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Does site speed influence SEO?

You don’t even have to listen very carefully because SEO people are shouting it from the rooftops: site speed is everything. Not a day goes by without a new article, white paper, Google representative or SEO expert telling us that optimizing for speed is one of the most important things you can do right now. And they’re right, of course! Site speed influences SEO in many ways. Here’s a small overview of how site speed and SEO go together.

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You won’t have a second chance for that first impression: Everything starts with speed

Picture this: you have put in a lot of effort to make sure that your site works well, it has a great structure and includes fabulous targeted and relevant content. But that won’t be the first experience your potential visitor/client/consumer has with your site. They will have to load your site first before they can access that killer content. If it takes ages to load, there will be a significant drop-off and a lot fewer people will visit your site. A much faster competitor is just a single click away. Not investing in a fast site is almost like you don’t care for your customers. No reason for them to stay, right?

On mobile, site speed is even more of an issue. According to research by Google, the average mobile site takes over fifteen seconds to load while people expect them to load in less than three seconds before they consider leaving altogether. Every second counts, as conversions drop sharply with every second longer, your site takes to load.15 seconds to load a mobile page google research With that said, what are some reasons to improve the loading speed of your site?

  • Site speed is a ranking factor
  • Fast sites are easier to crawl
  • Fast loading sites have higher conversion rates
  • It reduces bounce rates
  • It improves general user experience (less stress!)

It all boils down to this: improve your site speed if you want happy customers and happy search engines! And who doesn’t want that, right?

Site speed is a ranking factor

Google has said time and again that a fast site helps you to rank better. Even as recently as this month, Google launched the so-called ‘Speed Update’ making site speed a ranking factor for mobile searches. Google stressed it would only affect the slowest sites and that fast sites getting faster won’t get a boost, but they are surely looking at site speed across the board. Only the slowest sites get hit now, but what about the future?

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Loading times influence crawling

Modern sites are incredibly wieldy and untangling that mess can make a big difference already. Fix your site structure, clean up old and outdated posts and bring those redirects in order. Invest in a better hosting plan and turn those servers into finely tuned machines. The bigger your site is, the more impact of speed optimizations will have. These not just impact user experience and conversion rates but also affects crawl budget and crawl rate. If your servers are fast, Googlebot can come around more often and get more done.

Fast loading sites have higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates

Your goal should be to be the fastest site in your niche. Be faster than your competitors. Having a site or an e-commerce platform that takes ages to load won’t do you any good. People hit that back button in a split second, never to return. Not good for your bounce rate! By offering a fast site you are not only working on improving your conversion rate, but you’re also building trust and brand loyalty. Think of all the times you’ve been cursing the screen because you had to wait for a page to load — again — or been running in circles because the user experience was atrocious — again. It happens so often — don’t be that site.

Site speed improves user experience

Did you know that people experience real stress when experiencing mobile delays? And that this stress level is comparable to watching a horror movie? Surely not you say? That’s what the fine folks at Ericsson Research found a couple of years back. Improving your site speed across the board means making people happy. They’ll enjoy using your site, buy more and come back more often. This, of course, means that Google will see your site as a great search result because you are delivering the goods when it comes to site quality. Eventually, you might get a nice ranking boost. It’s a win-win situation!experiencing mobile delays ericsson research 2015

Optimizing your site is not just looking at pretty numbers

Optimizing your site for speed is not as simple as getting a good score in all those site speed test tools. Don’t blind yourself on scores and metrics. Most tests emulate an unrealistic environment, but guess what: the real world matters even more. Every user is different. Every visitor uses a different type of internet connection, device and browser. Find out who your users are, how they access your site and what they do while they’re there. Combine classic tools like Google’s recently updated PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest.org and Lighthouse with analytical tools to get a broad overview of speed issues on your site. Use the recommendations to get started on improving your site speed, but do take these with a grain of salt; these recommendations are often hard to implement and not really realistic.

Ps: You are optimizing your images, right? Quick win right there!

Read more: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

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