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The Site Speed and SEO Connection

From ProBlogger SEO expert Jim Stewart of Bloggers SEO

Last year the Australian retailer Booktopia gave a presentation where they shared that speeding up their page load times by 1 second, equated to an extra $600,000 on the bottom line.

Today, speed matters. Turning your blog into a highly optimised, relevant, platform takes time. Fortunately, SEO has shortened the distance between blog owner and reader. In 2017, users will ‘reject’ websites that don’t stack up, speed-wise. While acceptable load page times range from .5 seconds to four seconds, most support a 1.5-second load time for continuous success.

Today’s top 20 websites have lead times under this at less than one second, and they’re only getting faster. So, how can you make your site rank higher, perform faster, and remain popular? SEO, still, is the answer. It’s also an incredibly reliable one.

Speed and SEO: What’s the Connection?

The Googlebot crawls sites independently, judging their worth based upon several factors. Of these factors, site speed is the easiest to control. Speed, itself, is derived from the time it takes between site clicks and views. If your website is fully optimised, it’ll take only half of a second to load. Google research suggests that pages can lose as much as 40 percent of traffic when they take over three seconds to load; a powerful SEO option is unbeatable. Simply put; you need to clear your database—and often. Having a fast database will speed up the site. There are many quality WordPress database cleaners available. I recommend the rvg database optimiser plugin that is a simple ‘One-click’ WordPress database cleaner and optimiser that assists you in crucial tasks such as deleting old posts, optimising database tables, and creating optional log-files.

How Can You Measure Speed?

Because speed is an all-important website factor, it’s important to check it often. You can use Google PageSpeed Insights, entering your page’s URL to check its response speed. Once it’s been analysed, you’ll be presented with a page report. This report assesses your page and delivers a rating out of 100, taking into account factors such as user experience, and makes suggestions for faster speeds. Each recommendation is clickable, linking you to additional advice. You can also use Google Search Console’s Crawl Stats report. Under crawl stats, you will see a green line graph. This is the average speed it takes the Googlebot to download a page. Try to get this under an average of 500ms.

Further Optimisation

Once you have your SEO plan, optimised the database, and have created a speed benchmark, you should further boost your site’s speed by making sure you have a good workflow for optimising images. So many blogs upload huge images when they don’t need to. Make sure the images you upload have a resolution no larger than what they need to be displayed. I have seen thumbnail images on a webpage that were huge files just because they were not re-sized before upload. With images, you can also use compression plugins such as WP Smush that will compress the files once you have uploaded them.

Render Blocking

When you use PageSpeed Insights, you’ll most likely see a reference to “render-blocking.” This is referring to code that is stopping the page from rendering until it has been executed. Usually JavaScript but CSS as well. Often these can be moved in the code, say to the footer, so that the user gets to see the page quickly and then the JavaScript does its thing in the background.

Hosting

There are many ways of optimising your page’s speed. That said, few come close to the power of hosting your WordPress site with WP Engine. They offer today’s best-in-class customer service, which is vital to website upkeep. WP Engine is built on EverCache, an architecture that creates reliable, scalable sites. Remember: Your site’s visitors are an impatient bunch. If your site loads slowly, they’ll seek business elsewhere. The EverCache platform helps sites run up to six times faster, using effective front-end technology. All WP Engine users benefit from the enterprise-grade software capable of continuously improving a website.

A Step Above the Rest

Note: We’re hearing a lot of very good things about WPEngine if you’re looking for hosting of an established site with more traffic (or want to position yourself for that in the future). They are more expensive but, as WordPress specialists, they are doing some great things for bloggers. Use ProBlogger's partner link and you’ll get 2 months free when you sign up for an annual plan.

WP Engine is also designed for completely scalable WordPress hosting. Its proprietary, front-end build operates upon a slew of carefully designed rules. Each rule is continuously checked for maximum performance, so you don’t need to worry about outdated solutions. Offering one of the best caching mechanisms available, WP Engine also reduces server load. Really, it’s a win-win situation in terms of boosting speed. By being instantly accessible while handling high concurrent traffic numbers, WP Engine isn’t only one of the fastest-working options around—it’s one of the most reliable.

