How does Page Speed affect SEO?

What if I tell you something that you don’t know? What would you do? 

Google search, of course. It has become a habit. It’s part of our lives now. But, there’s this point – As much important Google is for a user, a user is for Google too. 

Google cares for the user, and that is why it wants to give the user the best experience it can. Now, if you have a website which has value for someone whose answer lies in your content, but then your website’s page speed is slow – dayum! You will fall behind in showing your worth to Google. And, if Google doesn’t understand your worth, you’re drifting far away from people finding you i.e you’re falling short of improving your SEO RANKING! It is an absolute necessity to understand deeper how Page Speed affects SEO, and ultimately your ranking in the SERPs.

Let’s drill down a bit more on this – How exactly is this so important for Google? 

When a website is slow, makes me understand just one thing – it’s not effective. There can be a lot of reasons for it – you might not be practicing the best strategies that exist, you might not have optimized the media, bad hosting and the list can go on. So, the more problems you have, the more effort needs to be taken by Google in terms of bandwidth, resources and operational expenditures. 

And, that is why, back in 2010 itself Google had announced that it will be using Page Speed as an important ranking factor for desktop searches. And just last year, July 2018 saw the release of Google Speed Update – a new ranking algorithm for mobile search. They are currently looking at how fast your mobile pages are and further use that as a ranking factor in mobile search. 

google speed update tweet

Statista’s recent report states that by 2020, the number of smartphone users worldwide is projected at 2.87 billion people. 

This increase in the number tells us that Google will be optimizing its experience more and more towards mobile searches. Exactly the reason why Google has invested so heavily in the AMP Project, and why they’re shouting at the top of their voices – Performance matters.

It’s recommended that you use multiple tools to test the speed of your website to get to a final conclusion and understand how page speed affects SEO. Each of the different tools provides a different set for page speed testing using their own testing methodologies, and they provide immense value in identifying areas where your site might be slow.

Let’s understand each one : 

GTMetrix :

GTMetrix is the tool that is used to get detailed reports of a site’s performance. It’s completely free and it analyses a website’s performance using Google Page Speed and YSlow. 

You can use GTMetrix in two ways i.e from the website directly or use a GTMetrix plugin. There’s obviously a tad bit of an advantage in using the GTMetrix plugin because it analyses your website right from your WordPress dashboard. It’s preferred because you don’t have to take the hassle of going into your Webmaster tools account or download the YSlow extension, you get the results all in one place.

GTMetrix scores for Page speed

WebPageTest :

Primarily maintained by Google, WebPageTest is an open source performance testing tool. It has a bit more technical bent, and is considered as one of the most advanced WordPress speed test tool in terms of the depth of functionality and the data it provides. 

Wep page test for a website's performance

There are multiple tests that you can perform for e.g simulating a slow connection, change how many tests to run, disable javascript and a lot more. Webpagetest on the core runs the test three times to get more accurate data.

WebPageTest offers a RESTful API for public use. Since it’s a shared instance, usage is limited to 200 page loads per day — repeat views count as a separate page load, which means that a test with two runs and a repeat view would count as four page loads.

Google Page Speed Insights : 

It is the most commonly used, and in a way the “best practices tool”. Google Page Speed Insights In the past however, it only used to give suggestions but that has changed now. PageSpeed Insights takes data from the Chrome User Experience Report to provide real-world performance information for sites.

FCP and FID page speed tests

PageSpeed Insights uses a variety of best practices from the web performance community. The optimization analysis fetches a site with a Blink renderer (the rendering engine that powers Google Chrome) that emulates both mobile and desktop devices.

Google page speed diagnostics test

Pingdom :

Probably one of the easiest speed testing tools, Pingdom offers variety of services such as uptime monitoring, speed test monitoring, transaction monitoring, server monitoring, and visitor insights.

Pingdom page performance test

It gives you a lot more than just the issue list. Also giving you the ability to view content size by content type, content size by domain, the various requests being made by the domain, and all file requests in an extremely helpful format. 

Extra feature of things that can be done with content type

Pingdom speed test tool works a little better and what all the charts mean can help you make a more data-driven decision when it comes to performance.

To better understand how to optimize your website, all the above tools must be used in conjunction. Only through testing your website with all the above three best practice tools you can find out whether every little thing has been properly implemented or not.

The relation between Page Speed and Crawling

It’s really pretty simple, the number of obstructions you remove for Googlebot to come to your website – the more it is going to come. And, this is how page speed affects SEO directly.

Googlebot is a crawler – It crawls all of the webs. There are multiple URLs for a site, and the crawler gets a list of URLs to crawl, which it goes through systematically. What it does is that it takes your robots.txt file, and then crawls the URLs one-by-one. Once it has been crawled i.e., the URL and parsed the contents, it then finds other URLs that might be there on the site and puts it again into the to-do list, to be crawled again. 

Sometimes it might crawl 10 pages a day, sometimes 5000 and sometimes it might even crawl 500000 pages a day. This is called the crawl rate limit. This factor depends on two things :

  1. If the site responds really quickly for a while, the crawl rate limit goes up meaning that there can be more parallel connections for google bot to crawl. If the site slows down or responds with server errors or other issues, the limit goes down and Google Bot crawls less.
  2. Now, you can reduce Google Bot’s crawling by limiting through your Search Console i.e there can be parts of your site that Google has no point in crawling, right? So, you can restrict this and assist in directing the bot to crawl pages that is actually going to add value. But setting higher limits doesn’t increase the crawling.

And, then comes another factor – Crawl budget. What’s that? In simple terms, a crawl budget is the number of URLs Google can and wants to crawl within a given timeframe. It a factor for SEO, because If Google doesn’t index a page, it’s not going to rank for anything. So if your number of pages exceeds your site’s crawl budget, you’ll have pages on your site that aren’t indexed.

It’s always good to determine if you have a crawl budget issue. This is one of the biggest factors on how page speed affects SEO. Below are the steps which you need to follow to do it : 

  1. Determine how many pages you have on your site, the number of your URLs in your XML sitemaps might be a good start.
  2. Go into Google Search Console.
  3. Go to Crawl -> Crawl stats and take note of the average pages crawled per day.
  4. Divide the number of pages by the “Average crawled per day” number.
  5. If you end up with a number higher than ~10 (so you have 10x more pages than what Google crawls each day), you should optimize your crawl budget. If you end up with a number lower than 3, go read something else. 

When it comes to mobile, you ought to be using AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages. These basically are lighter versions of your web pages, specifically for mobile. The problem with it is that for every page – you’ll be having two URLs. AMPs can be a great tool for site speed, but you might also want to consider some limitations it has on layout, behavior and custom javascript.

Conclusion : 

Thus we understand where the internet is shifting and how important is the optimization of your website and how does page speed affects SEO directly i.e ranking in the SERP’s. All of these might get a bit technical, but the core is that you HAVE to provide an amazing experience for your users. The sole intent should be to create value for the audiences coming to your website, and these practices are something that comes secondary talking in a relative sense. 

So, go ahead and optimize your website for providing better experiences. Start creating value in whichever community you belong to. Success will follow. 

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