Why Speed is the Website Metric You Can’t Afford to Skimp On
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Why Speed is the Website Metric You Can’t Afford to Skimp On
Every blogging guru, web designer, hosting service, and self-proclaimed tech whiz will tell you that speed is everything when it comes to your website. And it is true—speed can make or break your website. But let’s take a deeper dive into who cares about speed and why it is so important.
Google owns the lion’s share of the internet. They control what users see when they search for content on the web, and that basically allows them to make the rules for how websites behave. And Google has spoken, citing their internal studies, that speedy websites equal happy customers. So their algorithms, almost obsessively, favor fast websites.
So, there it is… the bottom line is that your website directly improves your search result ranking, making it easier (for faster websites) and more challenging (for slower websites) to get found through organic search. And the other side of that coin is that fast speeds improve the user experience, giving your search engine ranking and brand image another useful boost.
Optimizing for Google Core Web Vitals
Now that we have established that Google sets the precedents for website speed and other design elements, let’s talk about how website owners can get reliable information and use it to optimize the performance of their sites. Web vitals is a Google initiative to provide guidance on creating user-friendly websites.
Google has an abundance of tools for developers and website owners. And technical familiarity plays a big role in how useful each of their tools is for optimizing websites. Some developers with expert-level experience with their tools find them invaluable, while newer tech-challenged website owners learning as they go find them to be more trouble than they are worth.
Google Web Vitals aims to bridge the gap, so that website owners don’t have to be tech-savvy experts to understand how to create good user experiences. In short, web vitals applies to all web pages and provides useful information for all website owners.
Google’s core web vitals will continue to evolve as the pace of technology, and user demands shape the future of the internet. As of 2020, these metrics focus on loading speeds, interactivity, and visual stability.
Loading speeds refer to how long it takes a website to load once a user clicks on the link or submits a query for a direct web URL. Google says that your website should load within 2.5 seconds. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for error, but after that window, your bounce rate goes up dramatically as users give up and go elsewhere.
Interactivity measures how quickly features within the website respond to user’s inputs. This could be internal links, embedded media, or menu navigation. Officially, this measurement is called First Input Delay (FID) and is measured in milliseconds. If you thought users were impatient with loading speeds, you can expect them to be even less lenient with interactivity. Google says that your website should have an FID score of 100 milliseconds or less.
The third metric, visual stability, refers to the spatial positioning of text and images on your web pages. Have you browsed an unstable page where links seem to jump just as you try to click on them or without warning, lines shift? Obviously, this is frustrating and makes for a pretty poor user experience. Google expects that websites maintain a CSL score of 0.1 or less.
Making the Case for Optimizing Speed
Equipped with the information that Google looks at, website owners can begin to track performance and optimize their websites. But while some people are focusing on a hamster wheel o oversaturated keywords, and others are treading water trying to build enough links, the best place to put your focus is on speed.
Companies like Amazon, U-Pack, and Google’s internal studies have documented proof that potentially insignificant speed differences have a dramatic impact on sales (positive or negative). In one case, trimming down page dynamics for a modest boost in loading speeds led to a 15% increase in sales conversions.
Site Speed and Search Engine Ranking
Google is not shy about sharing the fact that speed is important and almost certainly has a direct impact on your page ranking. Faster loading times increase page rank and visibility, resulting in more traffic. But by the same token, they also claim that less than 1% of searches are affected by speed.
Let’s put that into perspective. There are around 3.5 billion searches performed every single day. One percent is still 35 million searches, so it is nothing to shy away from. In fact, some estimates say that one second can cost an e-commerce website 7% in lost sales revenue. For a site that generates $50,000 in sales every day, that is 1.2 million in lost revenue. Or, a site that generates $100 in revenue per day, that is $2,500 in lost sales.
Creating a Good User Experience
At least 47% of users expect a website to load in two seconds or less. That is probably why bounce rates rise dramatically at 2.5 seconds. When your pages load fast, and your website functions the way that impatient users expect, your website is rewarded with more traffic and increased conversions. And by extension, it also lowers the bounce rate. All of these metrics tell search engines that your site is reputable and deserves higher page rankings. So a good user experience is great for the end-users your website is designed for and even better for search engine algorithms.
What Causes Slow Speeds?
Other Backend Problems that Cause Slow Speeds
- Too Many (or Too Heavy) Plugins: Some plugins or widgets have a tendency to kill page speed. Identify and remove any plugins that are weighing your website down and find lighter alternatives.
- Too Many Ads: Monetizing is fun once you start getting enough traffic to make money, but it requires a delicate balance. If the ads are hurting the user experience, they cost you money too.
- Image Overload: High-resolution images are typically a good thing for user experience, but if they are slowing your load speed down, then it is time to rethink your strategy.
- Incompatible Browsers: Make sure the tools on your website, like Flash players work well with major browsers like Google Chrome.
- Clunky Themes: Your theme is the framework for your site. A good theme makes a great site, but a bad theme can cause your website to bleed traffic slowly.
- Extraneous Code: As you add snippets code to track different metrics on your site, your speed is impacted. The same goes for forms code and affiliate programs code.
Other SEO Housekeeping Tasks that Can Improve Page Speed
- Limit Redirects
- Compress and Optimize Images
- Always Include the Trailing Slash in URLs
- Limit Extra Page Elements
- Clean Up Your Code