In January of this year, Google announced a new update would be rolled out this summer. The Speed Update is now here and working hand-in-hand with their mobile-first indexing update. Pagespeed used to be a ranking factor with Google searches only performed on desktops. Now mobile search results factor pagespeed into their rankings.
Just as it sounds, “pagespeed” or “page load time” is the measurement of how quickly the content on any given page of your website loads. This is different from “site speed,” which is measured by taking a sample number of pageviews on a website. In fact, Google has developed its own tool to test your website’s pagespeed, which will also give recommendations on how to improve your score.
According to Google, if your pagespeed is already super-fast, but a competitor site loads just slightly faster, the likelihood of your ranking being affected by it is unlikely. This update is really intended to negatively affect sites that are incredibly slow. If a visitor comes to your site and it takes forever to load (in the website world, that means about five seconds or more) on a mobile device, you’ll start to see your ranking slip.
The relevancy of the content on any given page is important when it comes to everything related to Google—as it should be! If the user’s search brings up a page that has information most relevant to that query, Google may bring that into consideration and not punish the site’s rankings. The word “may” is used here because Google never really shows their hand.
Not only should you care about pagespeed as it relates to rankings, but also as it relates to conversions. In fact, pagespeed has proven to be a crucial element in deciding how many visitors of your site will convert into customers. Think of it this way: a user is searching Google for an answer to a question. When your website comes up in search results, it’s likely a user will turn into a visitor. If your page takes too long to load, it’s likely that visitor will leave without becoming a customer.
There are several things you can do to help your pagespeed and increase the likelihood that a visitor converts to a customer. Let’s talk about a few of the most impactful ones.
Of course you have a budget, but that budget shouldn’t be hurting your overall business goals. Often, tight budgets lead to what we call “budget hosting.” Without naming names, let’s just say that many popular hosting sites end up tossing tons of sites onto one server, slowing them all down in the process. Even if they promise to have your site up and running 100% of the time (external factors be damned), it doesn’t really matter in the long run, because nobody wants to stay on a site that doesn’t load quickly.
It’s pretty easy to upload an image or video to WordPress. In fact, it’s a little too easy. That leads to people uploading images and video that are far too large, slowing down the speed of the site. We could write an entire blog on this (on second thought, stay tuned), but in short, it’s best to keep it simple. A JPG is great for most images and PNG works well for photos with a lot of solid color involved. When uploading video, try to use MP4, because you can get it down to a smaller size without compromising the stream. Also, unless you absolutely must upload them to the backend of your website, upload them to Vimeo or YouTube instead, then just embed them to cut down on loss of speed even moreso.
When your site has a ton of files like videos and photos on it, it can substantially slow down your site’s speed. The best offense is a good defense, so it’s best to upload files that aren’t too big in the first place. However, if it’s a little late for that, be sure to enable compression on your already uploaded files. This can speed up your load time significantly.
We love browser caching because once a user visits your page, the info is saved in their browser for future visits. That leads to a faster load time the next time they come to the page. Think of it like this: the first time you visit a friend’s new home, it takes a little longer than it should, because you’re looking for streets and house numbers. The next time you visit, you have this information already stored in your memory and it’s easier and faster to find your destination. Browser caching works the same way.
Like with most things Google does, they’re not going to come out with exactly how their algorithm operates, gathers data, or uses information. So, it’s a good rule of thumb to know that when it comes to your website, the faster the better. Additionally, by taking user experience and content relevance into account, your website will better serve your visitors. That’s the whole point of a website, anyway!
It’s our job to keep up with Google, so if you have questions about hosting plans, ongoing digital marketing, content coordinating, and more, to keep up with the ever-changing needs, we’re ready to chat. If you’re ready for a new website, our project teams are always ready to jump in get you well on your way to reaching new customers.