Improving pagespeed has always been a crucial component for SEO, but lately it’s been in the news more than usual following the recent algorithm changes.

Now that the dust has settled on this Google update, is your site as fast as it should be?

Speed is a ranking factor

Website speed has been a ranking factor for years. However, in July 2018, a new Speed Update algorithm incorporated speed as a search ranking factor to the mobile search results:

Pagespeed announcement from search engine land

On the update, Google said the following:

‘Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches. Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.’

With speed now a crucial ranking factor in the Mobile First Index, it rests with webmasters to ensure their site speed is as fast as possible.

Related: Mobile-First Index: What It Is & How Not To Be Affected

Small load time equals big business

Ranking signals are not the only reason to focus your efforts on improving pagespeed.

Amazon calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year, and a Radware study showed an 8.3% increase in bounce rate and 9.4% decrease in page views for an increase of 1-second to a page load time.

A further Radware study from 2015 reported that for every one second of improvement, Walmart.com experienced up to a 2% conversion increase.

Web browser Firefox reduced their average page load time by 2.2 seconds, which amplified downloads by 15.4%. This then resulted in an estimated 10 million additional downloads per year.

Lastly, AutoAnything.com cut load times in half and experienced a 13% increase in sales.

Think With Google released the below data which shows just how much engagement can change with increasing page load time:

Think With Google data

They also shared further mobile speed test data:

  • 53% of mobile users will leave a page if it takes 3 seconds or more to load.
  • The average load time for a mobile website in 2018 is 15 seconds. That’s 7 seconds faster than in 2017.
  • 70% of the mobile landing pages analysed took more than 5 seconds for the visual content to display.
  • 53% of mobile URLs are larger than 2 MB.

Ensuring your pagespeed is as fast as possible has never been more important. But how can you measure it? And, crucially, how can you improve it?

Measuring pagespeed

When you want to check website speed, it is important to get as much data and as many opinions as possible, as figures can often fluctuate between each website speed test.

There is, of course, the Google recommended Pagespeed Insights tool, but why stop there? We suggest looking at additional third-party platforms for a more well-rounded data set.

Below we will go through and discuss some distinctions and benefits of three platforms we recommend; Google Pagespeed Insights, GT Metrix and Pingdom.

Google Pagespeed Insights

The Google Pagespeed Insights Tool is probably the most recognised page speed test tool. Google calculates their pagespeed score by ‘incorporating data from the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) to display real-world performance data about a page’.

As for the Optimisation Score, PageSpeed Insights ‘evaluates how well a page follows common performance best practices and computes a score from 0-100 that estimates its performance headroom’.

As a result, PageSpeed Insights can show easy-to-understand data for assessing the page load speed of your website:

Google Pagespeed Insights screen shot

Not only that, but PageSpeed Insights also shows clear suggestions and fixes for you to improve your page speed and Optimization score:

Google Pagespeed optimisation suggestions

The straightforward user interface, clear recommendations and Google affiliation make the PageSpeed Insights tool a clear first stop for assessing pagespeed.

However, as discussed above, limiting yourself to one site speed test platform will hinder your data and opportunities to improve.

GT Metrix

GT Metrix is the first of our additional platforms we suggest looking at. It neatly calculates your pagespeed performance based off several key indicators of page load speed and analyses your page with Google PageSpeed and Yahoo! YSlow rulesets which shows data on Page Load Time, Total Page Size and Total Number of Requests:

GT Metrix Screen Shot

GT Metrix also offers significantly more data at your speed assessing fingertips than PageSpeed Insights.

The Waterfall data, for example, displays the request-by-request loading behaviour of your website. This shows every script, media file, and/or third-party resource your page requests:

GT Metrix Waterfall Chart

This additional area to consider is a neat example of why more data on our web speed test can lead to more optimisation opportunities.

Pingdom

Pingdom is next and uses more than 70 global polling locations to test and verify website speeds. The tool shows page size, no. of requests and relates your sites speed against other Pingdom tests, giving you an insightful comparison score from across several websites:

Pingdom Screen Shot

It also allows you to save each test, so you can review how your score has changed once recommendations have been implemented.

Pingdom offers similar performance insights to PageSpeed Insights and GT Metrix, but also breaks down the data with content size by type or domain and requests by content type or domain:

Pingdom content size screen shot

This can help you quickly identify which resources are affecting pagespeed the most and which external domains could be dragging the score down.

Improving pagespeed

We offer a full Pagespeed Audit which looks at a wide variety of areas for improvement. Today I’m going to show you just a handful of condensed recommendations from that audit to show you some quick wins.

If you are interested in a full Pagespeed Audit, then get in touch.

Server response time

Server response time measures how long it takes to load the necessary HTML to begin rendering the page from your server. There are several reasons why your server response time could be slow, from slow database queries to memory starvation.

Google suggests that you should be aiming to reduce your server response time to under 200ms.

Take a look at Google’s advice or see GT Metrix’s useful visual representation.

Combine external JavaScript and CSS files

If pages serve JavaScript files and CSS files, combining them could be an effective way to improve pagespeed.

Multiple JavaScript files should be combined into as few JavaScript files as possible. The same advice stands for CSS.

Often files get left in code when they no longer add any functionality to the website. If this is the case, they should be reviewed and removed. Even if they don’t add functionality, they add bulk for browsers to download.

Read Google’s tips and advice.

Image compression

Oversized images can use up a sizeable chunk of crawl budget, which is a waste as several images can often be further compressed without a visible loss in image quality.

This will help the website’s load speed, as well as making images more likely to show up in Google’s Image Search results.

To avoid loss in quality, images should be compressed from the original file where possible.

Google’s image optimisation checklist is a fantastic resource to use.

These three quick recommendations should help you on your pagespeed way and give your site some fast improvements following the July 2018 algorithm update.

If all of this seems a bit overwhelming though, speak to us to discuss our complete Pagespeed Audit and see how your site scores!