Digital Santa Presents – Page Speed
Welcome to the first addition of our Christmas blog series ‘Digital Santa Presents …’ With the help of the Digital Santa, we will be talking you through how to optimise your website this Christmas. This week, Digital Santa is focusing on the speed of his reindeer. A.K.A. page speed. It’s a factor that everyone considers when it comes to user experience, but it isn’t always considered when it comes to SEO. Now, Google’s ranking algorithm is making it more and more crucial that your website is working as quickly as possible.
In our SEO predictions for 2017 we predicted technical SEO will make a strong comeback as a ranking factor in 2017. Along with improving crawl budget usage, a key area of focus for technical SEO will be to continuously improve the rendering speed of a website. In view of the ever-increasing mobile search use, this is hardly surprising. After all, it is increasingly important to ensure that your potential customers have the best experience of your site on their phone screens. Recognising this urgency, Google has also been making significant changes in its ranking factors that has put speed as a key SEO objective.
Why should you care about the speed of those reindeer?
Page speed is a ranking signal for Google
In 2010 Google announced that page speed affects ranking. Now, there are over 200 factors that Google uses to decide rankings and tests and experiments in the industry have confirmed that page speed is easily amongst the top 20. This is hardly a surprise given how focused Google is on improving user experience.
Google is going to be using a separate index for mobile
In October 2016, Google announced that it is creating a separate index for mobile searches and this index will be the primary one. So far, Google has been presenting rankings on mobile which largely mimics the desktop rankings. This is because it has been applying mobile-friendly checks on a desktop index and if the page was ranking well on desktop and was meeting the mobile-friendly requirement, the website would retain its ranking on mobile. With a separate mobile index, Google can run mobile-specific ranking algorithms. Speed in rendering pages over mobile phone networks is crucial for user experience and it will become a whole lot more crucial when the index splits. Given the fact that more and more people are using mobile as their main source for media consumption, it is crucial that the mobile version of your website is working as well as your desktop version. !
Mobile-specific page speed ranking signal
At present, if you have a really fast desktop web page, but the mobile version is slightly slow, it doesn’t hurt your mobile rankings. With Google splitting the index and having announced in January 2016 that it will be updating the page speed ranking factor; look at the page speed of your mobile pages as a mobile-specific ranking factor.
Page speed is not just important for your rankings on Google, but it impacts your user experience and directly affect your conversions. Simply put, positive user experience will lead to better conversions.
HTTP/2 will be everywhere
HTTP/2 is an upgrade to HTTP/1 and all the browsers are already supporting it. Google has already declared that its bot will be supporting HTTP/2 and very soon this will be standard. With websites adopting HTTP/2, page speed will automatically have to be a key SEO strategy.
How to go about improving the speed of that sledge
Improving page speed as an SEO tactic is going to gain momentum in 2017. To stay ahead of the curve we have outlined a few steps your web team can start looking into from today:
Use the Google page speed tool
Use the Google analytics to detect slow pages
Another area which goes to show how serious Google is about page speed is Google analytics. Unlike before, Google analytics latest versions record page speed and server based data for your site. This is a great opportunity for brands to calculate correlations between page speeds and conversion.
Start AMPlifying your content
Given that Google will use a separate index for mobile and it may have a separate ranking factor, favouring mobile-only content. Therefore it is the right time for creating AMP versions of your pages. AMPed pages have trimmed down HTML and tend to load over 80% faster. Soon, websites from every domain will begin releasing AMP version meaning competition will rise, so now is a good time to AMPlify.
Make use of plugins if using WordPress
If you happen to manage your site through easy to use CMS such as WordPress, we recommend using readily available plugins. It’s incredible how easy these plugins are to use, and sometimes simple changes in the settings (which is mostly checking or unchecking things) can go a long way in improving your webpage speeds.
Ensure optimum server settings
With a majority of the focus being on the front end, often the back end (i.e. the server settings) are forgotten while optimising site speeds. In an ideal world, your server speed should be under 200 ms.
The top factors causing a slow server response are: slow applications, slow databases, slow routing or lack of appropriate volume of memory. To improve on these factors, it is important that your web or hosting team collects data regularly, benchmark, remove bottleneck and monitor progress on a regular basis.
Pay attention to the images, video embeds, use of flash and ads
Like the server response, uploading optimum sized images or other media files are often forgotten. It is easy to be misled by the aesthetics of a high definition image, however, aesthetics should never hamper the SEO of the site. In an ideal world, an image less than 100kb will get a big thumbs up from SEOs. However, we understand that this is not always possible, therefore you should aim to reduce your image size to the minimum while maintaining quality.
Videos on the hand are best to be self-hosted if you have a fast server. This is because embeds trigger an additional HTTP request from within your pages, therefore adding towards slow page speed response.
Looking at all the latest changes by Google – be it creating a mobile index, encouraging webmasters to use AMP HTML, or its adoption of the HTTP/2 – speed as a ranking factor will be a top optimising strategy for SEO in the coming months. With Christmas such a popular time for browsing, Digital Santa recommends that if your web team hasn’t been planning towards improving your page speeds, now is the right time to get them into action!
Give your website an early Christmas present by using the page speed tool and seeing how you can improve it. If you’re unsure, speak to one of the Tamar elves, we are always on hand to help.