Disclosure: One of the links below is an affiliate link, meaning at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. That link to to WPFixit and their website optimization service. I endorse this service because I used it and had good results.
Recently, my site was loading slowly, which I know is a bad sign for my visitors and for Google. What to do? First I logged onto a website speed test to see where I stood. And the results weren’t good; not bad, but definitely could be better. This made me wonder: is there a recommended load time for a site? Has Google announced any set numbers to go by? And I found out that actually, they had…
Why is website speed important?
Speed is important because it affect the customer experience. If a client has to wait for a page to load, they won’t. You’re always just one click away from someone backing out of your site. Check out this post from Google on how load speed affects customer actions.
And now, guess who’s making this their big issue of 2018? Google. Yup, they’ve said that as of this July, they’ll be using page speed as a ranking factor. This means that if there’s another site that offers what you do, and their site is faster, that site may come up higher in search results. Of course, it’s one of many ranking factors, but it’s a new one that seems to be as important as SSL certificates and mobile-friendly design.
What is website speed?
Page speed can be described in either “page load time” (the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific page) or “time to first byte” (how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server).
The end result is that your page speed can be measured, and Google does it. They prefer if your site loads 5 seconds or under on mobile or 3 seconds or under on desktop. BUT I’ve also seen Google’s John Mueller mention a two second loading time (yikes!). More research and numbers may be found on Google’s Think With Google page, updated in February 2018.
How can I view my speed?
There are a few different tools out there, but the ones I find most effective are GTMetrix, which uses a few different systems to “grade” your site, and Think With Google’s Test My Site Tool. I am more fond of GTMetrix’s tool because the results are more consistent and easier to understand.
How to read the results
Warning: the following info can vary from site to site (I’ve had my site loading speed vary from 2 – 7 seconds) (today). If you get enough business from your website, don’t worry too much.
I’m not fond of technical jargon, so let’s just say you need to look at your load time. It should be 5 seconds or lower. If you achieve that, you’re fine. If you don’t, close to it is great too. This screenshot is from GTMetrix:
You can then go below and look at the individual grades, and see if there’s anything you recognize that might help things. And…
What to do if your results aren’t great
Look at the results and see if they tell you what needs to be worked on. They usually outline it in great detail.
The EASIEST THING you can do for yourself is to compress your images. I would do it the way I outlined in another post. Another way is to load a plugin that will help. More info on those in the future.
If you built your site on a builder from a host (like Squarespace or GoDaddy), contact them directly to see what they suggest. But if you have a WordPress site, I would have a professional do it for you. I used this company and they changed my site results from D and C to the B B you see above. They changed some of the settings in my plugins and then uploaded a few more that compressed my images (more!) and did the same for some of the site’s script that I don’t want to touch on my own. I would seriously recommend optimizing your site this way if you have speed issues.
Website speed will be a Google ranking factor starting in summer 2018. In advance of that, you should test your site and make appropriate changes so your site loads efficiently. I use the folks at WP Fixit to optimize WordPress sites, and they did a great job on this (PetSitterSEO.com) site. I recommend them wholeheartedly.