Site speed plays a vital role in search engine optimisation (SEO) and improving your search rankings. Nowadays, everyone’s in a hurry, and the online world is no different.
For example, picture the scene: you’re out and about when you suddenly remember that you forgot to buy a present for your best friend’s birthday. So, you get out your phone and head to Google searching for a last-minute gift. The only problem is you have a poor 3G connection, meaning each website loads so slowly that you quickly give up.
This is a terrible user-experience and is exactly the opposite of what Google wants. Search engines aim to provide relevant, authoritative, and quick answers to give their users the best customer experience possible and keep them coming back. Therefore, site speed, quite rightly, can have a huge impact on SEO.
While many digital marketers may consider site speed as more of an IT concern, emphasis on improving page load time should be part of your marketing strategy too. Actionable changes such as getting your graphic designers to save images differently, or reducing your content in a few key places, are factors that the wider marketing team can easily get involved with and champion. The effect of such practices can benefit your site’s SEO enormously, making it firmly an issue for marketing professionals as well as IT.
Ensuring site speed has a positive impact on search
Firstly, it’s worth checking out your website’s current page load time with Google’s handy PageSpeed Insights Tool. While unfortunately, using this tool won’t make your site any faster, it will grade your current speed, and provide you with an all-important starting point. Although Google ranking algorithms are a close guarded mystery, the fact that Google provides a tool such as this, makes it a pretty certain bet that website speed performance influences their search algorithm.
Once you’ve found out your site speed score, you can start making actionable changes to improve your page speed. We’d recommend you start by improving five key website components:
1. Optimise your images
In my experience, poorly optimised images are one of the biggest factors behind a slow page speed. Simply making sure that your graphic design team and photographers save all their images as ‘save for the web’ in Photoshop and Illustrator, and making sure that the physical size of the image is as close as possible to how big it’ll be on the website can go a long way. After all, why bother uploading a 1800x1800px image to your website when it’ll only be shown as 400x400px?
2. Streamline your CSS code
Admittedly, this may cross over somewhat into IT territory, however, for some companies, CSS and HTML will lie with the digital marketing team. As a general rule, try to write as little CSS as possible and don’t repeat yourself. Inline critical CSS in the <head> HTML element, and don’t use more than one CSS stylesheet, as processing multiple stylesheets means your page will take longer to load.
3. Check for tag bloat
4. Include static content rather than dynamic content
Wherever possible include static content within your pages. By static content, we mean that the raw HTML resides within the file being loaded. The alternative is to load content dynamically which means it’s pulled from a database. The advantage of using static rather than dynamic content is that when the browser loads the page the static content is already there waiting to be rendered on the page. If it is pulled from a database there is a slight delay.
5. Serve static resources from a cookieless domain
Cookieless domains are useful because a browser can connect to more than one at a time. You can make use of this by loading your static resources from multiple cookieless domains allowing multiple resources to download simultaneously.
After putting these changes in place, we recommend going back to Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool and seeing how your speed grade has increased. There’s a clear correlation between fast load times and high search engine visibility, and it’s important to ensure your website’s SEO is as strong as possible in order to stay at the top of the SERPs.
By keeping customer experience at the forefront of your SEO strategy, your site stands a better chance of attracting continuous organic search traffic that converts into paying customers.
By Will King, SEO manager at Find Me a Gift
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