About a year ago, Jesus Mendes, the SEO director of Mail Online, woke up to shocking news. A Google core update had caused his website, one of the world's most visited online newspapers, to lose half of its traffic overnight. Find out more about PageSpeed Insights and how you can use it to uncover performance killers.
The impact on the Mail Online website was severe and puzzling. Jesus felt compelled to use the Google Search Console to publish a post, asking the SEO community for advice:
His unusual and desperate call for help:
The day after the update of the core algorithm (June 3rd), we saw a massive drop in Google's search traffic (lost 50% of daily traffic). This was a drop over the course of 24 hours and we have not made any changes to the site. (...) This is across all areas, devices, AMP and non-AMP.
It didn't take long for the first answer to arrive. This answer identified an obvious reason for the sudden loss of traffic. As harsh as it may sound, the Mail Online website was, in the words of the Search Console Help Community, described as:
Pure garbage from an SEO point of view (...) It takes over 12 seconds to load the website.
This clearly points the finger at page speed as the culprit. In his answer, user Dave lists four reasons why the Daily Mail in particular has such a slow website:
- The website is overloaded with advertising
- There are so many revealing trash news images on the site that it could almost be considered an adult website
- Each of the so-called news articles is just a picture with completely useless information
- Annoying autoplay videos slow down loading and create a poor user experience
In a nutshell: there's simply far too much large media content significantly slowing down the site.
Speed: the underestimated factor
So one of the biggest online newspapers can lose half of its traffic overnight. All because of slow loading times, also known as page speed. What chance does your website have if you've never thought about page speed? This article will show you how to get the problem under control.
We'll also discuss tools to help you improve your page speed and SEO rankings. But first, let's see why page speed is so important for your website.
Page speed and sales
Page speed plays an important role in sales. In the past, users were patient enough to wait for an image to load. Now, 53 percent of visitors to mobile websites will go elsewhere, if a website takes longer than three seconds to load.
Nowadays, customers just aren't prepared to wait around. There are so many other places they can go online instead to find what they're looking for. A slow page speed is bad for everyone involved. Even the big brands find it difficult to get customers to their website when their pages take a long time load.
Digital marketing guru Neil highlights the critical importance of page speed with reference to a study conducted by Amazon. The study found that every extra second a site takes to load costs the company 1 percent of its revenue. More on this in his YouTube video:
This is incredibly significant if your website is intended for eCommerce. The user must be able to access your website and everything they want to buy with just a few clicks. Even Amazon rarely has videos on its homepage. And the company has dedicated teams working 24 hours a day on their website.
The importance of page speed for Google rankings
The loading speed of your site is also a ranking factor. In other words: a shorter loading time will bring your website higher in Google search results. Resulting in more visitors to your site. Users prefer to visit sites that load quicker and they stay on them for longer, which also improves your bounce rate.
The top positions in Google searches are therefore always held by websites that load quickly. Google has long been the No. 1 search engine which is why its standards count. The slower the page speed of your website is, the lower the chance of it reaching top positions or even a ranking at all. And we all know, most people only click on the top ten results for a search query or keyword.
Getting closer to page speed
In recent years, Google has become much stricter in terms of the technical requirements placed on websites. That is, if you want those websites to reach a higher position in the rankings. Websites that are Smartphone friendly rank better, for example.
In contrast, slow websites and those that still use HTTP instead of HTTPS no longer stand a chance in the year 2020. It's important to remember that page speed measurements also take into account the way the website works on smartphones. If your website doesn't have a high page speed for mobile devices, this will also have a negative impact on search engine rankings.
Improving your page speed helps the Googlebot
When we talk about page speed, we're not just referring to the time it takes visitors to access a website. We mean the speed for search engine crawlers as well. If the speed of your website is too slow, it's also more difficult for the Googlebot to access your content.
This is another reason why you should work on your site's performance. If you have concerns about Google's ability to access your site, you should also submit a sitemap.
Page speed is becoming increasingly important
Google strives to provide the best possible user experience for website visitors. This means that, in the future, a slower page speed is likely to result in even fewer clicks and even worse rankings.
Google is currently planning to introduce a labelling system for its Chrome Browser. This makes it very likely that slow sites will soon be marked in search results. The moment this happens, sites with slow loading speeds will immediately be at a disadvantage in Chrome.
Check your site's performance with PageSpeed Insights
To help website operators adapt to the growing importance of speed and to get an idea of how their sites are performing, Google developed the PageSpeed Insights tool. This gives users a good idea of whether the main performance levers have already been pulled and also provides some useful tips for improving your site.
How does Google rate page speed?
A website audit is carried out by Lighthouse to collect and analyze page data. Points are awarded here according to a rating system, which is summarized in the the website performance area. You can see this in the upper part of PageSpeed Insights:
- 90 or more points are considered good
- Between 50 and 90 points - improvement is needed
- Under 50 is bad
If you enter a URL in PageSpeed Insights, the tool tries to measure data on the load times for different states. Here are some of the most important key metrics that are analyzed and displayed:
- FCP (First Contentful Paint): Stands for the time it takes websites to load a first text or image. The FCP thus indicates how long it takes for the user to get a visual response.
- FID (First Input Delay): This value shows how long the website takes to respond after an interaction. For example, after clicking on a button, for example.
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): This value always refers to the main element of a website. For example how long it takes to load the largest image.
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): The CLS value specifies how the visual stability behaves when loading a site layout. The smaller this value is, the better the user experience.
Symbols are used to display the measurements from the different areas in PageSpeed Insights:
- Green tick: indicates a fast website
- Orange circle: indicates an average website
- Red warning triangle: indicates a slow website
If you want to find out what you need to use PageSpeed Insights, you can get this information here at Google .
7 tips to improve your performance right now
Here are some areas you can work on to improve the loading speed of your website (and the Google PageSpeed score). Improvements will ensure a better user experience as well as better rankings.
Remove spaces, commas and other unnecessary characters from your code. Also delete all commands with non-uniform formatting and unused code. See these instructions for WordPress.
Reduce redirections and broken links
Reduce the number of redirects on your website as much as possible. Only redirect pages with a high number of visitors. Also use server side redirects, which are often much faster.
Regularly check your website for broken links and either repair them or remove them entirely. Learn about the tools and methods you can use to find broken links in this article.
Improve your server response time
Make sure that a suitable server is hosting your website. The optimal server response time is less than 200ms. Consider switching to another server or host if your current solution isn't working for you.
Make sure the images on your website aren't larger than they need to be. With the right kind of compression, you can reduce file sizes significantly without noticeably changing the quality of the images. Which WordPress plugins can help you with image optimization is the topic of this article.
Optimize your website for all devices
Remember that not only the desktop version of your website needs to be fast. At least half of all internet users use a smartphone, which is why Google now primarily uses the page speed of the mobile version of a website for ranking. So there's no way around improving the speed of the mobile version of your site if you want to get a good ranking.
Experiment with plugins
If the architecture of your website is a bit outdated, you might want to experiment with caching plugins. Or use server-side caching. Installing the AMP plugin on your website is a good way to improve speed for mobile visitors.
It's up to you now!
We hope these tips have given you a better understanding of performance optimization and Google PageSpeed Insights so you can optimize your site and greatly improve its ranking.
What questions do you have about page speed and PageSpeed Insights? Please use the comment function. Do you want to hear about new articles on WordPress and performance? Then follow us on Twitteror Facebook , or subscribe to our newsletter.