Website Speed: Is It A Critical Factor For SEO In 2024?16 min read

What is website speed and why does it matter?

Nowadays, having a website isn’t enough if it can’t load up quickly.

The demand for responsive web and progressive web apps is increasing every single moment.

And with the emergence of the latest technological advancements such as Web3 new standards are being set.

But, is your website fast enough to beat the competition? Let’s first understand the definition of website speed.

Website speed is the time duration elapsed by a website to load up its contents when a user enters its URL (Uniform Resource Locator) in the search bar.

Imagine a website, perfect in almost all aspects.

It has got an A+ in visuals and an A++ in content quality but users have to wait for decades to get it fully loaded. And only then, are they able to explore its content.

Frustrating. Isn’t it?

Therefore, a good website is one that also excels in responsiveness along with visuals and rich content.

But this isn’t the only reason a website must load with a snap of fingers.

The key reason is the importance of time. Time is crucial and nobody wants to waste it on waiting for a page to load so that they can find answers to their quest.

So, whether you have a blog or an e-commerce store, your website needs to be quick to user interactions.

So, does website speed boost SEO rankings?

Yes. Website speed is directly proportionate to Search Engine Optimization.

It’s simply, that the longer your page takes time to load the more likely it is that users will leave your website without navigating it.

Worse, it can leave a bad impression on users as they will perceive your site as unreliable and unstable. Thereby increasing the chances that your page’s ranking will decrease quickly.

And that could be one of the reasons why you are having higher bounce rates.

Thus, it is equally essential to invest in building up your site’s performance to have fruitful SEO results and champion the SERPs.

Recommended read: Search Engine Optimisation: The first steps to follow

Is my website slow?

Google says any page that takes more than 3 seconds to load is considered slow.

So, if your website takes more than 3 seconds then you need to work on a lot of things to improve load time.

But, how do you perform a website speed analysis? Do you manually enter your site’s URL and then start a timer?

We aren’t living in stone ages.

Thanks to Google, cause we have PageSpeed Insights. A tool designed especially to assess a site’s performance.

There are numerous tools to check website speed such as Pingdom and GMetrix.

However, Google PageSpeed Insights grants you a much deeper understanding of how your website behaves in terms of user interaction.

PageSpeed Insights not only helps you understand how fast a page loads.

But, also offers deeper insights into what factors contribute to significant performance improvements.

How to use Google PageSpeed Insights to assess website performance?

Head over to PageSpeed Insights https://pagespeed.web.dev/ or you can also Google “PageSpeed Insights” to collect your website speed report. The following page appears.

Enter the URL of your site and hit analyze.

As soon as you click analyze, PageSpeed Insights will perform a real-time speed test of your site and will come up with results.

If your website has thousands of pages then it may take some time – till then grab some coffee.

The following will pop up on completion. There are two sections here, mobile and desktop.

PageSpeed crawls your website using both mobile and desktop crawlbots.

As there are more mobile users on the web, we are going to cover the website speed test for mobile only using PageSpeed.

💡 Note: There aren’t many differences in how to assess a website’s performance on mobile and desktop, though the results might be different for different screens.

The result shows 4 key components of a website that allow us to understand how good a page is not just in terms of performance but also accessibility, best practices adopted by the owner, and yes, SEO.

As this blog post is primarily aimed at discussing website speed and performance, we will only cover the first component which is performance.

Upon scrolling down further we see a ton of technical information regarding the site’s performance.

These are Core Web Vitals. These metrics are important for better loading times, interactivity, and visual stability of a website.

If you have already set up your Google Search Console, then you can access Core Web Vitals through it as well. But first.

Let’s comprehend how each contributes to quick loading times.

#1: First Contentful Paint (FCP)

FCP calculates the duration of the first text or image gets colored. In layman’s terms, FCP tells you the time taken to load the first text or image. A FCP which is,

  • 1.8 seconds or less = Good
  • Between 1.8 seconds and 3 seconds = Needs improvement
  • More than 3 seconds = Poor

#2: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP measures the moment at which the largest text or image is drawn or painted on the screen.

