On July 2018 Google released the “Google Speed Update”, where Google officially announced that they are using Page Speed as a main ranking factor. Noticeably, faster sites started outranking sites that were slower. Page speed is calculated using FCP and FID, the lower these metrics are the faster the site is. These can be tested using several page speed audit tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
How is PageSpeed calculated?
First Contentful Paint (FCP) – it is activated when the first content starts to be “painted” on a user’s browser, this could be images or text or the background itself.
First Input Delay (FID) – this starts from when the user can first interact with the site, in other words when the page is fully loaded or loaded enough to interact with.
Optimise PageSpeed for Mobile or Desktop?
While doing a Page Speed test, we need to look at both the Mobile and Desktop experience. Since Google is switching to a Mobile-first index this September, one needs to integrate Mobile experience as part of the SEO plan for page speed.
Below we can see an example taken from Google PageSpeed Insights Tool on “bbc.com”, we can see that some sites can get away with bad page speed score and ranking well on Google. As best practice every single page on a site needs to load within 2 seconds and have a good score ( aim around 80+) on Google PageSpeed Insights tool.
What Slows Down Page Speed?
- Server response time – this is the time it takes for the server to load a page (HTML document) from the server to the client.
- Non-optimised Media – This includes all the images, gifs, videos, infographics and buttons.
- Messy/Non-minified code – Bad coding or non-minified code can create page speed issues.
- Redirects and Chain Redirects – This is when the page is redirecting you from one page to another, this greatly increases page speed load time as the browser will need to go through each redirect hop.
- Render blocking resources – JS/CSS can be blocking first paint, optimising these can help with page speed. Screenshot below from Google PageSpeed Insights.
How Can an SEO Audit help?
The tasks performed by an SEO that can enhance page speed include:
In Bulk – A good SEO audit can do the speed tests in bulk. Although some companies cannot afford to optimise page by page due to the high number of pages, an SEO can help by grouping similar pages and plan a strategy to optimise multiple pages.
Images for optimisation – An audit will show you which images need optimisation and what best tools to use.
Code optimisation – Some code can be written in a more concise way; clunky code can slow down the rendering of a page. A page speed audit will identify code that can be “minified”.
CDN and Web Host recommendations – if an issue with server response time is identified, SEOs can recommend CDNs or Web Hosts that help reduce the page speed issues due to hosting services.
- A Content Delivery Network helps providing low response time by replicating the site across several server strategically located around the world.
- A Web Host is the server or cluster of servers where a website is typically stored. It is suggested to get a Web Host where your target audience is located or as close as possible.
Redirects – Identify redirects and redirect chains (multiple hops) and provide a solution on how to avoid them or remove them completely.
Fixes – an SEO can give you a variety of options to fix all page speed issues. The fixes should impact your site the least in downtime and maintenance while making use of little resources as possible.
Is that all for Page speed?
Page speed audits can get very complex especially if you drill down the FCP and FID. Fixing the above issues sorts out most of the page speed problems that most competitors ignore. In my experience, if you decide to go further than the above make sure that you have optimised your Backlink profile, content and user experience on all of your pages.