Page Speed as a Ranking Factor — What You Need to Know

Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

Back in 2017, Google started taking page speed into account for the ranking. Four years later, the company launched Core Web Vitals intended to assess the experience of end-users based on loading, interactivity, and visual stability. Generally, Google will measure the time needed for a webpage to open on your computer, smartphone, and other devices.

Just remember how annoyed you were when it took forever for a page to open that you just gave up and tried another website. Well, the same can happen to your website and instead of gaining traffic, you may be losing to your competitors, both in Google ranking and visitors. To understand all this better, as well as how to improve page speed as a ranking factor, here is what you need to know.

Google measures page speed

It’s a matter of seconds whether your website is fast enough for Google. This is based on user experience data collected over time that measures the probability a user will leave a page if it doesn’t load in a certain time frame. In this case, it all comes down to five seconds. Anything longer than that and you can forget about showing up on the first page of Google.

Page speed is a complex process and depends on various factors, for example, image size and quality of the server. The most common way to measure page speed is by evaluating how much time is needed for a page to load fully. It can be measured based on the time needed for the page to start the loading process, also known as Time to First Byte.

Another assessment of page speed is how much time it takes for content to appear and be readable to the user. Google will indeed value content quality over its loading time, but your everyday Joe will most likely try their luck elsewhere if it takes too long to access it. More importantly, the Google algorithm assesses all these parameters and adds them to other results from the ranking process to create a comprehensive report.   

Ways to improve loading time

Improving loading time from the start is better, but you can do it afterward too, although it’s better if the task is entrusted to professionals, like SEO Sydney experts. It takes a lot of work, expertise, and thoroughness to catch every issue that impairs page speed and thus your spot on Google’s first search results page. However, knowing the most influential practices may help you improve them moving on or avoid an inconvenience from the start.

Image compression

Images you use on a webpage are a considerable contributor to how long will it take for that page to load. In most cases, this is the way to improve your loading speed since images usually take up at least 50% of the page’s size. Image compression will resolve this issue without ruining the quality for the viewer thanks to the various apps and tools available out there.

For example, WordPress users can add WP Smush Pro, a plugin that will automatically resize and optimize every image that you upload to the media library. Non-WP users can try Caesium, free software that can effectively compress your images up to 90%. Not so long ago, such results were impossible without destroying the image quality. 

Keep your code clean

Cleaning up code is like decluttering a house — liberating and useful for improvement. Like packing and throwing things away, you will have to find extra code left from an amateur developer or previous features and remove it, like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and others. Once you take care of this mess, use software for code compression, like GZip to speed up loading time even more.

Hosting plays a big part, too

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Choosing a bad hosting service can damage your Google ranks. This in most cases refers to hosting deals that are cheap because it means you are sharing that server with lots of other websites, as in millions of them.

When you are looking for a host, avoid choosing based on the price since less money here means you won’t get quality service. Instead, invest a little extra, opt for a premium account, or choose a dedicated server. Page speed is not the result of one thing, but several, including hosting choice, and you should approach it as a layered issue.

Boost your speed with Content Delivery Network (CDN)

CDN consists of proxy servers that are intended to bring the highest availability possible to end users. It includes different types of delivery services, such are software downloads and video streaming.

Basically, CDN determines from where your website was accessed, meaning the location of a person at the moment of opening your website. To speed up the loading time, this network then relocates resources of your website to the server closest to that person and speeds up its loading. In a way, it brings data closer to the physical location of the end user making it more accessible and available. 

Use browser caching

This may not be as effective as the abovementioned practices, since it won’t speed up anything for first-time visitors. However, if the same visitors come back, they will notice considerable improvements in loading time. Since caching is a process of storing parts of your webpages in the cache of the users’ browsers, they won’t have to load certain aspects the next time they come around.    

Evaluate page speed

Evaluating page speed is recommended from time to time to make sure everything is running smoothly. You can do it with Google PageSpeed Insights which will show you problems, potential solutions, and the time it takes to your users to load a page. Another way is through WebPageTest — a website that allows you to determine the loading time for your pages in a specific browser and which parts are problematic.

The bottom line

Page speed as a ranking factor is still relatively new and older websites are the most affected by it. Nonetheless, these are the basic things you need to know to improve loading time and get a better position on the Google search results page. Just remember, if this all sounds too much or overly complicated, it’s best to leave it to professionals and enjoy ROI from this investment.