It indicates the loading performance against time in seconds or simply the time taken to load when a user visits for the first time. If your page’s LCP is:

  • 2.5 seconds or less = Good
  • Between 2.5 seconds and 4 seconds = Needs improvement
  • More than 4 seconds = Poor

#3: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures a website’s layout’s stability. A well-performing website needs to have a stable structure.

Frequent changes in the placement of elements such as buttons, while the reader is about to click, can impact the user experience.

You must have experienced a horrible feeling when you were about to order something. But because of some advertisement on the page, the button moved away, resulting in clicking something else.

So, websites must maintain a proper layout to uplift user experience. The below video posted on Google’s page expresses the situation aptly.

CLS doesn’t calculate any time duration, rather it focuses on measuring the frequency of layout distortion. A good CLS score is,

  • 0.1 or less = Good
  • Between 0.1 and 0.25 = Needs improvement
  • More than 0.25 = Poor

#4: Interaction to Next Paint (INP):

INP is also an important performance factor. This measures a small delay or pause between the page’s response and the user’s interaction such as tap, click, or scroll. Google recommends the following INP values as being good, improvement needed, and poor.

  • 200 milliseconds or less = Good
  • Between 200 milliseconds and 500 milliseconds = Needs improvement
  • More than 500 milliseconds = Poor

These have been the key metrics that depict how a page is performing. Tweaking only them can bring subtle user experience enhancement.

TL; DR

Good (if or less)Average (if between)Poor (if or more)
FCP1.8s1.8s and 3s 3s
LCP2.5s2.5s and 4s 4s
CLS0.10.1 and 0.250.25
INP200ms200ms and 500ms500ms
Table 1: Core Web Vitals metrics

But, if you desire to unleash peak performance and gain absolute control over the slightest and minutest elements of your page.

Then, consider these speed metrics too.

  1. Total Blocking Time (TBT)
  2. Speed Index

Upon further scrolling, we notice a diagnostic report highlighting essential areas to work on for improving website performance.

By clicking the drop-down arrow you can understand more about the issue and how to fix them to enhance your site’s responsiveness.

How do I make my website blazing fast?

There are tons of recommendations on how to make your website respond in an instant to user engagement.

However, the basics can have a significant amount of impact on the speed and responsiveness of the site.

Some of the best practices are as follows:

#1: Compressing images before uploading

Every image, video, gif, and even text on a website takes up some storage on the host’s server.

Therefore, it becomes essential to reduce file size to not just save space but also make loading those images quicker.

TinyPNG for PNG image formats and TinyJPG for JPG image formats are great tools that can compress images up to 50% of their original size.

You can also convert your images into WebP format which is expected to become web standard soon because of less size and better quality in comparison to PNG and JPG.

Just upload your images and download them in the desired format.

#2: Using caching plugins

Caching is a process through which files are temporarily stored on a device. Through caching, loading up files is made quicker and snappy.

Ever wondered why a website takes more time to load, when you first visit it and becomes a bit faster during the second time, and so on?

That’s primarily because of caching. When you visit a page for the first time most files on the page are stored in your device which takes some time.

During the second visit, this time duration was reduced cause there was no need to download the files again (as they’re already stored on your device).

Through caching your users enjoy fast responses while exploring your page.

Some of the best caching plugins for WordPress are:

  • W3 Total Cache
  • Light speed Cache
  • WP Fastest Cache

If you don’t want to use caching then you should get the new Speculative Loading officially launched by the WordPress performance team.

I have switched to Speculative Loading and I don’t look back at installing caching plugins.

Recommended read: 10 Best Free WordPress Plugins You Cannot Miss

#3: Using lightweight themes

Themes also affect website speed.

A lightweight theme is quick to show up compared to one with fancy animations and graphics.

Striking the right balance between visual and theme size is important.

WordPress has an ever-ending list of themes including light-weight ones and alluring visuals too.

There are also theme plugins as well, like Elementor allowing complete customization.

If you want something between block functionality yet not messy, then you should use Blocksy.

