Website page loading speed, your search engine rankings and what you can do to improve them
Google has been using the page load speed (time it takes to load a website page so the user can see it in the browser) as one of their determinants of search engine results position for some time.
They have also recently given more prominence to the speed of a page loading on a mobile device –they have announced it will be a ranking factor (how your page ranks in mobile search results) from July 2018.
There are a few free services that you can use to test the speed of your page loading. Google’s own Page Speed Insights breaks your results down into desktop and mobile versions of the site.
Another great service that not only gives your page a speed rating but can provide you with some guidance on how to speed up the site is GTMetrix
It is now more important than ever before to consider page load speed optimisation when creating a website if you wish it to do well in search engine results – both mobile and desktop.
In this post, we consider some of the main aspects you can optimise.
Page load speed is not all about the design of the page. It is also affected by your website hosting. The old adage “you get what you pay for” applies here. Broadly speaking, the more you spend on the website hosting, the faster you can expect the server to respond to an Internet browser’s request to load a website from it. Consider:
- Hosting your website with a company who uses data centres based in your own country. If you are a UK based business, for example, do not host your website on a data centre in the USA, there are plenty of UK hosting companies you can use instead. The closer the server to the customer, the faster the website will load.
- Hosting your website (or a copy of your website) in data centres that are located in the country in which your customers are based. If 50% of your customers are in France but your business is based in England then you might want to consider paying a bit more to have multi-site hosting with a copy of your website served from a data centre in France.
- You can speed up the loading of a website by compressing the data that is sent from the server to the web browser. This method, more often than not, makes use of Gzip compression or something very similar. Make sure that this is enabled by your web hosting company.
Big beautiful images make websites look great but the bigger the image, the larger the image file and the longer it takes to load.
Optimise your images to reduce the file size. There are various online tools that will do this for you. We like the following:
These services compress your images to remove unneeded data that takes up space and creates a bigger file size.
Serve Scaled Images
You also need to consider the size of images that you are displaying on your web page. If you upload an image to your website at 1200 x 600 and then display it on the website at a size of 600 x 300 when that website page is loaded, the larger image must be resized and this takes time.
Therefore, create a copy of the image at the size you are going to display it on the website and use that so the image does not have to be resized when the page is loaded and the page will load quicker.
You can also use CSS instructions to control the size of images that should be displayed when the user is viewing the site on a mobile device. Make sure copies of the images at their “mobile size” are available on the server to avoid images being resized at the time of page loading. This is an important part of making your website responsive. There is a great explanation of how this can be done here.
If you are not confident with HTML and CSS coding and you are looking to speed optimise a WordPress website then you could consider using a plugin such as Adaptive Images for WordPress
Page loading behaviour
There are many aspects to increasing the speed of page loading but two where you can make a big difference and which can be tackled fairly easily are outlined below:
- bring copies of external scripts to your server and load them from there.
Most of these can be achieved with plugins and add-ons for your website CMS. If you are using WordPress, have a look at:
Caching is the process of storing copies of images and files from your webpage in a browser’s folder so that if the page is visited again they can be loaded from there instead of having to get them from the web hosting server.
By telling a browser how long each type of file should be stored for, you can prevent it reloading those resources unnecessarily and create a faster loading page.
This can be done by adding a series of instructions to your .htaccess file on the server known as“expires headers”. Changing the .htaccess file for your site can have drastic consequences if not done properly so you might want to get help from your web developer for this but if you are feeling brave there is a great explanation of how to add expires headers on the GTMetrix website.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
The AMP project is a Google backed project to create a standard suite of tools and design principles to ensure that fast loading mobile web pages are available for mobile web browsers.
To improve a website’s rankings in mobile search results (when search is performed via a mobile device) one of the best things you can do is to create AMP versions of your website’s pages.
Again, if you don’t have the technical ability to do this, there are many plugins and add-ons for popular website Content Management Systems that will do this for you. Have a look at:
If you are so inclined, you can delve deep into the technical aspects of speeding up your website at both a browser and server level – it can become a bit of an obsession if you are not careful!
It is only a single aspect of search engine optimisation and you must ask yourself whether spending hours on tiny incremental gains is worth your time and effort. The aspects that we have touched on above are those where you can have the biggest impact with the minimum of effort and technical knowledge but if you wish to learn more about site speed optimisation, why not have a look at the following?
Do you have any tips that you would like to share with our readers? Have you noticed a difference to your search engine ranking since speeding up your site? Let us know in the comments.