Search Engine Optimization and Website Speed
By: Daniel Jeffers, Elizabeth Navas - 2017
Website speed will is the hidden factor that can bring you up short even if you get everything else right. The small business owner who does their own website can get away with not focusing too much on SEO if they create good content, well organized, use proper titles and tags, and just don’t do try to trick the search engines.
This approach can get them most of the way there, but that last factor, the one that sinks more small business websites than any other, is site loading speed. It’s natural to wait for your own content to load so it is hard to understand how excruciating it is for someone else to have to sit there for three or four seconds, waiting.
Slow loading websites are the death of good search engine optimization. They also kill user experience and drive visitors away. Google introduced the site speed ranking factor in 2010. In 2011 they introduced tools to help webmasters improve this characteristic. This suggests that site speed is a very important factor, as there are not tools for the other 199 or so ranking factors.
Why does Google care about how fast your website loads? Why not just focus on whether the content is relevant?
Google is committed to providing users answers to their search queries that are not only good answers, but a good user experience as well. Modern web users don’t wait for a website to load. They no longer have the patience to sit there and wait, not when there may be a similar site that will give them what they need more quickly. Commonly cited figures are that 47% of users say they expect a website to load within 2 seconds, and 40% will actually leave if it takes more than 3. The difference is more than just patience, however. Users have learned to attribute qualities such as credibility, authority, and professionalism to faster loading websites.
Speed matters at every stage of the process. Ecommerce sites have identified page loading speed as the leading cause of shopping cart abandonment as well. Overall, speed issues can cost a lot. Amazon has done tests and concluded that if it’s overall website speed increased by one second, they would lose 1.6 billion dollars per year.
Slow loading websites are also easy for the owner to overlook. Even we set out to be critical of our own work, there is a gap in our readiness to do so that can easily extend over the load time. Also, we may not realize that, if we have been to a website many times, images and files may be cached in our browser, so the site will load more quickly for us than for most.