The importance of page speed should come as no surprise, as Google has considered it since 2010, and in July 2018 page speed became a direct ranking factor for mobile searches. The technology has steadily improved since then, raising the standards of user expectations along the way. Page load times have always been important to consider, but weren’t necessarily the main focus, until last year.
June 15e, 2021, if your page load times weren’t ahead of the pack, then your traffic and ranking performance was about to be left behind. That day, Google released the Page Experience update for mobile, which aimed to give users exactly that: a top-notch webpage that loaded exceptionally well on mobile devices while delivering the most relevant result for a research intent. While the former has always been Google’s domain, it planned to accomplish the latter by considering multiple “page experience” signals when determining the quality of a page. These signals included HTTPS serving for security, no intrusive interstitials, and most interestingly mobile friendliness and Core Web Vitals.
Since then, the challenge of serving the most relevant content has also become a race to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. And that means whether you’re into PPC or organic search, there’s never been a better time to check if your page speed is in order. Let’s take a closer look at page speed and how it can influence the different channels of online marketing.
How does page speed affect SEO?
In organic search, it’s all about creating quality content around keywords. But what good is all that good work if it takes too long to load and users never see it? With SEO, you need both quality content and fast loading times to be considered for top rankings. Google research has shown that page load time should be between 1 and 3 seconds before a page’s bounce rate starts to increase.
With the increased use of mobile devices in searches and an emphasis on mobile-first indexing, having a mobile-friendly page is essential. To understand how to achieve this, let’s take a look at what constitutes a page speed score.
Understanding Page Speed with the Core Web Vitals Report
Finding your page speed isn’t as easy as timing a page until it loads. To help understand page speed performance, Google’s Core Web Vitals look at specific aspects of your page loading to determine how it might affect user experience. Testing a URL using the PageSpeed Insights tool or verifying it in Google Search Console provides insight into three main metrics.
- The Largest Content Painting (LCP) refers to the largest element on a page (be it an image, video, or large block of text) that will need to load.
- The First Entry Delay (FID) measures the time between when a user first interacts with the page (by clicking an element or link) and when a browser responds to that action. Long FID times may indicate that the technical side of the site may not load as efficiently as it could.
- Finally, the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) factors in any unexpected changes in layout. These changes would also contribute to increased page load times and visitors accidentally clicking on the wrong thing.
Each of these items in a page speed report will contain more information specific to that page and recommendations you can implement to help improve page load times. These recommendations come with an estimated time saver that can help you prioritize your one-page improvement plan.
Page speed and PPC
You might think this focus is on organic search only, as PPC bids for its position in the SERPs. And if you did, you would be so wrong. Your ad’s ranking and Quality Score are also directly affected by your page load. Similar to organic search expectations for a page, the PPC world looks at specific metrics to gauge a page’s Quality Score.
- The Expected click-through rate determines the likelihood of your ad being clicked on when it appears in the results.
- Ad relevance measures how well your page aligns with the user’s search intent.
- And finally, the Landing page experience takes into account the relevance and usefulness of your ad to users who click on it.
A big part of the landing page experience is how quickly and efficiently the page loads. If your page takes too long to load, users will likely get frustrated and leave your site. The more this happens, the more this behavioral signal is sent to Google indicating that your page is giving users a poor experience, which negatively impacts your Quality Score and ad ranking. This will likely affect your bottom line, cost you more in ad spend while giving you less revenue. As page load times decrease, ad rankings and revenue are likely to improve.
Page speed and conversion rate
Conversions are the name of the game and the reason we’re all here. Unless your site is purely informational, conversions (examples: purchase, contact form, quote request, service request) are what websites exist for and are the key performance indicator (KPI) when is about a website and its business purposes. If a web page has any chance of hitting its conversion goals, it will need competitive page load times.
According to Think With Google, on-page conversions can drop 20% for every second of load time. And when conversions are down, revenue is likely to follow suit. This means that if your page generates $1 million in conversions and your conversion rate drops by 1% or 2% or more due to slow page load times, well, you can do the math to find out how that could start to affect your bottom line. For online marketers, page load times are no joke, but investing in making them faster and more efficient might just make you laugh all the way to the bank.
How to improve page speed
The good news is that improving long page load times is the same process whether you’re in SEO or PPC. While Google Analytics and Search Console can provide performance insights, they can’t really tell you what’s wrong with your page load time or how to fix it.
Here, the PageSpeed Insights tool is your best friend. Since websites often follow a pattern, it follows that if a certain page on your site has poor page load times, other similar pages on your site will have the same problem. Try taking a sample of all the different types of pages on your site and run them with the PageSpeed Insights tool. A closer look at the results of each Core Web Vitals report will tell you what’s causing your slower load times, helping you determine how to affect not just one page but all other pages on your site that use the same pattern.
To improve page load times, you will need to work closely with your developers. You should expect different levels of effort and timelines for project implementation depending on the nature of the problem. But taking the time to fix these issues is an investment that will help improve your organic rankings, ad spend, and revenue in the long run. Don’t delay: improve your page speed today!