I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been on the receiving end of a slow loading website at some point in our lives and I’m sure you’ll agree it can be a major annoyance! However, for commercial website owners and internet marketers this can be more than just a nuisance. Within this article we’re going to discuss the effects a slow loading website can have on your SEO and user experience, we’ll also explain how you can check the current page load speed of your website yourself.
What is page load speed?
Typically, page load speed can be described as one of two things, ‘page load time’ which is the time it takes for a web page to fully load in a user's web browser or ‘TTFB’ (time to first byte) which is the time it takes the web browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server. Regardless of which method you use to measure your page load speed there are a variety of factors which can affect it, including poor website optimisation and low quality web hosting.
How does page load speed affect SEO?
In their never ending quest to provide the best user experience possible, Google indicated in 2010 that it was going to include page load speed as a new signal within its ranking algorithm. The reason behind this decision was based on the idea that users will spend more time on a website if it loads faster. As a result Google does seem to reward faster loading websites in the SERP (search engine results page). There have also been recent rumours that Google are going to start looking at the page speed of mobile web pages and take this into account in their mobile search results too.
A side note to keep in mind when discussing SEO and site speed is that slower loading web pages will use up your website’s crawl budget more readily. If you’re unfamiliar with the term crawl budget, it essentially means Google and other search engines allocate a certain amount of time for your website to be crawled and indexed. This may not mean much if your website only consists of 2 or 3 pages, but for larger websites who are suffering from slow page load speeds this means there’s a higher probability of important pages not being crawled and indexed.
How does page load speed affect website users?
There’s no doubt about it, page load speed can have a huge impact on a website’s user experience and conversion rate. More and more users are now shifting towards using mobile devices as their main form of computer and expect a frictionless experience whilst doing so. This means your website not only needs to be responsive but it also needs to load fast too. According to recent data, up to 40% of consumers will leave a webpage if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, and up to 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with a website’s performance are less likely to buy from them again.
How to check my website’s page load speed?
There are many tools available which allow you to check and measure the speed of your website. Perhaps the easiest and most relevant to this article is Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool which will score your website between 0 - 100. The Google PageSpeed Insights tool will analyse your website’s performance for both mobile and desktop environments, and provide useful information on how to improve it. Another great (and free) tool is the Pingdom Website Speed Test.
To Sum Up
Generally speaking, page load speed will contribute to your website’s search rankings and slow loading web pages will also waste your website’s crawl budget. However, the biggest effect by far will be on your website’s user experience and conversion rate. Remember, for every extra second your website takes to load your conversion rate may drop by up to 7%.
If you would like any further advice regarding your website’s page load speed or SEO performance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Next month we’ll discuss several techniques you can implement to help you improve your website’s page load speed.