A well-performing site should satisfy two goals – it should be search engine friendly and be a pleasure for people to visit. Both have an impact on how successful your site is and ultimately how many people will visit and stay on your site. A well-performing site helps the search engines and, as a result, people find your site, directly impacting your bottom line. But how do you know if your site is deemed well-performing by search engines? Search engines measure the quality of content on your site and how relevant and popular your site is – rewarding the worthy by placing them among the top of the coveted search engine list for your potential customers to find you. The key is to know how to make sure that your site is optimized for search engines to locate you.
In a recent blog, we discussed content SEO, the impact that website content has on search engine rankings and how you can produce content that can help your rankings. Now we will discuss another component of SEO – performance, or website speed SEO, and how the performance of your website can determine SEO rankings and ultimately control the number of customers and conversion from your site.
There are a number of contributing factors in website speed SEO. Since Google made the announcement that page speed will be used in rankings, the public is taking performance and speed more seriously. (We’ll use Google when discussing search engines, as they make up 70 percent of the search market.) The jury is still out in regards to how much speed contributes to Google rankings; apparently page speed impacts only 1 percent of search queries. Regardless of how much Google takes speed into consideration when determining your rank, it is still an important factor. Why? There is a direct correlation between performance speed and conversion rates.
A well-performing website will make visitors more willing to spend time on your site and, as a result, more likely to purchase from you. A poor user experience will likely make them leave your site without purchasing from you. As we know, 47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40 percent of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Nonetheless, the speed of your website and website performance will have a direct impact on how successful your site will be in general and with search engines.
What’s at Risk?
If your site takes more than three seconds to load and 40 percent of your visitors are abandoning your site and shopping elsewhere, what sort of impact will these customers have on your sales? It’s not only the immediate transaction that you are losing, but also the potential repeat purchases and referrals of this potential lifetime customer.
A one second delay can cost you 7 percent of sales. If you run an ecommerce site that does $2 million dollars a year in sales, a one second delay can mean $140,000 in lost revenue a year. This isn’t taking into consideration the lost revenue of being missed by the search engines and not being found by potential customers.
How is Website Speed SEO Measured?
For simplicity’s sake, let’s determine that performance SEO is ultimately the time it takes your website to load: i.e., how fast your website is. How is your performance measured? There are a number of factors:
- Time to First Byte (TTFB): How long the first byte of data takes to return after the client page request is made.
- Full Page Render: When the page is fully loaded and all required rendering is complete.
- Headless Browser Render: Essentially, this is the same as above, except no actual render is displayed.
- Critical Render Path: When everything in the initial device viewport is rendered — everything “above the fold.”
Why Do You Need to Know This?
It’s a good idea to know how performance is measured and what you should be looking for, but what’s more important is what is causing poor performance and how you can improve it so you can maximize SEO and Web performance.
What Are the Culprits of Poor SEO Performance?
What is causing your site to perform poorly? Here are some likely culprits that may be slowing your site down and impacting SEO:
- Irrelevant website pages – Duplicate pages that can cause content issues.
- Website crawlability – Incorrect use of Robots.txt — errors in the website’s crawling directives can block search engines entirely. Robots.txt should allow search engines to crawl and index your pages while restricting some pages.
- Title and Meta Description – Do they contain your keywords? They should!
- Broken links – Fix them so Google doesn’t punish you.
- Poor links – Search engines can’t understand poor link structure and search engines can’t access the website’s content.
- Page load speed – The more time it takes to load your site, the worse your user experience is, which will hurt your site rankings.
- Website inner links – The more links a webpage contains, the more it will decrease the speed.
- Hidden content – The content on online forms can be hidden from the search engines.
How Can You Measure Performance SEO?
There are a number of tools that you can use to determine what your website performance is like, what may be impacting website speed SEO and how you can fix the issues:
- Google Page Speed Insights – Page Speed Insights measures the performance of a page for mobile devices and desktop devices. The program also measures how the page can improve its performance on time to above-the-fold load and time to full-page load
- Page Speed – Evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
- YSlow – Recommends ways to improve website speed.
