By Joseph Dyson
Page speed is one of Google’s ranking factors. Page speed is the time it takes your website to load on a desktop or a mobile phone. Different websites have varying page speeds depending on factors such as image optimization, file scripts, the web server being used, internet connection, browser, etc.
The page speed of each website is measured in seconds, and the less time it takes your website to load, the better user experience your customers will have. Studies show that about 53% of users will exit a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds for the page to load.
As an author, if your website doesn’t provide readers with a fast and quick experience, they’ll leave your site, thereby increasing the bounce rate and decreasing your SEO ranking on Google. If your website takes between 1 to 5 seconds to load, the chances of a user bouncing from your site increase by 90%.
To ensure readers interact and engage with the content on your website, authors need to do more than simply focus on the quality of the content they’re writing. While content quality is an important factor and allows websites to rank higher in Google, factors such as page speed also significantly affect the SEO ranking of a website.
After all, lightning-fast page speed amplifies reader engagement while slow web pages frustrate readers into seeking alternatives.
What is Page Speed?
Page speed is also called page load time; it’s the number of seconds your website takes to fully display its content for a particular page on the user’s mobile or desktop screen.
Page speed is also known as the time to the first byte. This term is used to measure your website’s time to present the first byte of information to the user.
For example, as a website developer, you can choose to run the longer scripts of your website at the end of the page load if they don’t contain important information that the user needs to see immediately. In this way, your website will load quickly and give the user the critical information they need while the rest of the script finishes loading. Many website developers use this trick to reduce the overall loading time of a website.
Make sure that the scripts you are loading afterward don’t contain any vital information, such as the main menu or the contact page, which the user might need to access immediately after opening a website.
Google has developed a tool called PageSpeed Insights, which scores a website between 0 to 100 depending on its page speed. You can use this tool to see how fast your website loads, but remember, this tool gives you a page score while the page speed is measured in seconds.
Here’s a screenshot of the webpage of PageSpeed Insights, where you can enter your website’s URL to get a score.
However, instead of chasing after a higher score out of 100, your aim should be to reduce your page loading time so that it doesn’t take more than 3 seconds for your website to load.
Let’s look at some of the metrics Google uses to decide which websites provide a good user experience and should be ranked higher in Google searches.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP is used to measure how long it takes before your website displays the largest rendered content that users can easily understand.
The largest content understandable by users could include an image, the main heading, or readable text on your webpage. If your website can load this content within 2.5 seconds, Google will consider your webpage as having higher quality and providing a better experience. This will automatically allow your website to score a higher SEO ranking.
Largest Contentful Paint is also known as First Meaningful Paint and is included in the performance or loading section of Google’s Core Web Vitals.
The Core Web Vitals are three score aspects of a quality website that Google measures to see whether the website provides a good user experience and determine its overall ranking. Apart from page loading, the other two Core Web Vitals include visual stability and interactivity.
First Meaningful Paint is measured in the number of seconds it takes for a website to render the fold’s main content. FMP tracks how long it takes for the content meaningful to the user to be visible on the webpage.
Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative Layout Shift is part of the visual stability core vital. It measures whether your website has unstable content. The score for Cumulative Layout Shift is calculated by adding shift scores across layouts, which occur late than 500ms after the user’s initial input.
Google uses the impact fraction and the distance fraction to calculate the Cumulative Layout Shift for each layout shift. Google suggests that each website should maintain a CLS score of less than 0.1.
If your score is below 0.1, then that means the content on your website is visually stable. Having better visual stability would mean that the content on the page isn’t moving without input from the user.
CLS score can be calculated by noting the visible shift of content on your website, which should be less than 0.1 distance in the viewport. The impacted elements should also be shifted less than this standard distance.
First Input Delay
The First Input Delay is a metric included in the interactivity core vitals. This user-centric metric measures load responsiveness and quantifies the user’s experience with a website.
When the user initiates an interaction with the website to the time it takes for the website to respond to that interaction is termed as First Input Delay.
A user’s interaction with a website could include any set of actions from clicking on a button, opening a link, using a custom option, scrolling through the main menu, going to another webpage, etc.
The lower a website’s First Input Delay, the better user experience it provides. A quality website should have a First Input Delay that’s less than 100 milliseconds.
If a First Input Delay is more than this recommended time, the user is likely to think your website is unresponsive and leave the page, contributing to increased bounce rate and reduced dwelling time. Both of these factors are part of Google’s algorithm to rank websites based on SEO practices.
Let’s look at some ways to increase page speed so your website can rank higher.
If files are above 150 bytes, they can be too bulky and load slowly, thereby increasing your page loading time.
You can use Gzip to compress files so that they can load faster when the user opens your website.
Image optimization can help reduce your page speed. Reduce image size ensures they’re not too big and don’t take too much time to load.
Another essential aspect to consider is the image file type. Image files in PNG format are useful for graphics that have less than 16 different colors. If you have photographs on your website, JPEG format will work better.
Additionally, make sure your images are compressed for the web. To compress images, don’t use a file compression software like Gzip, which will reduce its quality. Instead, reduce the size of images in an app like Photoshop so you can maintain its quality while decreasing the dimensions.
Use CSS sprites that will combine all the images you commonly use on your websites, such as logos and buttons into one large image that loads at once. This will reduce the number of HTTP requests and help your website load faster as multiple images are being loaded together.
Fewer Redirect Links
While link building is a critical SEO practice, too many links that redirect your user from one webpage to another can increase your page load time.
Whenever a user clicks on a redirecting link, they’ll have to wait for the HTTP request and response cycle to complete before they can visit the webpage they opened.
Having fewer redirect links will also help to reduce page speed and improve your SEO ranking.
Joseph Dyson is an expert at writing for websites that provide link building services and SEO services. He provides clients and owners of small businesses and startups with tips on ranking websites higher in Google searches and optimizing their webpages using SEO strategies.