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24 Aug

Why is Page Speed Important?

Since Page Speed became an official ranking factor in Google's algorithm, its importance for SEO and online visibility has grown. In this article, we explore its impact on your website's performance, and use a case study to show the difference just a few changes can make.

The Impact of Google’s Algorithm Change

Although it has always been considered important for SEO, your website’s page speed has not directly affected your rankings in organic Google searches until recently. In their May 2021 algorithm update, Google introduced 3 new factors to optimise your website for, known as the Core Web Vitals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – this refers to the length of time it takes a page to load for a visitor to your site
  • First Input Delay (FID) – also known as Interactivity, this is how long it takes for a user to be able to interact with a page on your website
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – this is about how visually stable a page's layout is as it loads

The Core Web Vitals are key to measuring how your website is performing in terms of page speed, and have a bearing on the overall user experience.

Search Console Mockup

Whilst this algorithm change may have affected your website's performance in Google search, you shouldn’t expect a dramatic drop in your rankings. After all, the 3 new ranking metrics are among 200 others, and have no special priority, so they have the same effect on your performance as any other factor, such as meta descriptions, alt text, etc. On the other hand, Siteground’s SEO Strategist Hristo Pandjarov has said that the update will have “a bigger impact on small-volume keywords” and “local searches”, so it's a good idea to ensure that your website has good page speed scores to maintain your local rankings.

How to Test Your Page Speed

There are a number of online tools which you can use to test your website’s speed, including:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights
  • Google Search Console (Core Web Vitals report)
  • GTmetrix

Gtmetrix mockup

The key tool that we use is PageSpeed Insights, which gives your website a score from 1 - 100 on both Mobile and Desktop. It displays your Core Web Vitals scores and gives a list of suggestions on how to improve. You might see a lot of red and amber on the screen, but not a lot of green… If this is the case, then you should look at addressing the issues highlighted.

Improving Your Page Speed Scores

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to improve your scores is to optimise the images on your website, compressing, resizing and ‘lazy loading’ them to reduce the time it takes for the webpage to load.

There are also some more technical tasks which will likely be required, such as minifying CSS, deferring external scripts, removing large unused payloads, using Ultrafast PHP, and optimising font delivery. A lot of this might seem like technical jargon, and if you don't have coding expertise, then you will need to ask your website developer to lend a hand!

Your website is often the first point of call for new customers, so it's important to ensure that it performs well to give them a pleasant user experience. A fast site enables visitors to quickly find the information they’re looking for, buy your products, or get in touch.

Case Study

Adam Vetere Landscape & Garden Design

Lately, we have been working on a few different client websites to help improve their page speed scores. One example is the Adam Vetere: Landscape & Garden Design website.

Adam Vetere came to us after seeing a decline in traffic to his website, unsure on the cause. We knew that Google had recently ‘changed the goalposts’ in terms of page speed variables, and after checking the site’s  scores, we saw some opportunities to improve its speed that could, in turn, give search rankings (and traffic) a boost.

After working on the site for a little while, we were able to bring the Desktop score on the homepage up from 48 to 94!

Adam Vetere Page Speed

We achieved this through a few key changes, such as:

  • Optimising images
  • Removing Facebook, YouTube & Instagram scripts
  • Removing shortcode & re-coding sections
  • Deferring some JavaScript

As a result of this work, we’ve also seen some improvement in keyword rankings. For instance, from the start of June to the end of August, the keyword ‘garden designer surrey’ has climbed 7 places, moving on to position 5 of page 1. Several other keywords have also moved up to page 1, and the site has maintained its existing position 1 rankings.

Keyword Ranking 24/08/21 Position Change
garden designer basingstoke 1 0
garden designer berkshire 1 +1
garden designer bracknell 1 0
garden designer guildford 1 0
garden designer newbury 1 0
garden designer reading 1 0
garden designer winchester 1 0
garden designer hampshire 2 0
garden designer ascot 2 0
garden designer surrey 5 +7
garden designer oxford 6 +3
garden designer wiltshire 8 +3
garden designer oxfordshire 10 +1

It's too early to see the impact that this has had on traffic levels to the Adam Vetere website, but time will tell! Whilst the website's Mobile page speed score still requires improvement, it is good to see that the site is generally performing much faster now, just from making a few small changes.

If you haven't checked your website's scores yet, why not take a look today? Page speed is important not just for your performance in Google search results, but also to ensure you are giving your customers the best possible user experience on your website.

Want to learn more about how you could improve your website's speed? Get in touch and we can complete a full site health check for you.

Emily

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