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How Page Load Speed Impacts SEO And User Experience

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Since Spring 2010 Google has used page load times as a factor in its search ranking algorithms. Google’s position is that faster-loading pages should be ranked higher because they provide a better experience for users. In Google’s own words, “Faster sites create happy users [...] Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.”

What do we know about Google’s page speed algorithms? What can webmasters do (both for Google and for users) to speed up page load times?

How much does page load speed impact Google rankings?

Google representatives have stated on several occasions (for an example see this post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog) that the page speed algorithm impacts rankings for less than 1% of search queries. There have been a few reports from webmasters of page speed significantly impacting rankings :

This data suggests that page speed doesn’t often impact rankings, but when it does the effect can be significant. One plausible interpretation (from Geoff Kenyon) is that “site speed will affect only queries where other ranking signals are very close or when the load time is exceptionally poor.” This interpretation seems to be consistent with Google’s statements and community feedback.

Should SEOs worry about site speed? Page rankings are often based on a combination of dozens of small algorithmic factors; therefore, though page speed is a minor factor, even a small boost could be beneficial for your site. Don’t obsess over page load speeds, but it would be a good idea to dedicate a small amount of your SEO time and/or budget to speeding up your site. Page speed is also one of the factors totally within your control so its prudent to optimize this ranking factor.

How does Google measure page load times?

Google receives site/page load speed data from

Google Chrome and Google Analytics are other possible sources for page load speed data.

How fast are Google’s top 5 websites?

According to data from Experian, nearly 20% of clicks from Google SERPs go to Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, Wikipedia and Amazon. We used Google’s PageSpeed tool to see how well the home pages of these sites are following Google’s PageSpeed best practices:

Pagespeed Scores

While these figures shouldn’t be overemphasized, it is interesting to note that these top 5 websites definitely have opportunities to improve their page load speeds.

What is an average page load speed? Google has conducted research on average page load times which can be used as a benchmark for page load times:

Page Load Times

How does page load speed impact user experience?

Google implemented page speed into its algorithm because research shows that faster page load times mean happier users.

  • A Google study found that “slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user.”
  • Shopzilla achieved a 25% increase in pageviews and a 7-12% revenue increase by speeding up its site.
  • AOL presented data showing that page load speeds can impact pageviews per visit by up to 50%.
  • A 1 second delay can decrease conversions by 7%.
  • 75% of users said that they would not return to a website that took longer than 4 seconds to load.
  • Nearly half of users expect webpages to load in 2 seconds or less.
  • Feel the need for speed? How to make your webpages pull a fast one

    Step 1: Measure.

    Your first step should be to measure your site’s page load speed. This will provide a baseline measurement from which you can work to improve. Two good tools for measuring page load speeds are Pingdom Page Load Time tool and Google Analytics Site Speed reports.

    Step 2: Upgrade your server.

    Many dynamic websites have to execute hundreds of lines of code, respond to dozens of requests, and make multiple database queries to display a single page to a single user. Hosting your website on a more powerful server can result in webpages being served faster.

    If your site is hosted on a shared hosting account, consider upgrading to a VPS or dedicated server. VPS and dedicated servers typically allow your website to have more server resources (i.e. CPU and memory) available. A VPS costs about $25 – $100 per month, depending upon the technical specifications and features you select. A dedicated server usually costs $100-$300 per month, depending upon the server’s specifications and the level of support that is included.

    Read The Differences Between VPS and Dedicated Hosting if you need help determining which is the best choice for your site.

    Step 3: Optimize your code and files.

    There are many ways to optimize your server side code, HTML/CSS/Javascript code, and images to minimize page load times. Google and Yahoo both provide excellent lists of best practices that you can implement to decrease page load time.

    Conclusion

    1. Page load speed impacts website user satisfaction, site usability and conversion rates.

    2. Google uses page load speed metrics as a minor ranking factor.

    3. Load times can be decreased by upgrading your web hosting and by implementing a list of best practices provided by Google and/or Yahoo.

    What are your favorite tools and strategies for improving page load times? How fast is your site?

    How Page Load Speed Impacts SEO And User Experience
    About Spencer Yao
    Spencer Yao is the owner of Small Business Domain, a online resource that provides advice reviews, comparisons, and coupons for domains, web hosting, VPS, and dedicated servers, and ecommerce platforms. He has over 12 years industry experience in the small business, domains, and hosting industry. WebProNews Writer
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    • http://www.travelmirchee.com/ Vishal Taragi

      You can include Cloudflare, I used them on one of my site and there technology converted my website and now it serves lightning fast pages.
      Time load was decreased from 6.2s to 2.3s.

      And the best part is they offer a free plan where you receive CDN + Full optimization for your website.

    • http://www.andreapernici.com/ Andrea

      Hi Spender Yao,

      the stats you show from the Google Research are now updated http://analytics.blogspot.it/2013/04/is-web-getting-faster.html
      but not so many change.

      Nice post.

    • http://www.ascendseo.co.uk/seopackages SEO Packages

      Great article – thanks for sharing.

    • https://plus.google.com/110826622201196466178/posts Nick Stamoulis

      In my opinion, there are so many things about SEO that we can’t control that when we are given the opportunity to make some change that could help our sites (no matter how small) we have to seize that chance. Site speed is one of those factors.

    • http://www.thecrmprocess.com Cheyserr

      I agree with Nick, working as an SEO analyst, it feels like you should be anywhere, anytime, at any given circumstances. Which of course we can’t comply all the time, unless we are superheroes with super powers.

    • http://www.opace.co.uk/seo Opace

      I always use the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle when it comes to SEO. There are many different elements that fit together that form an overall ‘picture’.

      If you fail to succeed at some of the pieces, the overall picture can be hard to make out. One of these ‘puzzle pieces’ in the case of SEO would be site speed. There are so many contributing factors to a sites position in search, we need to make sure the other ‘pieces’ of the puzzle are worked on so we give Google and other search engines a nice clear picture of our website and what it offers.

    • http://www.cutbaddebts.com/how-to-save-up-20000-to-travel-the-world-debt-free Geoff

      I’ve been working over the past few weeks on speeding up my blogs. As I’m on WordPress I have used a plugin which has definitely helped, and I joined a company which uses a content delivery network so pages load faster. Since then my load times have certainly got faster.

    • http://marketingbyweb.co.uk Eilidh MacRae

      Hi Spencer! Great post. Thanks for sharing this.

    • http://www.techifire.com Abhishek Shukla

      Nice post. Page speed does effect SEO ranking . I have seen improvement in my sites ranking , after I reduced its load time

    • http://www.sectorprimemedia.co.uk JP

      Our site was really slow then one day it got faster I don’t know why, the server company must of updated it, the next thing what happened is we started ranking on the first page of google for a number of different keywords. may bee this was just coincidence as we market the site everyday.

    • http://www.IndianWildlifeclub.com Susan Sharma

      I am using google page speed for the last 3 months or so. I find that page speed is probably inactive for days in spurts. I do see a surge in traffic sporadically which I attribute to page speed. I wonder if this sporadic nature of effective page speed service is normal?
      Our site is a dynamic asp.net portal on a VPS.