How Increasing Website Page Speed Impacts SEO and Conversions
Nothing compares with the feeling of fear, panic, and anxiety we experience when watching horror movies. Your muscles tense, your breathing is faster and your adrenalin explodes. In case you were wondering whether there is anything more frustrating than watching scary movies, well, there is.
Believe it or not, this 2016 research study found that the levels of stress we experience when waiting for a slow mobile page to load are higher than ones we face when watching a horror movie.
Here is what you should know about the link between your WordPress site’s speed and your SEO efforts.
Frustration Increases Bounces and Reduces Conversions
The World Wide Web is getting increasingly mobile and, parallel with it, online users’ demands have changed. They expect online marketers to provide seamless, on-demand user experiences.
For example, the Kissmetrics research study emphasizes that almost 50 percent of your website visitors expect your page to load in two seconds or less. And, if it fails to do so, they will leave your site without taking the desired action. Still, more than 70 percent of them have encountered websites that are extremely slow.
And, as their frustration grows, they are more likely to ditch your website without engaging with it -- and there is plenty of research to prove this. For example, pages that load in two seconds have a 9 percent bounce rate, while those that load in five seconds have a bounce rate of almost 40 percent. Logically, the faster your site loads, the longer its average session duration will be.
This means that you have more time to impress a customer and convert them into leads and, ultimately paying customers. Believe it or not, a 100-millisecond delay in page load time can minimize your conversion rates by 7 percent.
Finally, poor user experiences may impact your overall site performance, customer retention and your profits in the long run. Always remember that the number of your online competitors is constantly rising, meaning that your target visitors now have more options to choose from. Therefore, once they get disappointed with your website performance, chances are they won’t give you a second chance. The abovementioned Kissmetrics report also highlights that 79 percent of online shoppers who experienced trouble with a site’s performance claim they would never come back to it to buy again.
Google can easily track these user behaviors. It observes your bounce rates, clicks, the length of visits, pages per session, and so on to understand how relevant and valuable your content is to your audiences. And, these are strong indicators of user engagement that may impact your organic rankings.
This leads us to the next section -- the importance of page speed as a ranking factor.
Page Speed as a Ranking Factor
Page speed can be defined as the time your web page content takes to load. This includes each element on your page, such as text, images, videos, scripts, and so forth. Logically, the more elements your page contains, the longer it will take to load.
And, it’s an important element of your online presence. In fact, a Hong Kong-based SEO agency, Elevate Digital, published an SEO guide for small businesses that classifies page speed among the most significant areas for website optimization. The reason for that is obvious -- Google is obsessed with website speed.
The first reason for that is, of course, the abovementioned user experience that is immensely important to this search engine. It recognized the importance of page speed for its online users and gives its best to improve their browsing experiences.
Another significant reason why Google encourages and rewards faster websites lies in the fact that they reduce their costs. Unoptimized websites with poor speed and large files mean that Google can crawl fewer pages using its crawl budget. While this means higher operating costs for the search engine, your page indexation may also suffer.
Precisely because of that, Google decided to include page speed in its ranking factors in 2010. Back then, page speed was a ranking factor only for desktop searches. However, in 2018, that also changed. Namely, they rolled out The Speed Update, designed specifically for mobile devices. With it, page speed has become a key ranking factor for all users, irrespective of the device they use to browse online content.
How to Increase the Speed of a WordPress Site?
Now that you know how the speed of your WordPress site impacts your SEO efforts and conversions, start optimizing it as fast as possible. Here are a few actionable steps to take.
- Audit your website speed regularly. There are many tools that will help you here, including Google’s PageSpeed Insights, Gtmetrix or Pingdom.
- Update your WP theme and eliminate all outdated/ unnecessary plugins.
- Optimize your database using plugins like WP-Sweep or WP-Optimize.
- Install caching plugins, such as W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket, or WP Super Cache.
- Set up AMP for WordPress to boost mobile users’ experiences.
- Optimize your images. It’s true that visuals spruce your content up and make it more engaging and user-friendly. However, to provide frictionless user experiences, you need to choose the right image formats (preferably PNG and JPEG). You should also compress large images using image compression plugins like TinyPNG for WordPress, Kraken Image Optimizer or ShortPixel Image Optimizer.
- Choose the right content delivery network (CDN). Some of the most reliable options are Max CDN, CloudFlare, StackPath CDN, and KeyCDN.
- Minify website code. By removing all unnecessary lines of code, you will make your pages lighter and easier to load. You can do so manually or simply rely on awesome tools like MinifyCode.
- Upload your video content on YouTube or Vimeo first and then embed it in your WP site. Adding videos directly to your site will cost you bandwidth, as well as grow your backup sizes.
These are some brief suggestions that will help you nudge your website speed optimization in the right direction. However, if you’re interested in some advanced methods of optimizing your WordPress site’s speed, Sam Milo published an in-depth guide on Torque earlier this month.
Page speed is a key element in your SEO strategy. It directly affects user experience, impacting their engagement and conversion rates. And, the way people interact with your site is further related to how Google will perceive it and rank it.