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Website Speed and Its Impact on SEO

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In the year 2010, Google did something which caused us all to stir and revise our plan of action, and to blend right in; we had to implement some changes in our old ways and gimmicks.

It was a melancholic-ally sad day for all the websites that took a lot to load to display their unprecedented “cool” content.

As the traditionally long relationship with Google suggests us to expect the unexpected, among all the things it made “page speed” a factor in SEO ranking.

As per an official statement by Google authorities on their Webmaster blog, Google waged war on slower page speed and load time.

What is Page Speed?

Page speed is the volume of time it takes to fully display the content of a page which usually gets termed as “page load time”.

We can describe page load time according to the following two scales:

Either complete document or fully rendered time.

The complete document is relatable with the partial loading of a page and its interactivity with the user whereas fully rendered time is the time taken for the page to load almost 100% with all its images, ads, and infographics.

The following research was carried out with almost 2000 different search strings while plotting them on the vertical axis.

And on the horizontal axis, we have used their search index positions till 50.

The results are astounding with almost null to zero correlation between doc time and rendered time which makes it more complicated to analyze since Google hasn’t clearly stated which one it has used for load time in its search related algorithm.

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Page speed can be explained regarding the “time to first byte” as well which is the time taken by your web browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server.

When they found out that their previous implications have met with a dead end because of no clear correlation between doc time and fully rendered time, they expanded their quest for knowledge to other areas such as median time to first byte (MTTFB).

The following figure captures the Network Latency, which is the amount of time it takes for a browser to send one request and the web server to process the same, along with the approximate time it takes for the response to get delivered to the client back again.

The results show some nice and sweet correlation between time to first byte (TTFB) and Search Rank position of pages which is lower the TTFB the higher will be the search rank position.

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What is Site Speed?

Site speed as described by the web-based learning site MOZ is, “the page speed for a sample of page views on a site.”

Most of the pages and sites were unaffected due to this, leaving almost only 1% of them which are typically very slow sites asking butt load of time to load and eventually came under its radar of destruction.

The official statement issued on April 09, 2010, which goes like this:

You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we include a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed emphasizes on how quickly a website responds to web requests.

Speeding up websites is crucial — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create the multitude of happy users, and we’ve seen in our internal research that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs.

(Read about the powerful strategies to make your site responsive)

From curbing black-hat SEO techniques to making keyword stuffing virtually impossible for the people who think they are smart enough to outsmart Google, Google has come a long way now. (Read our guide to know the major algorithm updates by Google from its infant stage)

How to Test My Site’s Speed?

Here are some of the free tools that can help you with analyzing your site’s speed as mentioned on Google’s official blog:

PageSpeed Insights

A free tool that helps you make your website mobile-friendly with its pretty in depth analysis of CSS, plugins, images, browser caching and what not!

It is an open Firefox add-on that you can use as an extension within your browser without much hassle.

Web Page Test

It is a location independent tool which helps you run your site from a different geographical location so that you can optimize your site’s performance across the globe.

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According to its website, “YSlow is a free Firebug add-on that can be used to grade web page based on one of three predefined rulesets or a user-defined ruleset, it offers suggestions for improving the page’s performance.”


It’s a website crawler, and log analyzer to optimize your site’s performance with its in-depth analysis of page depths and weight distribution along with that are responsible for making your site load slowly.

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Why is Good Website Speed a Must?

It’s only logical that page speed first showed its footprints on Google search algorithms during late 2010 because during that period searches are booming at an exponential rate and Google needed to serve the overlords on a timely basis.

That’s why Google made it a major factor in its search related algorithm.

(Read about the powerful tools to design an excellent website)

While reacting to the Google’s latest changes, a website named Global Dots have clearly explained how site speed and conversion rate are both interrelated.

In their research of a leading e-commerce site, they found out that:
  1. For every 1 second of upscaling speed, they got a hike in customers which was roughly around 2% and more conversions surely equal more money.
  2. Their revenue grew at almost 1% per 100ms of improvement.
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The website speed didn’t just limit its “creativity” here, it spanned itself over several other regions as well, such as bounce rate, response time, etc.

In the following picture, Walmart has shown just about how helpful it has been for them to have a good page speed when compared with the average bounce rate;

Now that you have the data, you’ll probably need some help if your results are, well, not up to your expectations!

Don’t worry about it, here are some of the things which might be the reason behind:

What Can Cause Lower Site Speed?
1.) Tedious Host

Hosting plays a significant role in your website’s load time, and ultimately you’ll be affected by its ramifications.

