Does site speed matter for SEO?

Ever since Google has announced that page speed will be a new ranking factor, usability metrics have become tools for ranking pages for Google. Customer satisfaction is significantly related to the speed of your site, a fact that was backed by research which showed that improved site speed can increase user satisfaction conversions.

Data collected from different sites show an approximation of the equation used by Google to report if fast sites are relative to each other.

The equation y = 122.32e-0.31x , where X is the time your page takes to load in seconds along with the result and y is the approximate percentage of pages that your page is faster than, can be used to gauge your speed in comparison to other web pages.

The Web page Test is a preferred web interface can also be used to check the speed of your page and then monitor it continuously with the automated tracking tools of Show Slow.

Is site speed important?

It is important to increase site speed to improve users experience and improve conversion rates. The official blog post from Google that announced site speed to be a key factor said:

“While site speed is a new signal, it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. Currently, less than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal.”

This means that when other ranking signals are extremely close or the time taken to load a page is especially poor, site speed affects only the queries. Page speed may come into play in case of high relevancy scores earned by competing pages, and has close link metrics (that almost never happen).

However, this won’t affect the top 10. When seen, it will probably appear to be much lower than the top 10 in keyword ranking.

Improving your site speed

If your aim is to improve SEO, it would be prudent to first focus on building a link rather than putting all your efforts on speed – unless the speed of your site is exceptionally slow. Having said that, in order to improve user experience, speed is a metric that should be improved on.

Some best practices that you can follow to reduce your load time are:

  • HTTP requests should be minimized – When your pages won’t have to wait for too many HTTP requests, they will load much faster. In other words, reduce the number of items that need to be loaded like scripts, style sheets, images etc.
  • Instead of loading each page in the HTML of a page, all the CSS can be combined in an external file and linked to the main section which will cache the external page. This will, in turn, help it to load faster. Similarly, a Java script can be handled to get the best results
  • Whenever possible, try to use CSS sprites which will help combine several background images into one single image, thereby reducing the number of requests made for HTTP
  • Use optimized images for the web. Images can be easily optimized in Photoshop by simply choosing the ‘Save for web’ option instead of the ‘Save’ option. Optimizing images is a smart way of making the file smaller in size and easier to load
  • Using server side caching, which an HTML page, your URL is created which doesn’t need to build dynamic sites every time the URL is requested
  • Gzip can be used to significantly compress the page size. This is then sent to the browser which, in turn, uncompresses the information before displaying it to the user. Many sites can reduce the size of the file to more than 70% by using Gzip. GID Zip Test can be used to find out whether a site is using Gzip and exactly how much of the page has been reduced
  • Use a Content Delivery Network which helps your site to load faster by allowing users to download information in parallel. With the introduction of services like Amazon Cloud, Front CDNs have become more affordable
  • Try not to use 301 Redirects which force the browser to go to a new URL which then makes the browser wait for the HTTP request to return. Also avoid stacking 301s on top of each other

You can use tools like YSLOW and the HTML suggestion in Google webmaster. Both are great resources to get more suggestions specific to your website.

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