The Deal with Website Speed and SEO

Mobile devices will be used more and more to access the Internet rather than desktop computers.  People want to check information when the thought hits them, and the mobile smartphone is almost always close to hand for the better part of the day.

Also increasing is the demand for faster load times of websites on mobile devices.  The average load time of websites is said to be three seconds; anything longer than that may be considered slow by most people.  Studies have shown that e-commerce sites stand to lose money when web pages load slowly.

Many tech companies increasingly are concerned with how to improve website speed, including Google.  The search engine giant has launched a new algorithm that takes speed into consideration for ranking web pages.  This makes it even more important for website owners to start minding their speed to stay abreast with the fast-paced changes in the market.

What’s Weighing Down Your Page

Page load time is made up of the front-end (the user) and the server-side factors.  Both factors are involved in the downloading of a page and the page speed.  One cannot exist without the other; their sequential actions make up the total page load time.

Figure I.  Page Load Time (Retrieved from Why is my page slow?  GTmetrix Performance Blog, Feb. 23, 2017.)

The figure above shows the process of loading a website page.  It all starts with a request to generate the page, which the server responds to, and is measured as the page generation time.  The waiting time for the first graphic element to manifest is called time to first byte (TTFB) and is normally kept under one second.

The factors that slow down a website page may be grouped into two categories: inefficient code or SQL and slow server.

Inefficient Coding

SQL is a language for communicating with databases.  Websites use codes and the number that you use will depend on the complexity of your page.  When page sites also include unnecessary codes, however, the extraneous and excess ones will just slow it down.

Slow Server

Each website is unique in its makeup.  There are many website hosting companies, each of which has its own unique hardware and software components.  Solutions for speeding up the server response depend on factors such as optimization of code, RAM, bandwidth, software, and other hardware components.

Old Hardware

Of course, it cannot be denied that your computer or gadget also can be the reason why the page generation time is slow.  If you are using older versions of OS or web browser, or your hardware is old, your download speed will suffer.  Code and data are ever-changing and will have difficulty working with outdated technology.  On top of all these, your router or cable will affect your internet connection speed and so the download time of website pages.

Heavy Website Traffic

There is also the possibility for spikes in website traffic to cause a slowdown in page download time.  At times, the bandwidth is no longer enough for all the website visitors to be accommodated efficiently.  Bandwidth is the data that can be sent within a set timeframe.  If the bandwidth is not matched to the level of website traffic, there will be a slowdown in the website download time.

Heavy Files

In addition, bulky and inappropriate files on your website—such as too large graphics files—also could be reasons for slowing down the page.  The right resolution size must be used for the website to perform optimally.

How Page Speed Affects SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) has become so important nowadays as millions of people turn to digital media for almost everything.  With so much information available online, there is a lot of competition to get your page ranked among the top 10 by search engines.

To ensure that pages are easily located, digital denizens have made use of tools such as Google Search Console—Search Analytics, Mobile Usability—and the like.  Of particular interest to digital marketers is Search Analytics because it helps them find the best words to use to rank higher in search results.  Last July saw a new twist in SEO as Google incorporated page speed in ranking websites.

Google is now focusing more on mobile SEO with its mobile-first indexing.  This measures ranking by the quality of the mobile site rather than the desktop version.  Blame it all on the fact that people grab their mobile first when they want to know something on the internet.  More and more, people are veering away from the desktop and turning to the handier mobile gadgets.

Despite the use of the Speed Update, Google has explained that only those with ultra slow sites will be affected.  It introduced the PageSpeed Insights Tool to give people an insight on how their page is performing and what they may do to improve it.

How to Speed Up Your Page

Do not get disheartened when you finally do get the report on your website’s page performance.  Remember, if it is not up to par right now, you can always improve it.  Some ways to speed up your page include:

Optimize Images or Use Lower Resolution Images

While high-resolution images are a delight to look at, they are not always needed for your website.  Choose an optimal resolution size that will be easy for your website bandwidth and RAM to support.  Use the image resolution size your hardware, software, and hosting service are able to support.

Invest in an Appropriate Hosting Service

The first step is to know what you want to achieve with your website page and how much traffic you anticipate it will have within a certain timeframe.  Knowing the necessary information will help you choose the right website hosting company for yourself.

Activate AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open source project of Google.  While it has not performed so well, Google is pushing for people to use it.  Recently, it has been found to power big sites successfully.  Find out what it may do for your site.

Use HTTP/2

HTTP/2 is the newer version of HTTP used by most browsers.  It is now faster and has reduced the number of requests for files.  Other processes HTTP/2 removed are image sprites, domain sharding, and inlining of JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

Switch to PHP 7

WordPress uses a language called PHP, which has version 5.2 in use since 2011.  It is highly recommended to use the modern language of PHP 7 to make sure your WordPress site is fast and secure.

Critical Rendering Path

Optimizing the critical rendering path means the most important above-the-fold elements will load first and fast and will definitely improve the first render of the pages.  The figure below shows how optimized rendering looks like vis a vis the rendering that is not optimized.

Figure II.  Optimized Rendering (Critical Rendering Path) (Retrieved from Grigorik, Ilya. Critical Rendering Path. Google Developers, Web Fundamentals.)

Keep Your Redirects in Check

Redirects are done when the developer redirects a URL due to a deleted page, a switch to a new domain, or even a change in the URL structure.  While these are useful and aimed at enabling your audience to always find you, these may also slow down the website page when it is not done properly.

There are tools that may help manage redirects to keep them in check.  Check out the tools and get only the ones that you need and are useful.

Reduce Above the Fold Content

The amount above the fold should typically be 14.6 kb compressed.  Going beyond that amount of data will require more round trips between your browser and the server.  There are ways to minimize above the fold content such as structuring the HTML to load the important above the fold content first, and by simply minimizing the data used by your resources.

Optimize the Use of Your Browser Cache

The browser on your computer stores files from websites.  If you allow the use of browser cache, there will be lesser load time for websites.  Even Google recommends a minimum of one week for cache time.  In observing this, the websites you frequently visit will not have to load the whole thing again and again within the one-week timeframe.

Keeping it Light and Fast

Websites are the means by which individuals and businesses make their activities known to the world at large.  It has become the medium of choice, such that advertisement spending for digital media by large companies has greater than ad spending on television.

The increasing importance of keeping an online presence should be accompanied by best practices in digital media.  Part of this is to keep abreast with the means with which you will capture the attention of the market.

Website speed is now an increasingly important factor that will determine whether a company will keep the attention of its target market or not.  Fortunately, there are many ways to ensure speed and efficiency that will make your website stand out.

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