A lot of business owners I chat with are obsessed with the load speed of their websites. Typically, they've read an article about “the importance of site speed for SEO” which directed them to Google's Page Speed Testing Tool. They run their website address through the tool and end up with what seems to be a crap ‘score', supported by a long list of improvement recommendations just to add insult to injury. Suddenly, whatever other issues their website might have are well and truly ignored. They're determined that page speed is the sole reason their website doesn't rank and gets little traffic.
Don't confuse Google's search algorithm with website usability.
Don't get me wrong, I hate slow websites as much as anyone. But speed is a usability issue, not an SEO one.
A whole new industry has been built up around website speed. These ‘speed optimisation' companies have a commercial interest in scaring you into thinking your slow website is the cause of your lack of traffic. For most websites, this is far too simplistic a view.
This is a classic case of confusing Google's search algorithm with website usability. There is no doubt that a website that loads very slowly and is cumbersome to navigate will lead to a negative user experience. But its relative impact on SEO, and the site's ability to rank for keywords, will be minimal compared with other content signals.
This Reddit poster puts it succinctly:
It's more like a tie-breaker than anything else. It doesn't make sense to rank fast websites above slow ones if the slow one has more relevant content to the search query. If the content is equally as good then speed can come into play.
5 tips to improve your WordPress website load speed.
If you have a WordPress site, here are 5 things that will hugely improve your page load speed:
- Choose a well-coded, fast-loading theme, such as Kadence, Genesis, GeneratePress, or Shoptimizer (perfect for ecommerce sites).
- Switch from shared hosting to a dedicated WordPress hosting platform such as Flywheel or Cloudways.
- Stop uploading massive images to your site. Use free tools such as Pixlr to edit images or JPEG Optimizer to compress file size.
- Use a caching service such as Cloudflare, coupled with the Super Page Cache for Cloudflare plugin so your visitors can retrieve and view pages a lot quicker.
- Don't install unnecessary plugins for simple functionality ‘tweaks'. Use custom code snippets instead, many of which are available on BusinessBloomer.com and BillErickson.com.
If you follow the five bits of advice above, your website will load quickly and user-experience will improve, but it won't have a massive impact on your SEO performance.
How do you get to the top of Google rankings?
There are too many ranking ‘factors' to list on one page. Even if I did list them here, they wouldn't be a huge amount of use to you if you get the fundamentals wrong.
Putting it simply, you need to publish content that solves your audience's problems. The tricky bit is knowing what questions to answer, and how to publish better content than your competitors. I'll be publishing a detailed post on this in the coming weeks.