I use it for SynthSEO because it is lightweight and offers most features without any compromises.

#4: Premium hosting

Your website hosting provider is also a contributor to site speed. Having a premium hosting provider can significantly boost site speed. How?

Premium plans offer better hardware.

Such packages often come with Solid State Drive (SSDs are faster than HDD because they don’t have mechanical parts) and a better Central Professing Unit (CPU) — such as AMD ThreadRipper or Intel XEON improving server load times and response time.

So if you want a little edge in terms of server response duration. You should consider upgrading your hosting plan.

It is also essential that you purchase your hosting plan from a reliable provider like Hostinger, GoDaddy, and others.

Hostinger has taken the game a level up.

The hosting provider now offers much faster NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) SSDs which are reported to be at least 3 times faster than normal SSDs.

Other than that, these brands offer better server uptime keeping your site alive 24×7, secure, and consistent post-purchase support.

#5: CSS and JS minification

Websites are fueled by programming languages like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript (JS).

CSS is used to design visuals and layouts.

  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Spacing

Like that.

JS brings better functionality to a page.

  • Form validation – collecting data from user
  • Animations

These include a heap of data on how your site should look and behave. And are stored on the server.

If CSS and JS files are large then the device takes a longer time to load them. This lengthens the wait time for a user.

Skilled developers often write CSS and JS as minimal so that the file size is reduced to a much greater extent.

But this can sometimes be reduced further to enhance data exchange between client (user) and server.

Some tools can help you minimize CSS and JS, but I recommend contacting a skilled developer who can take responsibility for the whole task.

#6: Using a Content Delivery Network

Ever wondered where your website files or data are stored (yes it’s a server but where that’s physically located)?

Often web servers are stored far from where a user accesses its data. This increases data transfer speeds as there are always distortions between the two.

A CDN is useful in that case.

CDNs are networks made up of servers specializing in delivering website content (images, pages, videos, gifs, etc.) to users as per their geographical presence.

Here’s an image that helps in visualizing the use case of CDNs for improving website speed.

Let’s say a website you are trying to access has files stored on a server in Washington D.C., while you are present in New Delhi, India. The page takes 3.25 seconds to load.

The website owners understand that increased delay has affected user experience. So, they set up a CDN server in Niger. Now accessing the same page takes 0.25s.

Since the distance has been reduced by great numbers, the time duration to serve the page has been reduced.

CDNs are mirror (copy or backup) data present in the original server. This also helps lessen the risk of 404 errors due to the presence of a backup.

However, the key highlight here is that CDNs are set up near the cluster of users, reducing the time spent accessing data or data travel speed.

#7: Limiting the number of plugins

More plugins = slow website.

Though there isn’t any specific number that limits the use of plugins, still you should be monitoring your plugin inventory over time.

WordPress plugins primarily use JS.

Therefore, using a lot of plugins can increase file size leading to increased load times.

It is a safe practice to check site speed after installing plugins.

Also, using too many plugins can cause conflict among them, which can surely impact accessibility and performance.

WordPress has an inbuilt site health status dashboard allowing you to understand what unused plugins you should consider deleting.

It also suggests deleting unused themes which can compromise the security of the site.

Finally, there are performance-related recommendations too such as enabling persistent object cache and important modules that could be missing.

Wrap up!

To dominate the SERPs it has become extremely needful for websites to show up instantly on request.

Hence, adopting website speed optimization is a must even for small businesses. Lower site speeds can even lead to being penalized by Google which can be hurtful for an established brand.

A good approach to improving website speed begins with understanding why a page loads slowly or why a website won’t load at all.

Chalking out a strategy to constantly monitor website performance is valuable for consistently showing up on the SERPs.

Help a friend with a slow website by sharing this post.

Love this post? Why not share with others.

Shahzeb Arshad
Shahzeb Arshad

Curiosity is my fuel. I have an immense love for technology, which makes me leave no stone unturned behind. Apart from being a blogger and writer, I demystify technical stuff for others clearly and engagingly.

Newsletter

Subscribe to newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *