The search engine algorithms are extremely complex and are always changing. Over time, SEO best practices have emerged and webmasters that want to get their site ranking prominently follow white hat tactics and execute strategies like implementing keywords throughout meta tags and content naturally, utilizing anchor text, developing a clean and user friendly inner linking structure, publishing content across the web on a regular basis, and building inbound links from quality websites. All of these tactics are important, but there is one critical ranking factor that website owners sometimes overlook, or don’t put enough emphasis on and that is the load time of their website.
Internet users today are used to receiving information quickly online. If a web page doesn’t load within a few seconds the visitor is already frustrated by the experience. Anything slower than a few seconds and the visitor might not even wait around. They may be clicking the “back” button and looking for the next result.
The search engines take this user experience factor into consideration when ranking a website. The search engines want to provide users with the best possible search experience to keep them happy. If your website is loading slowly and visitors are bouncing from the page quickly, the search engines take notice. Unfortunately, your site isn’t providing a good user experience and that will affect a search ranking in a negative way. Every industry is competitive in the search engines. If a competitor has a better website with a faster load time, there is a good chance that they will outrank you.
Besides clicking around your website on a few different browsers to gauge speed, there are a few tools that can help you determine the speed of your website. Since Google is the most prominent search engine, a good place to start is the Google PageSpeed Online tool which provides you with an overall page speed score out of 100 and a summary of suggestions for improvement ranked by priority. Desktop and mobile reports can be generated. Pingdom is another helpful and free tool that tells you what your load time is, gives you a grade, and compares your website speed to others.
If you find that your load time isn’t as good as it should be, it’s important to try and figure out what the problem is. Graphics, images, and other multimedia files are often the cause of a slow website. If your website is heavy on these kinds of files, consider whether they are actually necessary. Remove any extraneous photos, videos, or pop up ads that aren’t needed or reduce the size of them to speed up the rendering process.
Another culprit of slow load time is when a website is poorly coded. If there is too much HTML information on a page it can really slow it down. As a website ages and is edited over time the code can get sloppy if it’s not in the hands of a professional. It’s a good idea to hire a consultant to look through the code and remove what’s not needed.
In today’s fast-paced culture, you will never thrive online if your website loads slowly. It results in a poor user experience and has a negative effect on a search engine ranking.