How Fast Should My Webpage Be and Why Should I Care?
There are many reasons you should care about the speed of your website. For SEO and marketing impact, here are three: 1) Page speed and performance are Google ranking factors, 2) Page performance can directly impact your ability to keep users on your site, and 3) Page speed can directly impact your revenue.
But is your site fast enough? In this article, I’ll overview why website speed is important, site speed targets, common issues that impact page speed, and why and when to fix them.
Why Is Website Speed Important?
Fast websites are better for the end user. A slow site can cause visitors to bounce from your site and your business to lose revenue. Not only that, but you want the search engines to be able to move quickly through your site.
- One study showed that delays in accessing content produced the same level of stress in people as watching a horror movie alone or taking a math test (my bachelor’s is in math, so I can appreciate that).
- Pinterest reported that reducing wait time by 40% resulted in a 15% increase in SEO traffic and a 15% increase in conversion rate to sign up.
A fast site is especially crucial with mobile users, who tend to search on the go and with varying internet connection speeds. Google says that:
Our data shows that while more than half of overall web traffic comes from mobile, mobile conversion rates are lower than desktop. In short, speed equals revenue.
Besides its importance for user experience and conversions, site speed also significantly impacts your rankings and organic traffic. Page speed is already a lightweight ranking factor. But speed and performance will gain focus in Google’s upcoming Page Experience ranking update.
In addition, if enough visitors quickly bounce back to the search results after clicking to your page due to a slow load time, it may also hurt your rankings via RankBrain.
Why Do Page Speed Issues Happen?
Optimizing your page speed is tricky. A lot of things that can impact page speed are out of your control as a website publisher. This includes the website visitor’s internet service provider and package, their device’s performance, and so much more.
However, there is a lot that is in your control, too. And this is what Google cares about. Common page speed issues fall into these three categories: cache, bandwidth, and server processing and rendering.
Remember, speed and performance go beyond just load time. It’s multifaceted. As Google points out, “Historically, web performance has been measured with the load event. However, even though load is a well-defined moment in a page’s lifecycle, that moment doesn’t necessarily correspond with anything the user cares about.”
Google goes on to illustrate how performance is relative:
- A site might be fast for one user (on a fast network with a powerful device) but slow for another user (on a slow network with a low-end device).
- Two sites may finish loading in the exact same amount of time, yet one may seem to load faster (if it loads content progressively rather than waiting until the end to display anything).
- A site might appear to load quickly but then respond slowly (or not at all) to user interaction.
So when talking about performance, it’s important to be precise and to refer to performance in terms of objective criteria that can be quantitatively measured.
In other words, load time counts, but there are a lot of metrics to address in order to improve common speed and performance issues. And the list is only going to grow — Google is introducing Core Web Vitals into the algorithm mix in May 2021.
To learn more about speed and performance:
How Fast Your Webpage Should Be, According to Google
Google once said that mobile sites should “deliver and render the above the fold (ATF) content in under one second.” But Google research from 2018 found that there were different benchmarks for page speed performance per industry. (Note that these benchmarks have likely decreased since then.)
Other Google data shows that as page load time goes from one second to three seconds, the probability of the searcher bouncing increases by 32%. And that number jumps to 90% when page load time goes from one second to five seconds.
Remember that each performance metric has its own thresholds. So the goal is to understand speed and performance metrics and individually optimize for them.
How Fast Should Your Webpage Really Be?
You want to make your website as fast as possible for your users within what is reasonable to do.
Keep in mind that these improvements can be time-consuming and expensive. When analyzing things like your PageSpeed Insights score, for example, have the professionals review it and then pick your battles. It may be really hard to improve it past a certain threshold and not worth the resources to do so.
So how fast is fast enough? As I’ve said many times before, SEO should beat the competition. So see what the norm is for your industry. Analyze the pages that are ranking on Page 1 of Google by running them through a page speed tool.
Remember that Google once said when referring to its page speed ranking signal that it uses “a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.”
That means that if all of your top-ranked competitors have similar load times (even if they are slow), and your webpage load time falls into that range, it should be considered normal.
However, if you are an outlier (meaning your site is way slower), it could impact rankings negatively.
How to Speed Up Your Website
There are plenty of ways to analyze your webpages and improve their performance. Some basic best practices for webpage speed include:
- Compress the information between your web server and search engine browser
- Clean up and externalize CSS code
- Choose the best file formats for your images
- And many more
The trick is to identify the issues dragging down your performance metrics and then prioritize the work. You want to tackle the biggest culprits that will bring the greatest performance improvement first.
And if you haven’t started yet, it’s time. Here are some resources to dig deeper:
- PageSpeed Insights tool for measuring any webpage’s performance
- Documentation about PageSpeed Insights
- Google’s recommendations for Fast Load Times
- Complete guide to Google’s Page Experience update (ebook)
If you’re looking for answers for your technical SEO issues, we can help. Contact us for a free quote and let’s talk.