At the end of the day, your website’s speed will determine its memorability, popularity, and use. Forty seven percent of consumers, in fact, expect a web page to load in under two seconds.

About Jim Stewart
Jim Stewart, CEO of BloggersSEO, is a recognised digital marketing expert. Jim is ProBlogger’s SEO expert and will share his vast SEO knowledge to equip you with the systems and skills to optimise and monetise your blog using tried and tested techniques. What Jim doesn’t know about SEO and blogging isn’t worth knowing.
  • No denying speed plays a monster role in getting your SEO game in order Jim. I feel it’s just Google mirroring back what folks want; a quick-loading site. Which is why Google is so darn good at what they do. They think like the average web searcher and then, build their entire campaign around that person.

    I did – or my designer did – a complete site overhaul about a year ago. First and foremost was getting the speed thing popping with a new theme. I also nabbed a CDN to speed things up, crunch images and remain mindful of not going bananas with images and video. I use enough to appeal with eye candy but not so much to distract folks or to bog my site down.

    Neat note I found as of late; even though I have never used ads I discovered how ad usage really slows things down. Guessing that html rendering through a 3rd party can muck things up. Another reason why I do not use ads at all, in addition to the brand-diluting crap and all the other downsides of using precious blog real estate to host anything other than stuff aligned 100% with your brand.

    I’d also add if you know something about site speed do hire or at least befriend someone who does. You can learn a bunch but if your heart ain’t in it and your talents are best served elsewhere….well…..serve folks elsewhere ;)

    Hand the job off to an expert. Speed things up. Make your readers happy. Make Google happy.

    Hosting is perhaps the biggest factor. You can get all ducks lined in a row save hosting and fall flat on your face, speed-wise. I recall using a big box host who obviously overloaded servers many years ago. A-OK when I went with the service nearly a decade back. Over the years, the service became crappier, with overloading of servers and high down times and really, it was a terrible experience. Site speed? Snail-like.

    I switched to a premium host with a premium service. My blog has been super fast for the past 3 years and stays up virtually all of the time, minus a hiccup here or there.

    Hosting makes that much of a difference. Pay the 10 or 20 bucks a month to speed things up and to keep your site up. Leave those 3 dollar a month deals behind. At least if you want to be a pro blogger.

    Super reminder in this post.

    Signing off from Thailand.

    Ryan

    • excellent advice!

    • DNN

      Ryan,

      I just tried to comment on your blog and I am blocked. What happened?

  • hello jim

    i want to tell one interesting this about speed and seo. 3 month ago one of my main keyword was ranking on 2 page and my blog speed is not good so i implement some cache plugin and try CDN and after 1 week my keyword move from 2nd to 1 page without any backlink .

    i think is new king in seo

    • Common misconception is rankings on search engines by keywords. people should definitely understand it’s based off each keyword you select as far as I understand (Correct me if I’m wrong). So if you’re ranked 1st on google for one keyword and another shows you third I would rethink your keywords you use or improve the way you are attracting clicks to your keyword.

  • Hello Jim,

    Website speed is no doubt a key factor in SEO. Google and even users like the site that load faster. You have clearly mention here how to increase the page speed by simple tricks. Great post. I really like it.

  • Speeding up a site has a lot to do with SEO. It enhances search engine visibility minimizes bounce rate leaves a good impression on user as well as on search engines.
    If someone is fed-up of long page loading time then instead of directly coming to the conclusion of switching their hosting services, there is a lot of other things that one needs to do before coming to this big conclusion.
    There are lots of plugins out there to improve your loading time and solve your problems as Jim rightly mentioned the few like WP Smush (compress the images), rvg database optimizer (database cleaner). Clearing the cache of your website through plugins and of the server side can also serve the purpose. Apart from this fixing crawl issues can also make a great impact on loading time. Most of the site suffer from render-blocking java script and CSS script identifying and removing them can give a great boost to your site.

  • HI Jim,

    Great tips for boosting your site load time. I am always working on improving my site load time. One of the first things I do is I optimize every image that I load first using Tiny.png before I upload them to my site.

