How important is page load time to SEO?
If you have a website, you are probably concerned with where you end up in search engine results, particularly Google. You may have heard that how quickly your page loads plays a part in that determination but how important is it actually? When Google first announced that they were going to included page speed in their algorithm, many people panicked. In the same article, however, Google clearly states that page speed isn’t important as relevance.
While page load time may not drastically affect your placement in the search engines, it will affect how many people stick around and may increase your bounce rate (the number of visitors who leave and then quickly exit–perhaps even before the page finishes loading). Slow sites decrease overall customer satisfaction. There is proven research that site speed can even increase conversions.
Shopzilla ran an A/B test comparing the impact of the download speed their pages had on conversion. They found that the faster pages delivered 7% to 12% more conversions than the slower pages.
So what can you do to improve your page load time?
- Reduce the number of items that need to be loaded such as scripts, style sheets and images.
- Use an external style sheet for all of your CSS.
- Use CSS sprites when possible
- Optimize your images for the web–the smaller the better–but, of course, they should still look good.
- Use a caching plugin–W3 Total Cache or WP SuperCache are my favorites.
- Reduce 301 redirects, if possible
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) such as Amazon CloudFront
- Use compression such as Gzip to reduce the size of the page sent to the browser
One webmaster from a major company stated that he has seen where the bounce rate was reduced from 85% to 45% by reducing the page load time from ten seconds down to five seconds. He suggests that three seconds is the goal you should aim for. Use your Google Analytics account to find your page load times. (Look under Content > Site Speed)
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net