Improve your webpage load time to increase your SEO
The faster your website loads, the more likely you are to get higher search engine rankings. There are a few things you can do to quicken things up.
Google ranks faster websites higher than slow ones. So if you want to achieve better rankings and increase traffic from organic sources, then improving page load time is one of the most effective ways to do it.
Why page load time matters for your website’s SEO
As you already know, Google is constantly changing its algorithm and rewarding websites that rank well with the search engine’s users. One of those factors that contribute to a good ranking is page loading time.
Google has made it clear: speed matters when it comes to SEO ranking factors.
If you are wondering why this matters so much, it is because page loading time has a direct impact on your user experience. A slow-loading site will frustrate visitors and make them leave sooner than they would have if it were faster. Those “bounces” tell Google that your site isn’t working out for people, lowering your chances of ranking well.
Google has made it clear: speed matters when it comes to SEO ranking factors. Experts say that if one page takes three seconds longer than another to load, then it suffers an average drop in rankings of 15%. Testing has shown that this rule of thumb holds across any industry.
Measuring page load time
As you make changes to your site, measure your page speed and track changes over time. There are many tools to use for measuring page load speed. Here are two to consider.
GTmetrix is one of our go-to tools here at MyHost. Measure page load times in different locations around the world, and see your results as a both simple grade and a more thorough breakdown of what’s working well and what can be improved. You can even see your page’s progressive performance broken down to the millisecond. There are free and paid tiers, depending on how serious you want to get.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a free option that helps you identify ways to improve your site’s performance. It gives recommendations on how best to optimise pages based on an analysis of what resources are loaded during each stage of page rendering time. PageSpeed Insights uses data collected from actual visits to your site over the last 30 days and creates separate reports on the desktop and mobile experience.
How web hosting impacts page load time
Web hosting refers to the servers that host your website. Your web host stores your website and makes it available to internet users.
Web hosting providers can be big or small, local or international, but whichever one you choose, their speed will have a direct impact on how quickly your pages load when someone visits them. Factors involved in your host’s speed include:
- The quality of the hardware they use.
- The number of customer websites that share a single server’s resources.
- How well your host patches and maintains the software that your server runs.
- The distance between your host and your audience.
If you’re in England and want to reach people in New Zealand, it doesn’t make sense to use a web host in England – it would just add more distance between your server and them.
The best way to go about choosing a web host is by doing some research on what they offer.
Finding a fast web hosting provider
When choosing a web hosting provider, keep the following in mind:
- Choose a host with a fast page load time and is not oversold. When you buy hosting, you usually buy space on a shared server, so you want to know that you will get your fair share of resources. This ensures you are getting high quality service.
- Choose a host with a good uptime record and which uses modern, fast hardware. The faster the hardware, the better your website will perform under load conditions (i.e. when it's popular).
- Choose an onshore location if possible. This helps with performance issues caused by latency in your visitors' connections to your server, such as slow responses or even timeouts.
- Make sure you’ll be hosted on fast, modern servers.
Quick tips for speeding up your web hosting
- As you're looking at improving your web hosting, it's important to choose the right sized plan. You need enough storage for your content, data and CMS; enough bandwidth for whatever traffic you might receive on busy days, and enough RAM to make sure your hosting doesn’t overload. Good hosts (including us) make it easy to upgrade your plan before you outgrow it.
- If you are using a PHP version older than 8.x, consider upgrading to make sure that your site is running as fast as possible.
- For help finding and fixing issues that may be slowing down your website, consider managed hosting which gives you access to experts who can solve performance bottlenecks.
- Depending on your web development skills (or your access to a good web host or developer), profiling tools like Xdebug can point to likely areas of slowness in code execution.
DIY page speed optimisation
Optimise and compress your images
Optimised and compressed images are quicker to load (and smaller to store).
A lot of image editors include compression tools, but they are not equally effective so it can pay to check reviews.
There are two main steps to optimising an image:
- Altering its size (width and height) so that it’s is no bigger than the largest space that your website template will provide for it.
- Compressing its resolution. For screens, 72ppi is standard resolution. Files at this resolution are much smaller than print-ready images, which might be closer to 300ppi. Save high-resolution photos for billboards, posters and the like.
Redirects make it more difficult for Google to crawl your site and rank it properly.
When you redirect one page to another, you’re automatically sending people from one URL to another, which adds a step before the page starts loading. Some redirects are interpreted by Google as the same content on two different pages, which can affect search ranking (as well as make your site harder on visitors).
If there is no reason why someone should ever see one version of a URL over another (like example.com/product-details instead of example.com/product) then use 301 (permanent) redirects to let search engines know that the content has moved.
Get expert advice on caching and CDN
Caching and content delivery networks (CDNs) can work in a lot of different ways. Depending on your site and your audience, some approaches might make a real difference while others might not be worth the effort or investment. If you’re with MyHost, feel free to ask us for advice.
Your web host ought to be able to work out how server-side caching could work for you, and then set it up.
Put simply, a cache is a temporary storage location for webpages. It can be used to store content from your website, which can then be sent to the end user without having to download it again. This speeds up their browsing experience.
Caching can work “server-side” (e.g. using tools like Varnish or Nginx) or “in the browser”. Your web host ought to be able to work out how server-side caching could work for you, and then set it up. On the other hand, browser caching depends on the user. Most browsers cache data automatically, downloading it the first time a user visits a page and then storing for a set amount of time in case the user returns to the same page later.
A content delivery network, or CDN, can speed your site up too. A CDN is basically just a remote server that stores the same files as your website, but it's closer to people who are visiting your site, so they get the files faster. But choosing the right CDN can be tricky: there are lots of them out there offering different features at different prices.
This on a different technical level to the other SEO tips that we’ve covered in this article. Before you invest your time and money on server-side caching or CDN, get expert advice from your hosting provider or web developer.
Track your page speed progress, and keep at it
The key to improving page speed is to measure your progress by testing your pages, and keeping track of how each tweak that you make affects your content's performance.
Changes will take time to have an effect on the bottom line. Start now, measure your progress, and be patient.
Work through fixes and improvements methodically, and don’t be afraid of asking for help when you reach your technical limits.
You’ll see your site’s loading speed get better, which boosts your SEO and the user experience. In time conversion rates and other site analytics ought to show improvements as well. Fewer visitors will bounce away before your page loads, more people will discover you through organic search results, and useful gains will follow.