information stored in the cache there is, the slower your computer will be browsing the web. Hence it’s a good idea to periodically clear browser cache. Not only does it free up space on your computer allowing it to run faster, but it also helps with troubleshooting web issues.
2. Improve Server Response Time
Improving the server response time isn’t something you can do yourself, especially when using shared hosting. You either need to significantly reduce the load on it or upgrade the available resources, both of which you don’t have complete control over unless you own a physical server.
Any hosting company that has websites that rank well on Google should provide decent services. If you’re mainly focused on local SEO, choosing a local hosting provider or one with a local server is best.
If the data center is on another continent, the information will have to travel a long distance before reaching your target audience, slowing your site down.
You can also check a hosting provider’s server response time by using tools like PageSpeed Insights. Check its Time To First Byte or Server Response Time. If the results are in the Passed Audits section, then it’s a good hosting provider to use.
3. Compress Images
Another way to optimize website speed is to reduce the size of your images. While having visual elements is necessary for a website, they can significantly slow down your loading times.
A straightforward solution is to compress your images. They also need to be in the proper file format. For example, PNGs are better for visuals with fewer than 16 colors and JPEGs are better for photographs.
You can use tools like Compressor.io to compress images without sacrificing their quality. The tool provides a few compression options and a preview of your pictures after the conversion.
4. Enable Compression
Much like images, files should also be compressed. However, the method of doing it is different. You’ll want to compress the files without compromising on quality. The smaller the files are, the faster they’ll load.
5. Use Lightweight Themes and Plugins
The more plugins you install on your website, the slower it will run. The same applies to using extensive themes. If a theme comes with third-party builders that have their dedicated libraries of plugins, your website will slow down.
To sort this out, make sure the theme you’re going for doesn’t have too many animations and functions.
An example of a great lightweight theme is GeneratePress. It allows users to enable and disable elements, keeping the website clutter-free and improving its speed.
When installing new plugins, consider if they are vital to your website. After installing them, test your site’s speed. If a plugin makes it slower and is not essential, you should remove it.
6. Use a Content Delivery Network
Web requests are sent to the server hosting your website every time visitors enter it. If it’s experiencing high traffic, the requests might take longer to process.
While having a lot of traffic is beneficial for your business, it can negatively affect your page load times – especially if the server’s physical location is far from the visitors.
A content delivery network (CDN) will solve this issue. It works by making copies of your website files and storing them on multiple data centers around the world.
Whenever someone visits your website, they will be directed to the closest server to their location. This will result in faster loading times and a more reliable access to your website.
Website speed is crucial for SEO. Without a fast website, you risk losing rankings on SERPs. I’ve provided six ways you can improve your website speed for SEO. Let’s recap:
- Leverage browser caching.
- Improve server response time.
- Compress images.
- Enable compression.
- Use lightweight themes and plugins.
- Use a content delivery network.
All that’s left to do now is to apply these methods and use website
speed tools like PageSpeed Insights to measure how your website speed has improved.