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Page speed in search engine optimization (SEO) refers to how fast a page loads for your users. It’s a critical factor determining how well your website ranks in search results. But without the proper technology, you’ll never have a grasp of your page speeds.

Many website hosts promise great load times, but if you’re not paying a lot of money, then you’re not as fast as you probably think. That said, web hosting and how that fits into your SEO strategy is for another day.

Aside from hosting, performance is also affected by the content on the page and markup (code quality). Embedded videos and large image files can slow a page, making SEO efforts difficult or impossible.

Let’s take a look at a few of the details around page load speed.

Website Performance and Technology

Technology evolves on the web very quickly. New code libraries are constantly being released and debated. You’ve probably heard the acronyms, CSS, PHP, and the DRAGON!

Kidding, that last one isn’t real. But you get the point.

One huge key to managing your website successfully is future-proofing as best you can. That means you should have an understanding of the technology supporting your website and the code that it’s built upon.

I know as a business owner, this technical stuff isn’t a daily concern, but think of it this way.

How is inefficiency in your website experience costing you money?

If you want a website audit – please contact us here, and we’ll take a look at what you have for free.

Page Speed

Page load speed has become a huge SEO ranking factor. Google crawls faster sites more often, so your new content gets indexed more quickly. And users prefer faster sites because they aren’t waiting for content to load.

A quick story. I used to work for a client that was very concerned with their site’s load speed, but they wouldn’t acknowledge that website hosting costs play a huge part. Again, where you put your website matters.

Your business site needs the ability to scale, serve visual assets quickly, and provide a quick experience for customers to get what they want.

Website hosts like Bluehost and HostGator may be fine for a hobby site. But they’re inadequate to support your business website because they simply don’t offer the storage and performance requirements needed for a growing business.

Page Speed Tests

You can do a page speed test using Google’s Page Speed Insights or GTmetrix.

A note of warning about these tools. Obsessing over a 100/100 score isn’t the greatest approach. A site can load very fast, and well within best recommendations, yet come in at less than a 100.

Page speed
Google PageSpeed Insights, a page load speed testing tool.

At the end of the day, your website visitors don’t care what your PageSpeed score is. They just want to be able to view information as quickly as possible.

The value of these page speed tools isn’t to achieve a perfect score. Instead, it’s to identify problem areas that you can optimize against to improve both your actual and perceived page load speeds.

Image Optimization and Page Speed

Another issue I ran into with the client was the images they were uploading.

Aside from the irrelevance of the photos (a branding issue), they were also extremely large files. Large files on a website will inevitably slow a page’s load speed.

There’s a particular methodology to follow when uploading visual assets, especially images, to your website.

It’s important that you compress image files specifically for web performance. Try to keep them under 200 KB in file size. And again, your host may have limited storage capacity. As that capacity is approached, you’ll notice performance lags on your website.

It’s no different than if you have 64 GB of storage space on your phone, but you have 63.5 GB of images and videos saved. Naturally, your phone isn’t going to continue at peak performance.

So, you can see image management is multi-faceted. It’s a balance of both file size and storage space. That’s the case with all assets on your website in the context of getting fast load speeds.

Google has stated very explicitly that there is no separate search engine or algorithm for desktop vs. mobile. While true, search results do appear differently across devices due to screen size.

That being the case, it’s necessary to optimize your page titles, descriptions, and image thumbnails for both mobile and desktop results.

One big thing to consider is the “tap targets” on your pages. Your thumbs are a good way to measure how far apart items on the page need to be. This will fly in the face of those that hate white space (un-used empty space).

But you’ve lost the fight. Let your designer add the additional space. What’s good for the user is what’s good for SEO.

Mobile Friendliness and Mobile Page Speed

Google has updated its algorithm to include mobile indexing. This is not a separate algorithm for mobile responsive websites; it is for all websites. Your site must be mobile-ready or you could see your search rankings drop like a rock.

In the past, when doing mobile responsive web design, designers would often use a CSS class to hide elements that were difficult to render on mobile devices. This is not recommended any longer.

Search engines don’t like the class {display:none;} when used liberally.

Basically, if you are not able to make an element work on mobile, the rule is that you don’t use it.

SEO is About Delivering Information Quickly

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. SEO is about being able to quickly answer visitor’s questions or quickly give them access to a product/service that solves their problem. Page speed is a major factor in that user experience, but so is the architecture of your pages.

For example, let’s say you have a product that is nested inside other pages.

home page > page1a > page1b

When you set up the site for the first time, this seemed very logical. And on the surface, it still does.

But what if you reviewed the analytics?

Maybe you see 80% of people who visited page1a never clicked through to page1b.

And even more significant, maybe people who enter the site on page1b convert 3x as much as those who enter the site on page1a.

So change the hierarchy to:

Home > page1b

Get straight to the point, quickly deliver solutions and information, and allow visitors to have a seamless experience.

Again, what’s good for the user is good for SEO.

An Important Note About SEO

SEO doesn’t sell. However, It does nurture prospects. More importantly, having high rankings and impressive brand search results validates you as a trustworthy provider in your market.

Lastly, this isn’t a DIY job. Properly designing and maintaining a website requires professionals. Yes, you can go to turnkey website providers who make big promises, but they’re riddled with usability, scalability, and technology limitations.

If you’d like to get a team of folks that can audit your website, improve the customer experience, and help you scale traffic to your website, contact us and we’ll take a look free of charge.

Jason Davis

Author Jason Davis

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