Businesses see SEO as a “dark art”, full of baffling terminology and ever changing strategies and no matter which “expert” you speak to you never get a straight answer and Google is changing what it does ALL the time.
The truth is that no matter what the advice is, or what Google is thought to have done or what the correct SEO strategy is currently thought to be the underlying fundamentals for ALL websites remains the same and Google has only “tweaked” its algorithm over the years to prevent those trying to rig their search results.
It doesn’t matter what sector you are in, what products or service you sell or how you use your website, the 5 Fundamentals are the basis for a great user experience whatever SEO tactic is flavour of the month. Fix these Fundamentals and you will ensure your website has the best chance of ranking well and converting visitors no matter what Google chooses to change, tweak or ignore.
The 5 Fundamentals are:
- Load Speed
- HTTPS Security
- Content Distribution Network
- Google User Rating
- Mobile Readiness
With these five items optimised your website has a firm technical basis to support all your efforts online. Failing to pay attention to these elements could cause everything you do to be wasted effort, like trying to run in diver’s boots.
Today we are going to explore load speed and why it is important.
Your customers love a fast websites, Google LOVES fast websites, YOU love a fast loading website, right? With the move to mobile as the primary search index Google has signalled to all website owners that speed is now a primary factor in your website’s standing online.
In 2010 Google stated very clearly:
“..ranking is a nuanced process with over 200 signals but now speed is one of them…“
Then in June 2016 Gary Illyes from Google said
“Google will be updating the page speed ranking factor to specifically look at the page speed of your mobile website pages when it comes to the mobile-friendly algorithm.”
That change has now happened, Google has moved to a “mobile first” policy, this puts the mobile user experience ahead of the desktop. Google has been ultra clear the focus on a website’s mobile ranking is now more important than desktop, businesses have to now look at their mobile website as the primary place Google is using to rank your business online.
If you are still focusing on your desktop website, check your Google Analytics, how many mobile visitors are there? If you are seeing low mobile visitor numbers then it may be your site is not optimal for mobile and this is keeping them away.
But there is also a secondary impact from having a slow loading website, highlighted in this statement from Google
“(if) we’re seeing an extremely high response-time for requests made to your site (at times, over 2 seconds to fetch a single URL). This has resulted in us severely limiting the number of URLs we’ll crawl from your site.”
John Mueller, Trends Analyst Google
Not only does a slow website hurt visitor numbers it will also lower the number of pages that Google are prepared to index from your website. All of the time and effort you’re spending building, creating and publishing content will be wasted because Google will be ignoring it. How does that sit with your “SEO” strategy?
Some facts to consider about load speed
We know from our own data that a website is negatively impacted by slow loading. When we improve load speed bounce rates drop, engagement increases and almost immediately leads and sales improve. Very slow sites give a bad user experience, and a poor impression of your business consider the following findings.
“47% of visitors expect web pages to load in under two seconds.”
“40% of visitors abandon a page taking more than 3 seconds to load.”
“In 2010 a page that took 6 seconds to load suffered a 40% loss in conversion. In 2016 a page that takes 6 seconds to load will experience a 50% loss in conversion, this is only going to get worse as users expect faster load times with improvements in tech.”
“Sites that load in 5 seconds vs 19 seconds observed: 25% higher ad view-ability (and) 70% longer average sessions (and) 35% lower bounce rates”
source: Double Click
“Ancestory.com reduced load time by 64% and saw a 7% positive rise in conversion rate.”
source: WPO Stats
“The Trainline reduced load time by 0.3s and revenue increased by £8 million a year.”
source: WPO Stats
It is absolutely clear, the faster your website loads the better it is for your customers and that’s only going to do good things for your business.
Slow websites are leaving opportunity (and money) on the table.
Your website HAS to load in under three seconds and we’d encourage you to get your site to load in under two seconds if you want optimal user experience. Simply put, if your website load times is over 7 seconds, you’re losing business. Going above 7 seconds is an absolute no-no in 2017 and won’t lead to anything good for your website or your business.
It is therefore vitally important that you work on your website load speed and remember to check all your most important pages. Checking and making the whole site load as fast as it can and tracking your website load speed over time to ensure your site is not slowing down as you make changes and add content is now as important as regularly adding content.
Factors that affect load speed
- Cheap Hosting – 999 other sites on your server slow your site down.
- Geo-location – US hosting, visitor from the UK, the round trip costs.
- HTTPS – you need it, implementing it incorrectly hurts load speed.
- Images – poorly optimised images cost you, optimise all images.
- Plugins – badly coded or slow running plugins hurt load speed.
- Page size – reduce your page size as small as possible.
- Tracking pixels – when not running remarketing suspend.
- Sliders – nothing like 5 large images loading to slow your site down.
- Video – autoplay buffering can slow a site down before starting.
- Video Backgrounds – loading 32MB files slows a website, NO!
There are plenty of other technical elements that can affect load speed and there are many issues with a server that can slow a site to a crawl when it is busy, so we always suggest not choosing cheap hosting. There’s a reason it is £1.99 as the hosting company has to cram as many sites as they can on a server, which is not going to help you, cheap hosting costs.
What should you do?
Hopefully we have shown you that the faster your website loads the more likely it is your visitor will become a customer. But take this simple test: Do you like waiting for a website to load? Do you enjoy watching the browser load bar crawl across the screen, wondering if a website will EVER load? Do you like slow loading websites on your mobile?
Your customer is the same as you and whilst you may think your website is worth the wait, they won’t and your competitors with faster sites will win their custom.
It is therefore important to not only improve your load speed but also track your load speed too. It is important to ensure your website load speed is optimal all the time, you can’t just check it once a year, you should be looking at it once a month MINIMUM, and we’d urge you to look at it once a week.
If you have cheap hosting and your server has 999 other websites on it then these other sites may get busy at other times, which may affect your website outside of your peak time, especially if it is a very popular website.
If your website attracts mainly UK visitors and you test it at 6am you may not see the server working hard and the load speed may appear decent. If your peak time for visitors is 10am, then test your load time at 10am as this will give an accurate picture of how slow the site loads when the server is working hard.
Here’s the process we’d encourage you to adopt.
Monthly Load Speed Checklist
1st – test Morning
7th – test Lunchtime
14th – test Afternoon
21st – test Early Evening
28th – test Anytime
Random – test randomly 2 or 3 times
It is vital you test your site, and not just the homepage, other, important inner pages like your shop or blog pages. You have to build up a picture of the load speed to fully understand how your site performs when the site and server are under load and at different times of day. This gives you an indication of how resilient your website is throughout the day and at different times of the month.
We hope this has underlined the importance of the first Fundamental and that you are now keen to ensure your website loads as fast as it can. We offer a FREE testing service that allows you to test and track your results. Claim your FREE account on MisterMetric.com and monitor, track your load speed and take this issue seriously to improve how effective your website is.