In current times, with information being easily attainable and internet speed getting increasingly faster, people expect to get answers quick. Imagine this, after clicking on a search result, the page takes too long to load. What most people will do is to click the “back” button and select another result. The average user simply has no patience for slow loading pages. In fact, according to a survey, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Regardless of how good your content is, there is no use if people abandon the page before it finishes loading.
There are a few ways to measure page speed. For this article, page speed will be defined as page load time. Page load time refers to the time it takes for the content on the page to be fully displayed. Typically, pages with shorter page load time rank better and convert better. Why?
Why does it rank better?
In 2010, Google included site speed (thus, also page speed) as one of its ranking signals. It has been found that a faster page speed contributes to a better user experience. Since users value speed, in order to provide the best user experience, faster sites get better rankings.
However, according to Google, with regards to page speed, they separate pages into 2 categories – those that are really slow and those that are fast enough. As a ranking signal, page speed has a bigger impact on sites that are really slow as compared to those that are fast enough. This means, if your site is fast enough, optimizing it to gain the extra milliseconds in speed will probably not help your rankings at all. However, if your site is slow in the first place, increasing your page speed will surely make a difference.
Additionally, your page speed also affects how quickly Google discovers the new content on your site (crawling). This is important if you constantly have new content updated, such as on a blog or e-commerce site. With a slow loading page, you may lose visibility over other competitors due to the delayed crawling.
Desktop vs Mobile
In the past, Google used to rank both desktop and mobile pages based on the desktop version. Recently, Google is moving towards ranking pages based on the mobile version. Thus, although it is not a top priority right now, mobile page speed does have the potential to become a significant ranking signal in the future.
Why does it convert better?
Fast pages convert better because it provides a better user experience, like we mentioned above. The faster your site, the easier it is for visitors to navigate around and interact more with the various pages on your site. This increases the possibility of conversion. For example, as an e-commerce page, having fast loading product description pages and check-out pages will help your customers finish their purchase quicker. Leaving a good experience also helps with building site loyalty.
Generally, with slow loading pages, there is a higher bounce rate and lower average session duration. This means that a higher proportion of visitors leave the site after viewing 1 page (high bounce rate) and they spend little time on your site. (We have an upcoming article on how to reduce bounce rate and increase average session duration so stay tuned for that!)
Although page speed is not a major ranking signal, it directly affects your user experience. Optimizing your site for SEO does involve meeting Google’s standard for ranking signals. Nonetheless, the end goal of Google is to provide users with the best search experience. Therefore, the rule of thumb is that any adjustments made to your site should be made for the benefit of your audience.
With Google having over 200 ranking signals, does that mean you have to optimize your site for all? Not necessarily. Instead of wasting your time to figure out which are the crucial ones, why not just approach us and let us handle the work?
Zachary is a Business Development Executive in Appiloque. In the after-hours, he serves as a Division Agent, taking back the city of New York when all else fails.