So, making use of cheap and downgraded web host can add up to mammoth load time for your website, which, if you ask me is pretty bad for your business.

I.e. If you are running low on your WordPress site on your mediocre host, you can switch to Bluehost later on, which is a far better web host compared to anything else for WordPress.

Remember, your website is key to your business, make sure to invest smart!

2.) Gigantic Images

You hate the loading part, begging mercilessly to see for once the articulated channel of wisdom concerning graphical thingies. (If that means something!)

Images that take up some time to load can cause the user to navigate away from the page.

You surely wouldn’t want that to happen to your pages as well, right?

So to deal with the possible ramifications, you need to use compressed images like JPEG or PNG instead of HD images.

As a first, you can use (.png) for LOGO making and (.jpeg) for standard images.

There are various free tools available to do so without degrading the image quality, you can check them here>>>

3.) Unoptimized browser, plugins, and app

Instead of testing out your website on just one browser, I suggest you test it on almost all the browsers because each browser has its properties and implications to deal.

Furthermore, if you are using external apps such as flash inside your website, it would eventually turn out to be an unnecessary burden on your overall site speed so, refrain yourself from using it as much as possible.

4.) Ads. Ads. Ads.
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I know that it is making you money, you know that it is making you money, even your user knows that it is making you money, but what does he get in return?

Not much I guess, so if I were to be your user, I wouldn’t like to see them many advertisements, as simple as that.

And also too many ads have the horrific guts to strangle down your page speed, which just worsens our case!

Besides, it makes my eyes blurry and distracts me from the main content, so keep them in check, will you?

5.) Embedding External Media

That’s the evilest thing you can imagine yourself doing to yourself.

Wow, that’s whole new level of creepy!

So anyway, embedded external videos might add some values to your site but believe me it has its very own “wallflower” effects.

One such effect is increased website load time, which is pretty bad itself.

So make sure to use videos that are saved on your host or else save videos from the external sources before using them.

6.) Cumbersome Themes

Themes that look cool might affect your website speed adversely.

You can use a heavenly crafted graphical background with exciting features. Still, it might lack the “obvious” functionality!

Make sure to use non-monotonous themes which are less heavy and serve your purpose as well.

E.g. These WordPress themes look cool but include lots of coding that’s why they are unnecessarily heavy. Try not to replicate them.

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7.) Widgets

The comment section, call-to-action buttons, social sharing options, each of these things affect your site speed substantially, optimizing them is a necessity.

8.) Double-barreled Code

Complex or dense HTML/CSS code is a mistake that is very likely going to cost you a ton of your visitors.

It can make your website load slow up to a significant number, so make sure to clean up your code for better performance.

Some Extra Tools:

Here’s a quick sneak peak of what you can do about your worries related to the above issues.

1.) CSS Sprites

It is a technology used to convert multiple images into one.

It will help you optimize simultaneous connections and will be the ultimate reason behind your improved website speed.

Though they sometimes add up to more than their original cumulative individual sizes, still Sprites are needed the same way we need to concatenate CSS and JavaScript.

Exactly, to minimize HTTP requests which in turn amounts to less handshaking required and that is appropriate for your website.

What are these and how to use them, you can read it all here.

2.) Website Catching

Our web-browser use the caching system, so it doesn’t have to ask for frequently visited pages again and again from the server.

It uses the previously saved copy instead of asking a new one, which decreases the website load time drastically.

I.e. if you use WordPress, then super cache plugin will help you out with your needs.

3.) Decreased Page Size

Page size only means the number of bytes it took to render/display the contents of a web page fully.

I.e. big e-commerce giants (such as Amazon.com ) have a lot to offer when compared with SMEs, so their page size must be more and eventually the loading time must be high as well, but they have more money and better resources which help them optimize their offerings better.

You also would want to decrease your page size, one such tool is InDesign CS5, with their page tool which helps you to manage and resize your web pages quickly.

The Conclusion:
  1. With the tools and speed tests, you can detect exactly where you are needed to improve and how you can carry that out.
  2. Make a simple design and optimize your images and CSS code.
  3. Use an efficient Content Delivery Network (CDN) which can help you to deliver your content across various geographical locations without much hassle. (Read about the multilingual SEO here)
  4. Reduce the number of components on your page.

Check out this space regularly for more update on this topic and to learn some new things as well.

Make sure to drop your valuable feedbacks in the comment section below.

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