    Once they are on my site, I’ll use the WP Smush plugin to help me optimize my images more. This has seemed to help keep my load time at a decent time. Although I am sure that I could still use some of fixes to help me improve the speed time.

    I recently switched to SiteGround when I started my blog. I am extremely happy with their service and haven’t had to worry about downtime or anything else.

    As the blog continues to grow, I may end up switching to WP Engine. I’ve dealt with them through my freelancing clients. They do provide great service and have great uptime.

    I think choosing the right hosting account plays a huge part in growing a successful blog. Most new bloggers are always looking for the cheapest hosting account. However, we usually get what pay for.

    Thanks for sharing these tips and I hope you have a great day :)

    Susan

  • I’ve been having great results with WP Engine. I would also recommend the WP Rocket plugin which is now compatible with WP Engine. That way you get script minification and concatenation along with lazy loading.

    In case anyone isn’t familiar with these terms, minification is a method of compressing files. It will usually shave a few kb off of Javascript and CSS files. Concatenation means combining files. Every file your site loads requires another HTTP request and in generalm the more HTTP requests, the longer loading takes. In other words, combining three files into one will speed up your site. Lastly, lazy loading will make the browser wait to load the image until it is in the screen or just about to enter the screen. This is extremely helpful for those long posts with tons of images in them.

    Besides WP Rocket, I would recommend the MinQueue plugin for minification/concatention, and a3 Lazy Load for lazy loading images.

    Effective hosting and caching sets a great foundation for your site, and these three techniques optimize your file delivery which can help a lot once you have that foundation.

  • Nice Article. Site ranking also depend on speed and amazing Google tool is suggested by you. Thanks

  • wow I didn’t know this earlier that speed plays an important part in SEO but now I know that it is also an important factor. This article is very knowledgeable and interesting. I found this article very important and every one who do SEO should know about this.
    Thanks Jim Stewart for sharing this amazing information .

  • Hello Jim, Excellent article. And yes Google Pagespeed Insights report gives a good starting point for optimizing the speed of a website. Will checkout WPEngine.

  • Hi Jim, love your article. I agree that site speed is definitely crucial and having Google PageSpeed Insights is very important to let you know if your site hasn’t been optimised as well as it can be.

  • Great post-Jim, it’s the bain of my life. You work hard on page speed to the point that it becomes an irritating constant on my mind.

    But you have to feed the beast that is Google with what it want’s. Page speed and SEO is always “work in progress”.

  • Hello,
    Nice Article. I too agree about Site ranking also depend on speed
    Thanks for sharing here

  • Hey Jim,

    The website speed has always been a pain for many. People struggle hard to keep it below 2 seconds but many of them fail.

    They should apply the database optimization by using a plugin like WP Sweep and always consider removing the extra database tables after deleting any plugin.

    Not every plugin deletes its table itself.

    SEO is directly connected to the page loading time of your website. Like humans, Google also likes to show the website with better speed.

    The main motive is to keep the best user experience.

    Render blocking is a thing which is a kind of technical aspect. There are many plugins and you can do it manually by check the blocking JS and CSS. You can minify these files for better performance.

    And no one forgets about the image optimization.

    Thanks for shedding some light.
    ~Ravi

  • I started out in more or less the SEO industry 8 years ago. Nothing has really changed, actually, Google and other search engines simply became better at cracking down on what their guidelines spell out. One of those is load time, and to tell you the truth, when it comes to any device, it matters and is one of the stronger signals for better ranking or at least the consideration of being ranked higher.

  • Site speed is indeed a big factor for SEO. I used the Google Tool to check the speed of the website and it shows all the aspects that can affect the site speed. Hosting thing also plays an important role in site speed. We should invest in good web hosting.
    Thanks Jim, for sharing an informative post.

  • Thanks for this article, Jim. I’ve always known that speed matters when it comes to website loading.

    And although mine loads fast, I can’t say if it loads up with 1 or 2 or even 3 seconds. I will confirm loading time with that Google PageSpeed Insights you recommended. Thanks

  • Thanks Jim,

    for the database hint. I never thought of optimizing the database.

