Speed & Performance

In 2010, Google announced that page speed would have an impact on your website rankings, and a more recent algorithm update released in July 2018 was similarly applied to mobile search results.

Page speed is measured between the time of a click and a web page becoming visible. The ‘load time’ is the time it takes to fully display the contents on the webpage in question, whilst the ‘time to first byte’ is how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte of data from the web server itself.

So, what does this mean for business owners? Simply put, if your competitor has a slightly faster load time than you, you’re unlikely to see a difference. If you’re already ranking higher, that’s not going to change because of a few 100ths of a second. If however, you have a well-optimised site – you’re doing everything correctly and you have a slow loading site, you’re going to suffer when it comes to your rankings and organic growth is going to be difficult, to say the least.

There’s another problem when it comes to slow loading websites and that’s your bounce rate. A bounce rate is measured when someone lands on a webpage and then leaves without browsing to another page. This metric indicates to Google that the user did not have a good browsing experience. On average websites with a 3 second load time will see a bounce rate of circa 38%. Combine that with lowered organic search positions and the result is dire indeed.

It’s critical on the path to organic growth that you start with the foundations, and that’s your website speed and performance. You can test your website performance for free by going to GTmetrix and typing in your URL. You’re aiming for an A grade website and a load time of under 3 seconds.

There are several optimisation techniques to speed websites up and improve their overall performance. From reducing requests to improving server response time. Doing so can bring drastic performance increases which will set the foundations for you to build on.

There are several areas where websites can be optimised in terms of speed and performance. Every website is different, but some rules apply to all. Below are a few examples which you can carry out to help you with improving load times. If you’re targeting international traffic, make sure to carry out the CDN recommendation. The reason for this is rather simple.

If a user from the US visits your webpage and your server is in London, then the distance their browser needs to travel to request data from your server is very long, and this results in a much slower load time than another visitor who is visiting from within the UK. Therefore, to them your website is slow, whilst it may be fast for local users. As search results are different worldwide, you’re not going to rank well internationally whilst you may nationally. There are obviously other metrics that are taken into consideration, but this gives you an example of improvement.

Choose the Right Hosting Provider

It sounds simple doesn’t it, but before carrying out all other optimisation techniques, if you don’t have a decent hosting plan – you’re not going to have decent loading speeds. The saying you get what you pay for is true, though that doesn’t mean an excellent hosting plan has to cost a fortune.

Server hardware, quality, traffic quantity and the amounts of sites hosted on one shared plan contribute to website loading speeds. Cheap hosting providers normally oversell their space per server. This means another site could get a lot of traffic per month, which takes away from the resources your plan has available.

There are some decent plans out there if you know what you’re looking for. We have partnered with SiteGround to offer all our clients 60% off their RRP. They’re the host we use for our own website as well as all our clients. A faster website means better conversions.

You can find out more about what they offer, here.

Utilise Browser Caching

Browsers cache a lot of information like images, JS files, CSS (stylesheets) so that when a visitor returns to your website, the browser doesn’t need to reload the entire page. That’s why when you’ve visited webpages for the second time, you often find they are quicker to load.

Cached files are normally generated the first time a user visits a webpage, but there are ways to improve on this even further by utilising preload cache.

Utilising browser caching can make a big difference to a page’s load time.

Enable GZIP Compression

Gzip, a software programme for file compression can be used to compress webpages which reduces the size of the page. A smaller webpage means a faster loading one as there’s less data for the browser to render.

Different web servers have different methods for implementation so speak to your hosts, but generally, this can be done either through some code modification to your .htaccess file. Always be sure to take a backup before making code modifications though.

Optimise Images

It’s surprising how many websites we see that don’t optimise their images before uploading. When you take an image on your smartphone, it can easily be 10MB these days. The last thing you want to do is upload that 10MB image to your webpage, except for rare instances when you’re a photographer for example and you’re linking to the original image.

Images should be resized, compressed and uploaded in an optimised format. You don’t want the size of your webpage to be 10MB let alone one image. Always resize so you’re serving scaled images and compress your images as well. Compression on images can see huge reductions in file size without loss of quality. Inefficient use of images on your webpage can make the difference between a blazing fast webpage and a very slow one.

Utilise Minifcation

If you’ve ever seen HTML / PHP code, you’ll probably have noticed the white space between lines of code. This is normal practise when writing the code. You may have also noticed comments, used by developers to reference sections of code.

Removing these spaces, commas and other unnecessary characters from your stylesheets, JavaScript and HTML can have a dramatic effect on your load speed.

Use a Content Delivery Network

As mentioned above, if you’re targeting international traffic, this one is ideal for you. If you’re only targeting national traffic, it’s worth testing this as you can actually increase load time locally by using a CDN as it depends if the CDN server is slower or faster than your own hosting provider.

So, what is a CDN? CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. It works by placing copies of your website on multiple servers worldwide. Users who visit your website then load from the nearest server to them. This can help with your international rankings, assuming all other SEO metrics are on point.

Technicals

Some of the many areas we cover

On-Page SEO

The practice of optimising individual web pages to improving ranking positions. Covering content, structure and metadata.

Read More

Technical SEO

Improving user experience, metrics and your conversion rate through structure, design and (A/B) split testing.

Read More

Website Audit

Website analysis of all factors affecting search engine visibility. Identifying errors and areas of improvement.

Read More

Speed & Performance

Speed has been a ranking signal since 2010. Improving your loading speed, reduce bounce rate and increase conversions.

Read More

Research & Analysis

Gain insights into how your competitors perform organically. Discover untapped phrases by volume search and difficulty.

Read More

Penalty Recovery

Algorithm and manual penalty identification, recovery and avoidance strategies to get your rankings back.

Read More