The point of having a website is to try to reach as many people as possible. And you can’t do that if people can’t find your website. Ideally, you want to be on the first page of search engine results for the content you post. In order to achieve that, you need to work on your search engine optimization or SEO.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that your WP website speed also affects your SEO ranking. Site speed has a direct influence on how your website ranks, especially on mobile. But it also influences your SEO ranking indirectly through the impact it has on your users and their behavior.
The importance of a fast-loading website
There is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a link and then staring at a blank page for ages, waiting for the content to load. We’ve all been there. We usually resolve it by giving up and looking for another website that won’t keep us waiting. But that’s not what you want your users’ experience to be like.
No, you want your users to browse your content seamlessly, enjoy using your website, and perhaps most importantly, keep coming back for more. Loading speed is essential in achieving that. Even if all you have is a custom under-construction page, it needs to load in 3 seconds or less. Otherwise, you risk losing traffic. So, even if page speed didn’t affect your SEO ranking (which it does), you would still want to work on it because it affects user experience and satisfaction.
How your WP website speed directly affects your SEO ranking
As the biggest search engine by far and the one whose lead others typically follow, Google is where you turn to for directions on how to improve your positioning in search results. And Google has been using page speed in its algorithms since 2010.
As of 2018, page speed on mobile is also a major factor in how your website ranks.
So, while it is not the deciding factor (after all, YouTube’s loading speed is quite low), the speed of your website directly impacts your ranking on Google.
How your WP website speed affects your SEO ranking indirectly
Loading speed can also impact your SEO ranking indirectly, by affecting other variables that Google takes into account. This ties into the importance of page speed for user experience and makes it even clearer why you need to make sure your site loads fast.
Reducing bounce rates
High bounce rates are not good for you. You want to draw your visitors in with your content. Ideally, they’ll be interested in all you have to offer instead of leaving after seeing just one page. That can be disastrous for e-commerce websites and other types of websites which typically make you money in ways that require users to go through multiple pages.
Speed is not the only factor in bounce rates, of course, but it is definitely impactful. If the first page a user visits takes too long to load, they’re unlikely to dedicate their time to other pages they’ll also have to wait on.
Increasing dwell time
Research has shown that more than half of Internet users expect a page to load in less than 3 seconds (and almost half expect it in 2 seconds or less). After that, you may be losing as many as 10% of visitors with every new second that passes.
So if you want people to stick around long enough to actually see your page and consume your content, your page needs to load in seconds.
Satisfied users are more likely to come back
There is some debate as to how the number of new vs. returning users impacts your SEO ranking. On the one hand, new visitors are important because they show your websites appeal to wider audiences. On the other hand, returning visitors are an indicator of user satisfaction.
But regardless of which carries more weight for search engines (and whether there is a difference at all), there is no doubt among SEO Atlanta experts that return users are good for you. They increase your traffic and show loyalty to your brand, so you want your users to be happy enough with your website to come back again. And speed definitely factors into that.
How to improve your WP website speed
Good page speed, especially without sacrificing the quality of the design and content, is not something that just happens; it’s something you work for. So if you’re not happy with the results of your page speed test, the good news is that there are things you can do to improve.
Use a good host
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when building a website is where to host it. There are thousands of WP hosting services out there and not all are created equal. So when you’re choosing a host for your website, take a good look at the two major factors: speed and uptime.
A variety of other things play a role in both what makes a good host and what makes a website fast, but a fast and reliable hosting service is the base you want to build on.
Rely on caching more
Caching is a great technique to speed up your website. By storing frequently accessed data in a cache, you make it more easily accessible which in turn makes it load faster for the user. It’s a complicated process but it can be made simple with WP caching plugins. All you need to do is choose one, install it, activate it, and you’re good to go.
Optimize images and add LazyLoad
Images are one of the things that take the longest to load. If you’re using a page template with a lot of images and you don’t optimize them, your loading speed will be severely affected. So make sure to compress the images on your page, reducing the file size without sacrificing quality. There are websites where you can do this manually and WP plugins that do it for you automatically.
To further reduce loading time for images, you can also use LazyLoad.
With LazyLoad, only images visible in the user’s browser will load. As the user scrolls down, the next image loads just before it becomes visible. This both increases your website speed and saves bandwidth. You can add LazyLoad to your images with a WP plugin.
Improve WP website speed for mobile
Approximately half of all Internet users browse on mobile. So it’s important to optimize the mobile version of your website as well. This will improve the browsing experience for about half of your users and has a direct impact on your SEO ranking since Google tracks both mobile and desktop speed for its algorithm.
To further increase your WP website speed for mobile, simplify your web design, activate Accelerated Mobile Pages, minify your code, avoid custom fonts, and keep redirects down. By implementing all of these changes, you’ll greatly lower the amount of time it takes for your mobile page to load.