In 2019, page speed is going to be more important than ever before. Users expect pages to load quickly and will click away from any page that doesn’t. A high bounce rate will negatively affect your website’s search rankings as Google’s RankBrain notices the trend of users bouncing and will adjust your rankings down accordingly. Great content and excellent SEO won’t matter if your site is slow enough to drive users away.
In July of 2018, Google released an update to its algorithm that added page speed to the ranking factors for mobile web searches. Page speed has been included in the ranking factors for some time, but only really mattered for desktop searches in the past. Now that Google is rolling out its Mobile First Indexing and more users than ever before search on mobile devices, the main focus will be on mobile indexing. Making sure your website is optimized for speed on both desktop and mobile platforms will be vital.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Google, fortunately, provides a handy resource for checking your website’s page speed score. Google PageSpeed Insights is easy to use. Enter the URL of your page into the box, then click the Analyze button. Google will then analyze your page for speed and provide insights into its data, diagnostics, and opportunities (listed below) for where your page can improve.
Don’t Use Redirects
Redirects can slow down page rendering. Even the fastest redirects involve adding an HTTP request-response to the rendering process. At worst, redirects can add many request-responses for DNS lookup, TLS negotiation, and TCP handshakes. Google’s recommendation is to avoid any unnecessary redirects. If redirects must be used (for example when a URL has changed), there are several types that are recommended:
- 301 Redirect – a permanent redirect
- 302 Redirect – a temporary redirect
- HTTP Redirect – this type of redirect can slow down rendering on the server side
Speed Up Server Response Time
If the server response time for your page is longer than 200 ms, then you may run the risk of an increased bounce rate. Users, especially those on mobile devices, will leave a page if it has not loaded within three seconds. To improve your page’s server response time, use a free online tool to diagnose anything on your site that might be slowing it down:
The smaller the size of your page’s content, the fast it can load. If there are elements on your page that can be compressed but that aren’t, then addressing this will speed up your page significantly. Also, make sure that any unnecessary content is removed from the page.
Minify Your Resources
Use Browser Caching
Browser caching allows browsers to save and reuse responses to website content. Without caching, a browser would have to contact the website and load everything on it in full each time a user access the site. While first-time visits would still necessitate a full load, browsers can cache much of this data and reuse it so that future visits to the site load much more quickly.
Render Visible Content First
Make sure that the content that will be visible on the page is prioritized in the page rendering process. If there is some content that requires multiple round trips to load, the most important content, or the main content of the page, should be prioritized. That way, users can see the most important information first and may not even notice a delay in rendering the rest of the page.
Images and other visual files often make up to 60% of the resources on a web page. Large image files can significantly slow down page render speed, so it’s important to optimize images to reduce the file size without affecting image quality. Google provides a checklist that you can use to optimize your images:
- Minify and compress graphics
- Use vector images
- Scale images
- Remove any unnecessary metadata
- Reduce quality where possible
- Choose the best format for your site
- Automate the optimization process
Follow Google’s Suggestions
The first step to improving your page speed should always be to check your sign on Google’s PageSpeed Insights. The results will show you exactly which of these improvements you need to make. Because most web search traffic goes through Google, optimizing your page speed with Google in mind is a good step towards improving your bounce rate and keeping users on your site for longer, thereby improving your page rankings overall.