Earlier this month, Google rolled out its new speed reports on the Google Search Console to the general public. This aims to identify webpages that are slow to load and provide advice on how to improve the website’s performance.
Use this new feature and you could potentially boost your website rankings and improve user experience, allowing you to stand out from the competition and get the business results you need.
Keep reading to learn why your website speed matters, how the new Google speed reports can provide useful insight and learn more on how you can improve your website speed.
Why does site speed matter?
Site speed matters because it can potentially make or break user experience and influence your Google rankings.
Since the Google Speed update in 2018, speed has been one of the direct ranking factors used by the search algorithms to rank your pages and is used for both mobile and desktop sites. If your website is slow to load, the search engines could crawl fewer pages and your rankings are likely to suffer as a result.
Unsurprisingly, slow load speeds also affect the overall user experience. When a website visitor has to wait longer than they expect for a page to load, they’re more likely to click away from your page and choose your competition instead.
According to an article titled “Why Performance Matters” on the Google developer guide, “The BBC found they lost an additional 10% of users for every additional second their site took to load.” This can result in a higher bounce rate and a lower than average time spent on the page which damages the reputation of your brand and negatively impact your conversions.
Clearly, for both SEO and user experience, we need to keep website load speed in mind and troubleshoot any issues we come across. But how do you know how your website is performing?
Enter Google Search Console speed reports.
Using the Google Search Console speed report
Google Search Console speed reports were officially released this months after several months of testing.
Available in the Google Search Console interface under the ‘enhancements’ tab, users can quickly test the speed of the sections and URLs on their websites and identify any potential problems.
The results divided between ‘fast’, ‘moderate’ and ‘slow,’ for both mobile and desktop sites and colour-coded for ease of reference.
Google also provide useful tips on how you can overcome any problematic pages and increase your page load speed. Once you make these changes, you can continue to track your performance and make changes until your website performs as well as possible.
How to increase your website speed
If you identify a problem with one or several of your webpages, don’t panic.
There are many ways you can boost the speed of your website. Here are some tips:
Compress your images
By decreasing the file size of your images and choosing the right file format, you can speed up your website load time significantly.
While we do need crisp, compelling images to drive conversion, according to HTTP Archive, they can take up around 21% of the weight of the entire webpage. They also tend to be resource-heavy, impact user experience and slow down the page load speed considerably.
There are many tools, programmes plugins and scripts that can help you to achieve this relatively seamlessly.
The most popular of these is Affinity Photo as it is free and works in a similar way to Adobe Photoshop. Gimp is another programme which can help you achieve the same. You might prefer to use an online tool such as JPEG Mini or ImageResizer.com.
When you compress your images they will naturally lose quality so it’s important to find the balance between file size and quality. Experiment to find what works best for your website.
It’s also important to save images in the right format. Generally speaking, it’s better to choose JPEG for larger images as these have more flexibility with resizing and compression, WebP for smaller images and SVG for logos and icons as this format is vector-based.
Cleaning up your website code and removing any unnecessary characters, spaces, commas, comments, formatting and unused code, you can significantly boost your website speed and improve both UX and your search rankings.
Although these tiny pieces of unwanted code might not seem like much, they can slow down the time it takes to load your website and increase the crawl time needed by the Google bots to do their job.
Ask your web developer to do this of use one of the minifying resources recommended by Google such as HTML Minifier, CSSNana and UglifyJS.
Redirects are more than just annoying. They force your website visitor and Google to wait longer before they can access the information they are looking for.
Start fixing the problem by first identifying where you have redirects on your website. Tools such as Redirect Mapper can be excellent tools to help. Once you’ve found them, ask yourself why it exists and see how it affects the rest of your site. If it’s not essential, remove it where possible.
Use browser caching
When a user accesses information on a website, certain information such as images and stylesheets are stored on their browser. This allows them to be accessed quickly next time they visit.
You can leverage this process by telling browsers what they should do with the various information on your website.
There are several ways that this can be done by asking your developer to add code directly to your website or select a plugin that will handle the process for you. For WordPress, W3 Total Cache and WP Rocket are excellent choices.
Boost server response time
Provide faster results to your website visitors by improving your server response time.
Ensure that you’re using the best host and server that can meet the unique needs of your business. It should provide enough resources, provide excellent customisation option and give you fast results. Also, configure the settings to use HTTP2 and enable the cache so your website loads faster.
Use a content distribution network
Content distribution networks (CDNs) allow your website content to be accessed more quickly to users who are geographically closer to your servers. For example, if you’re a website visitor in Bristol, you’ll access the website on a London-based CDN much quicker than someone based in Sydney, Australia.
They can also provide a range of benefits including improving site accessibility, reducing website downtime, compressing images and delivering a more stable website to your visitors. Ask a professional if you’d like to do this for your business.
A slow website is more than just a minor annoyance. It directly affects SEO and user experience, increases bounce rate, reduces conversions and harms your brand image. Use the new Google Search Console speed reports and you can identify any issues, find a solution and boost your flow of website traffic again.