Fast and Furious Websites are Good SEO
Maybe we took creative license with "furious," but if your website does not load fast, your prospects will be furious, if Google even shares it with them.
BEST PRACTICESDEVELOPMENTTECHNICAL MARKETINGON-PAGE SEOWEBSITE DESIGNSEOSEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATIONLOAD SPEED
The attention span of the average individual is eight seconds, but when it comes to waiting for a website to load, it is far less. How often does an article interest you, but before the page is allowed to load, you simply move on to something else? It is for this reason, that the speed at which a website loads is a crucial factor that impacts both search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience.
In today's fast-paced digital world, where attention spans are shrinking, a slow-loading website can lead to high bounce rates, decreased user engagement, and ultimately, lower search engine rankings. In this article, we will delve into the details of why website load speed matters, its impact on SEO, and how it affects the overall user experience. Today, we will address the SEO portion of that equation, and tomorrow we will discuss how the negative impact is even greater when it comes to user experience.
Website Load Speed Defined
Website load speed, or page speed, is the amount of time it takes for a webpage to load (Backlinko). In our quest to provide content-rich websites that contain videos, and address the pain points and concerns of targeted personas, it becomes more difficult to maintain a rapidly loading website. Even defining what load speed means is not straightforward.
Improving SEO means getting Google to favor your website over sites with competing information. So, what Google says about your website should really matter to you. They have a web developer tool called PageSpeed Insights. As the name suggests, it contains information about your load speed and how to improve it.
PRO TIP – PageSpeed Insights contains so much more information about your website than just the load time. It is a definitive source for a website’s performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO for both desktop and mobile devices. If you want to get traction with organic traffic, you may test your site for free and learn how to make improvements.
Website load speeds are calculated into the following categories:
First Contentful Paint (FCP) is the time it takes for you to see the first piece of content on a webpage after you have landed. Typically, webpages load each element individually, but not all at the same time. This is a measurement of how long the browser takes to render the first piece of DOM content after a user navigates to your page. DOM is defined as images, non-white <canvas> elements, and SVGs on your page are considered DOM content; anything inside an iframe isn't included.
Sites performing in the ninety-ninth percentile render FCP in about 1.2 seconds. If your website's FCP is 1.2 seconds, your FCP score is 99. (Google FCP)
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) marks the point in the page load timeline when the page's main content has likely loaded. This is an approximation as to when the main content is visible to the user.
Total Blocking Time (TBT) is the time between FCP and the time to interactive. This means the total amount of time that a page is blocked from responding to a users input (e.g. mouse click, keyboard press, or screen tap).
Speed Index (SI) measures how quickly content is visually displayed during page load. Lighthouse first captures a video of the page loading in the browser and computes the visual progression between frames.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – it measures the unexpected movement of page content, which usually happens because resources are added to the page above existing content.
While Google’s metrics are certainly ones you need to pay attention to and optimize, there are a number of third-party tools that will measure your load speed and provide recommendations to improve performance. They often tell completely different stories. Here is a comparison of a website's load speed by different services. All were taken within a minute of each other.
While most of the testing sites had similar results, there were a few outliers. The difference between 1.1 seconds and 6.4 seconds is a lifetime online.
The Importance of Page Speed for SEO
Search engines, like Google, prioritize user experience and have incorporated website load speed as a ranking factor. In 2010, Google announced that website speed would be a part of its search ranking algorithm, emphasizing the importance of a fast-loading website. Since then, website load speed has become increasingly significant in determining search engine rankings.
When a website takes too long to load, search engine crawlers may struggle to index its content efficiently. This can result in lower visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), reducing organic traffic and potential conversions. Moreover, slow-loading websites often have higher bounce rates, as users tend to abandon sites that don't load quickly. This further signals to search engines that the website may not offer a satisfactory user experience, leading to lower rankings.
Additionally, website load speed affects the crawl budget allocated by search engines to index a website. A slow-loading website consumes more crawl budget, which can limit the number of pages that search engines can crawl and index. This can negatively impact the visibility of important pages and content on the website.
The Cost of a Slow Website
Google penalizes slow websites (greater than 4-7 seconds for the page to become usable) because, at about three seconds, users start turning back to the SERPs. What does this mean in actual revenue?
A recent industry study has shown that 83% of people expect a page to load within three seconds or less. Every additional 1 second delay beyond that time reduces customer satisfaction by 16%, page views by 11%, and conversion rate by 7%.
If you don’t stick to the 3-second window, then you risk an abandonment rate of over 40%.
In monetary terms, if a website is making $100,000 per day, just a second delay in the page load time could potentially result in a $2.5 million loss in sales per year.
We always tell our clients that everything we share can be backed up by third-party evidence. So let's look at the numbers.
Conversion rates are 3x higher for e-commerce sites that load in 1 second (Blogging Wizard).
Website conversion rates drop by 4.42% with each second of load time that goes by, between zero and five seconds (Portent).
The average page speed of a first-page Google result is 1.65 seconds (Backlinko).
The average load speed of a website is 3.21 seconds (Pingdom).
The top 20 most visited websites in the United States have an average load speed of 1.08 seconds (Pingdom).
The top 10 e-commerce websites have an average load speed of 1.96 seconds (Blogging Wizard).
A site that loads in 1 second has a conversion rate three times higher than a site that loads in 5 seconds (Portent).
A site that loads in 1 second has a conversion rate five times higher than a site that loads in 10 seconds (Portent).
The load speed of a website is a crucial factor in search engine optimization (SEO). If you aim to attract organic traffic, it is essential to optimize your website's speed. Slow load times can negatively impact user experience and deter potential visitors from exploring your site further. Search engines also take load speed into account when ranking websites, so a slow website may rank lower in search results. On the other hand, optimizing your website's load speed can lead to significant improvements in user engagement and search engine visibility. Even small, incremental improvements in load speed can yield substantial results, driving more traffic to your website and improving your overall SEO efforts. Therefore, it is vital to prioritize and invest in optimizing your website's load speed to maximize its performance and achieve better organic traffic.
If you think that slow load speeds are vital for SEO, come back tomorrow for how they will impact user experience and conversions.