    A quick fix for speeding up your site is also a cacheing plugin like WP Super Cache.

    And I recently deactivated the built WordPress cron.
    You simply have to add
    define(‘DISABLE_WP_CRON’, ‘true’);
    to your wp-config.php
    and use a cronjob on your server to call wp-cron.php.
    This saves some time for each request.

    Cheers,
    Thorsten

  • This is a very informative and accurate post. I love reading the posts on this site. Always learning something from this site. Thank you so much!

  • I have been looking up ways to improve my SEO and chanced upon this article, and I’m glad I read it. Frankly, I did not know much about the points you mention, except that site speed affects SEO and site speed is dependent on hosting. I will now try and fix the other issue you shared. Thank you for this post.

  • Website loading time is very important for any users and search engines. Its also a major key factor for SEO. Everybody loves a faster web experience. Thanks Jim for your great writing :)

  • Some really good tips here, Jim. Good job!

    Site speed is really up there when it comes to Google’s top ranking factors. If your site takes a long time to load, it will not just affect your search rankings, but also disrupt user experience and drop conversions.

    Image compression certainly plays a big role in speeding up your site and it’s by far one of the easiest things to do. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers recommending WPSmush, but it just ends up breaking my site. I rely mainly on TinyPNG and Compress JPEG to optimize my images.

  • I wrote about speed as well on my site, but i asked the question. If speed is so important, then why are Google properties, amazon, etc load like crap but yet rank? Users? Brand recognition?
    etc. so is speed truly a big deal?

  • Hello Jim,

    Website speed is no doubt a key factor in SEO. Google and even users like the site that load faster. You have clearly mention here how to increase the page speed by simple tricks. Great post. I really like it.

  • Great article.

    I remember when I had an E-commerce site, speed was a major factor. When someone clicked on a product page, and it took a couple second to load they would just leave the site.

    So we had to optimize everything so our site would quickly load our product page.

    Until recently I had no idea speed affected SEO, so I optimized my site so my loading time would be a lot lower.

  • Site speed is one of my current challenges. How does one post good quality images at the same time keeping site speed. As a travel and food blogger, it’s important for me to have large, full-res images. I try to limit them to 100-150kb but my audit still shows as slow. Any recommendations?

  • Obviously, speed plays an important role in SEO. In order to engaged user, website needs to be fast and easily loadable on browser. Otherwise user will leave the website without spending much time on it and this indirectly will affect your SEO struggle.

  • Hello Jim,
    I think site speed is an important thing which we should optimise first.
    It’s not improve overall User Experience only but it will also increase conversions.
    One should always compress images before uploading it to their site. It’s one of the most important thing which most of the guys miss.

  • Site speed is key. I’ve been testing several things to reduce site speed. Here are my findings:

    – Reduce images. Check the load time of individual pages – not just your homepage. Go to your most popular pages and make sure they load fast.

    – Remove unused plugins. Each plugin causes loading times to slow down. Choose under 10 if you can.

    – Use a caching plugin. WP Fastest Cache or WP Super Cache are the best ones I’ve used.

    – Get good hosting.

    – Check your load times weekly. Be obsessed with speed!

  • 70% of user are leaving when website is not open in 3 second so if you want to reduce the website loading speed then you have to do a proper webpage optimization This article basically saying that thing but the way of representing this article is very unique it is defining the connection between Loading Speed and SEO, very well explained.

  • It’s great to know about these useful tips. Speed is the key for almost everything these days. A web site is expected to be functional and fast by the potencial customers. That’s for sure. Thank you for the article.

  • Wow Jim! I didn’t even know that site speed and SEO had any correlation to one another. Cheers for teaching me something new! :)

  • Thanks for sharing this useful information. I can now revise my seo implementation w.r.t the site speed.

  • A good note on site speed and SEO. Thought i had done good optimization of my website. After reading this article I guess I have some more to do. Thanks for Sharing

  • DNN

    Just wondering out of curiosity…

    What does one do to better optimize their website for better SEO even if they’re posting natural content to their site often but notice their Alexa.com traffic rank still looking kind of sour? What do you do to improve that search engine optimization wise?