PageSpeed Insights & the importance of website speed

Joshua Schofield Last updated 06.09.2021
8 Min.
PageSpeed Insights
Last updated 06.09.2021

About a year ago, Jesus Mendes, the SEO director of Mail Online, woke up to a shock: a core update from Google had caused his website - one of the world's most visited online newspapers - to lose half its traffic. And it did so overnight. Learn more about PageSpeed Insights, and how it can help you uncover performance sins.

The impact on Mail Online's website was dramatic and confusing. So Jesus felt compelled to publish a post in Google Search Console Help to ask the SEO community for advice:

Ranking crash
The call for help in the community

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.

The first response to his problem was not long in coming. And it found an obvious reason for the sudden loss of traffic. Because as harsh as it may sound, the Mail Online website was ranked as follows, according to the Search Console Help Community:

Pure garbage from an SEO point of view (...) It takes over 12 seconds to load the website.

The loading speed of site has thus clearly turned out to be the culprit. Why the Daily Mail in particular has such a slow website, the responding Dave Turring enumerates on the basis of four points:

  1. The website is overloaded with advertising
  2. There are so many revealing trash news images on the site that it could almost be considered an adult website
  3. Each of the so-called news articles is just a picture with completely useless information
  4. 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.

Images Traffic
The "Mail Online" website is still very picture heavy

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 a long time for an image to load. While now 53 percent of mobile site visitors go elsewhere if a site takes longer than three seconds to load.

Nowadays, people are simply not willing to put up with long waiting times. This is because there are many other places they can visit on the internet to get what they are looking for. A slow loading speed is bad for everyone. Even the big brands find it hard to get customers to their website if the sites have long loading times.

Digital marketing guru Neil Patel illustrates the critical importance of page speed by referring to a study conducted by Amazon. This found that every extra second it takes for a website to load costs the company 1 percent of its revenue. See this video on YouTube:

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This is especially true if your website is for e-commerce: users:inside need to be able to access your website and everything they want to buy in just a few clicks. Even Amazon rarely has videos on its product pages. And the company has dedicated teams working on their website 24 hours a day.

The importance of Page Speed for Google rankings

The performance of your website is an important ranking factor. In plain language, this means that a shorter loading time will make your website appear higher up in the Google search results (SERPs). This means that more visitors come to your website. They also stay there longer, which in turn improves the bounce rate.

The top positions on Google are therefore always occupied by websites that also load quickly. Google has been the number 1 search engine for a long time, which makes the demands of the Google algorithm on websites mostly standard. The slower the speed of your website, the less chance it has of getting top rankings or ranking at all. And we all know that 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. At least if they want to get good rankings. Thus, websites that are smartphone friendly get better rankings.

In contrast, slow websites and those that still rely on HTTP instead of HTTPS don't stand a chance in 2021. It's important to remember that load time measurements also take into account how the website performs on smartphones. If your website doesn't have high PageSpeed for mobile devices, that will also have a negative impact on search engine rankings. Add to that Google's increased focus on Page Experience and the new Core Web Vitals, which also factor in speed.

Improving your page speed helps the Googlebot

When we talk about page speed, we're not just referring to the time it takes for visitors to access a website. We also think about the speed for search engine crawlers. If the speed of your website is too slow, it will also be more difficult for the Googlebot to access your content.

This is another reason why you should work on the performance of your website. If you have concerns about whether Google can access your website, you should also submit a sitemap.

Website speed becomes even more important

Google's ambition is to provide the best possible user experience for website visitors. This means that slower page speed on a website will likely result in even fewer clicks and worse rankings in the future.

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 website performance with PageSpeed Insights

To help operators adapt to the growing importance of speed and get an idea of how their sites are performing, Google has PageSpeed Insights has created. This tool gives you a good idea of whether the most important performance levers have already been used and also offers you some useful tips for improving your website.

PageSpeed Insights
PageSpeed Insights in action

How does Google rate page speed?

A website rating is calculated by running Lighthouse to collect and analyze site data. Here, points are awarded according to a rating system that summarizes the performance of a website. You can see these at the top of PageSpeed Insights:

  • 90 or more points is 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 that websites need to load a first text or image. The FCP thus describes how long it takes until a user can interact.
  • FID (First Input Delay): This value shows how long the website needs to react after an interaction. For example, after a click on a button.
  • LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): This value always refers to the main element of a website. For example, how long it takes for the largest image to load.
  • CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): The CLS value indicates how the visual stability behaves when a site is loaded. The smaller this value, 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 Google PageSpeed Insights , you can read about it here on 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.

Enable compression

Compress the size of your CSS, HTML and JavaScript files so that they are under 150 bytes. Or use server-side caching for WordPress .

Reduce CSS, JavaScript and HTML

Remove spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters from your code. Also delete all commands with non-uniform formatting and unused code. See this guide for WordPress .

Reduce redirects and broken links

Check your website regularly for broken links and fix them or remove them altogether. You can find out which tools and methods you can use to find broken links in this post.

Reduce the number of redirects on your site as much as possible, and it's best to use server-side redirects, as they tend to be much faster.

Improve the response time of your server

Make sure that your website is hosted by a suitable server. The optimal server response time is less than 200 ms. Consider switching to another server or host if your current solution is not working.

Optimize images

Make sure that the images on your website are not larger than they need to be. With the right kind of compression, you can significantly reduce file sizes without noticeably changing the quality of the images. You can find out which WordPress Plugins will help you optimize your images in this post.

Optimize your website for all devices

Remember that it's not just the desktop version of your website that needs to be fast. At least half of internet users use a smartphone, which is why Google now uses the speed of the mobile version of a website as a basis for ranking. So you can't avoid improving the loading time of the mobile version of your website if you want to achieve a good ranking.

Experiment with Plugins

Also, if your site's architecture is a bit outdated, you could experiment with caching Plugins . Or better yet, use server-side caching. Installing Amp-Plugins on your website is a great way to improve speed for mobile visitors.

It's up to you now!

We hope these tips give you a better understanding of performance optimization and Google PageSpeed Insights so you can optimize your website and get it to the top.

Optimization help

You need help with your optimisation? rankingCoach is a partner of RAIDBOXES. Get the free online marketing app rankingCoach FREE now.

What questions do you have about website speed and PageSpeed Insights ? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to be informed about new articles on WordPress & Performance? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

Joshua Schofield is Marketing Content Manager for rankingCoach in Cologne. In the last ten years he worked in the areas of content creation, digital marketing and corporate education. He holds a Master in American History from the University of Nottingham.

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