If you’re looking for a way to improve your website, have you thought about improving its speed? Site speed is one of the last things that website owners think of when they’re working on their SEO, but speed actually affects your ranking in search more than you might expect. In fact, if you have a slow site, it could be holding you back from hitting #1!
Let’s take an in-depth look at how site speed affects your rankings, and how you can improve your SEO by speeding up your site.
Google’s decision to use site speed in rankings
Site speed hasn’t always been a ranking factor. Google announced that it would take this factor into consideration in 2010 in a post on its Webmaster Central Blog, stating:
Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. [...] Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.
Google stated that site speed wouldn’t carry as much weight in its ranking algorithm as the relevance of a page. However, it did stress the importance for both SEO and users, because site speed could affect both.
There was some confusion after this announcement, however, because website owners were not sure which factor of site speed would affect ranking. Would it be total page size? The speed of the server the website was on? Or the amount of time it took the full page to load?
The specific speed factor to consider
In 2013, a study done for the Moz blog found the “time to first byte” metric (or TTFB) is what seems to correlate with your website ranking:
TTFB is, essentially, how long it takes the server your website is hosted on to send your browser the first byte of data after you click a link. So essentially, the longer it takes for your server to start sending visitors your website, when they request it, the worse you will do in this specific factor of the algorithm.
The takeaway to consider here is that if your website server is slow, your ranking could take a hit. So you should review your hosting plan and make sure it is meeting your needs.
Moz did not find much correlation between other website speed factors, but this does not mean that they don’t affect your ranking. These factors can affect you indirectly. How? Let’s look closer.
How user behavior affects your SEO
Google takes other metrics into consideration when it is ranking your website. One of these is bounce rate — that is, the percentage of visitors who leave your site without visiting any other pages — and another is time on page.
Let’s say you have a specific page that ranks very well, but takes a long time to load. Visitors may grow very impatient and leave before it finishes loading. So your average bounce rate on this page may be 90%, and the average time on page may be 0:10.
Over time, you will see that the ranking on this page is likely to slip. Why? Well, Google has no reason to highly rank a page that 90% of users leave after only ten seconds! It’s obvious that something is driving them away. So even if your TTFB metric here is perfect, the fact that your on-page content is taking a long time to load is affecting your SEO.
Generally speaking, Google’s algorithm can take the behavior of people visiting your site into consideration. So if page speed is driving them away, you are likely to see an impact on your ranking and traffic.
This, in a nutshell, is how site speed can affect your website rankings and SEO. Have any additional questions we can help you with? Or are you confused by anything you see on the results of your website report? Just let us know, and one of our web strategists will be happy to help you out! We’d be happy to talk things over with you and find out how we can answer your questions.