- Webpagetest – Shows pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.
- Google Webmaster Tools – Shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world.
Some Food for Thought
- If your site loads in 5 seconds it is faster than approximately 25% of the Web.
- If your site loads in 2.9 seconds it is faster than approximately 50% of the web.
- If your site loads in 1.7 seconds it is faster than approximately 75% of the web.
- If your site loads in 0.8 seconds it is faster than approximately 94% of the web.
How Can You Make Your Website More Search Engine Friendly?
Once you have an idea of what is holding your back your Web performance and impeding your SEO, there are tips you can use to improve your performance. Try the following steps to help improve your website’s performance and increase your search engine rankings.
Do you have redirects sending visitors from one page to another page or URL? If so, this can be slowing down your site. Each time a page redirects to another page, your site takes longer to load. It also takes search engines longer to find, recognize and credit the new URL. Eliminate too many or unnecessary redirects.
Leverage Browser Caching
If you have a media-rich website, your assets may be weighing your site down. Possible culprits include:
- Multi-media content
- Embedded media like videos, widgets and third-party media
- Flash is bulky and isn’t compatible with several mobile devices
Remember that any third-party content will cause the server to load from the content’s original site and this will cause your site to load slowly. Limit the items above when necessary.
Images can be a culprit because the better the quality, the larger the file size. But there are tricks to ensure that your images are optimized and aren’t any larger than they have to be. Tips include:
- Don’t let your browser resize the images for you.
- Ensure that your images are in the right format (PNG – graphics, JPG – photographs) and that they are compressed for the Web.
- Allow the webpage to defer images, which will allow the webpage to be displayed without waiting for the image to load.
- Use SpriteMe or CSS sprites to create a template for images that you use frequently on your site, like buttons and icons. CSS sprites combine your images into one large image that loads all at once.
Use a Content Distribution Network
If you are global and have customers who are dispersed geographically visiting your site, use a content distribution network. With a CDN, your site will be stored at multiple, geographically diverse data centers so that users in different regions have faster and more reliable access to your site.
Reduce Non-Text Content
Important content should be in HTML. Search engines tend to ignore images, Flash and Java. Some tips to address this issue are:
- Provide alt text for images – Assign images in gif, jpg, or png format. “Alt attributes” in HTML give search engines a text description of the visual content.
- Supplement Flash and Java with text on the page.
- Provide a transcript for all video and audio clips.
Utilize Your Links
Search engines analyze the popularity of the website, and that is done through analysing what trustworthy sites you are linked to and, better yet, which are linked to you. To ensure that you are maximizing your linking potential, integrate the following:
- Have a clear hierarchy of text links
- Link to well-established and popular platforms
- Don’t link to spam
- Keep your links relevant and fresh
- Get people to link to you
- Get trusted organizations to link to you – i.e., government, universities and charitable organizations
- Only talk about relevant, valuable information
- Start a blog
- Share your content on social media
Utilize Search Engine Tools
Use tools to exchange information with the search engines.
- Robots.txt – Indicates the location of a website’s sitemap, prevents robots from accessing pages that aren’t required and indicates the speed at which a robot can crawl a server.
- Meta Robots – Creates page-level instructions for search engine bots.
- Sitemaps – Hints for the search engine on how to crawl a site and types of content on a site.
- Rel= no follow – Allows the link to a resource removing vote for search engine purposes.
Hire an SEO Expert!
SEO can be complex, so if you aren’t comfortable with it, hire someone who is. With both content and website speed SEO done right, you’ll have better brand awareness, increased traffic and a larger ROI for your company. If you are unsure of how to maximize your site for SEO, give us a shout, we would love to help. Contact us today to learn more about how Total Product Marketing can help you with your content and website speed SEO.