When it comes to ranking on Google, you’ve likely spent time lots of time poring over your content and SEO-optimizing your pages to ensure that you’re delivering the best user experience possible for your site visitors. But have you ever thought about your website loading speed?
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about how — or even if — page load speed has an influence on your rankings in Google. Let’s take a closer look to dispel some rumors, then show you how to diagnose and optimize your website loading speed.
Does Page Load Speed Matter?
By now, you may have heard about the Google update that started down-ranking mobile websites that were loading up too slowly. Well, the team over at Backlinko ran a small experiment to find out if improving the website loading speed of a page that’s already ranking would have any positive effect on its current search position in Google.
They selected an existing page that was taking over 40 seconds to load and was ranking in the 8th position for a highly competitive keyword. They removed all the extraneous content and implemented other under the hood fixes that brought the page speed load time down to only 1 second.
After a couple of weeks, their page optimizations didn’t have any effect on their Google ranking and only resulted in a negligible change in the amount of new visitors. Strangely enough, their page bounce rate even went up!
However, that’s not to say that page load speed doesn’t play a role in determining your rankings, but it may not do much to improve your rankings when it comes to highly competitive search terms. Page speed may play a more critical role when it comes to ranking for keywords that have far less competition, but more research needs to be conducted in this area.
Regardless of what was uncovered in Backlinko’s one-off experiment, improving website performance raises conversion rates and provides your visitors with better user experiences.
You can watch Backlinko’s PageSpeed experiment video here:
What is a Good Website Load Speed?
Google recommends having a website load time of under 3 seconds and keeping your website size down to under 0.5 MB.
Why is My Website Loading Slow?
There may be several reasons why your website is loading up slowly, but before you do anything, make sure it’s not a network issue on your end first.
Once you’ve verified that the problem isn’t network-related, the next step is to use website testing tools to measure your site load times and identify any errors that may be causing these speed issues.
Speed Measuring Tools
We highly recommend using one or more of the following website testing tools:
1.) PageSpeed Insights (PSI) – This website load test from Google reports on your page’s performance on desktop and mobile, and provides suggestions on how to improve your scores.
If you’re an experienced Chrome Dev, you can take it one step further and use Lighthouse to go under the hood to improve the quality of your pages.
Here’s a tutorial on how to use Lighthouse Chrome:
💡 Take your PSI score with a grain of salt. PSI should be used in conjunction with other tools.
2.) GTmetrix – GTmetrix is my personal favorite website speed measurement tool. You simply input your URL and GTmetrix will do a deep scan analysis of your website and outline what needs to be fixed and how-to information.
We suggest creating an account on GTmetrix to save all your tests and track your progress. They even let you run customized tests to mimic site visits based on a specific geographical location, ISP connection, or device type.
3.) Pingdom Website Speed Test – Pingdom is another popular website speed analysis tool that lets you test your website from different locations.
Like GTmetrix, Pingdom does a good job identifying website issues, however, it’s not as user-friendly and beginners will need to perform additional research on their own to learn more about their site issues and how to fix them.
4.) WebPageTest – WebPageTest lets you plug in your URL, and like GTMetrix, lets you select a specific device, browser and geographical location where you want to run your test from.
Of all the tools mentioned here, WebPageTest takes the longest to generate results, but you’ll receive a more detailed analysis about what’s going on with your website loading speed.
How Can I Speed Up My Website Loading Time?
Here are some other ways to help speed up your website loading speed:
- Web Hosting Upgrade. If you’re receiving a decent amount of traffic to your website and using budget web hosting, maybe it’s time to upgrade to a fast VPS plan.
- Htaccess File Optimization. Make sure that your .htaccess file has GZIP and DEFLATE site compression enabled, and that you’re leveraging browser caching, setting expires/cache-control headers and disabling image hotlinking.
- Image Compression. Compress your images with a plugin like ShortPixel to help reduce your site’s overall file size.
- Use a Plugin. If you’re running WordPress, we highly recommend using a caching plugin like WP Rocket. Be careful though, as this can easily “break” your website if you don’t know what you’re doing.
*If you’re using a content delivery network (CDN) like Cloudflare, simply connect your website to your Cloudflare account and make sure that all items under ‘Auto Minify’ are toggled on.
Your website loading speed can potentially turn away or keep visitors engaged, which helps increase your site conversions. Optimize website speed by diagnosing and resolving any existing site issues using any of the website testing tools listed above.
If you need help and don’t know where to start, we offer an affordable website speed optimization service that will speed up your website, help increase conversions, and improve the overall user experience for your visitors. Don’t forget to subscribe!