Why is speed so important for SEO?

There is an ongoing debate in the SEO community over which is the most important factor for SEO. Some would argue that it is site speed – and you don’t have to think for very long to understand why this is likely the case. Forget your experience of the internet as a marketer. Instead, think about your experience of the internet as a user.
We all expect websites to be lightning fast, even on a sluggish mobile phone, on a train while going through a tunnel, while also streaming music. Slow websites frustrate us, probably as much as broken websites, or advert heavy pages – and this is the crux of the matter.

Mobile first indexing and site speed

Since 2018, Google has been publicising the fact that mobile page speed is a ranking factor. And this was quickly followed by the announcement that Google would shift to mobile first indexing. This is set to be completed by September 2020.
With more users accessing the internet on a mobile device, it makes sense that Google would prioritise a shift to a mobile first approach. But we understand this can be confusing for B2B companies.
When you sell industrial cooling equipment, you can feel pretty confident the majority of your website traffic will be from a desktop during the nine to five window. No one is on their phone on a Friday night, idly browsing your process cooling design services. So why do you even need a mobile website?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you rarely see traffic from a mobile device. You still need a mobile website, and it needs to be fully optimised to be lightning fast.

Difference between site speed and page speed

Before we go any further, it’s worth looking at the difference between site speed and page speed. Site speed refers to the speed at which your website loads as users navigate through it. It covers to the moment they land on the website to when they finally convert, either through a purchase or an enquiry.
Page speed refers to the load speed for specific pages on your website. If Google has the choice between showing a search engine user a website that loads in two seconds and one that loads in 18 seconds, guess which one it will prioritise? This is why checking the page speed of your most valuable landing pages could help to boost your rankings.
You can improve your site speed as a whole by making changes to the way your website functions. Or you can optimise page by page, ensuring a fast user experience on your most important pages.

Website speed matters for user experience

Your website could solve every single one of your customer’s problems, but if it doesn’t load fast enough, they won’t stick around to find out. User experience is a broad discipline, but website speed is crucial to getting this right.
If a user lands on your website and finds a sluggish site that won’t load, they will click straight back to the SERP and try the next site. Google and other search engines will take this as a signal that your user experience is poor and needs to be improved. Your site will slowly drop down the rankings, replaced by other sites which offer a faster experience.

What influences page speed?

It’s not just the content on your website that decides how fast your site loads. If your website is sluggish, it could be the result of the following factors:

  • Server speed. Do you have a dedicated server or a shared server? A shared server will share resources and can leave your website sluggish and slow.
  • File types and sizes. The way your website is built will have a huge impact on your website speed. Large, bulky websites will take a lot longer to load to streamlined sites.
  • Plugins. Every plugin will add more code to your website, which can slow it down.
  • Traffic volume. Does your website have enough bandwidth to cope with the traffic?

How can you check website speed?

There are a few free tools you can use to check your website speed.

  • Google PageSpeed Insights allows you to check your website performance on desktop and mobile. It will present you with a score out of 100 and suggestions for how you can improve your website load speed.
  • Pingdom allows you to test from different locations in the world. At peak times, you may need to wait in line for your test results.
  • Uptrends will allow you to adjust the parameters of your test, so you can see how fast your site loads on desktop and mobile on different browsers with or without bandwidth throttling.