From time to time, we are asked to improve site speed (SS for short) for websites.
The reason for this is due to the belief that Google, Bing and other search engines will rank the sites higher if they load fast.
Well, the question is… is it correct? And if so… how much does site speed affect SERP algorithms?
The answer to the above question is… only those who create the algorithms know!
But keep reading, I promise it’s worth it!
Thus, we have a big question mark, and we have no answers. Apparently.
Due to the nature of our activity, research and data are the core of our daily tasks. We could not do what we do without crunching numbers like crazy.
And yes, one of the most common variables we analyze for SEO is (as you already figured out) site speed.
After years and years of analysis, we conclude that SSO has a very relevant influence on SERP algorithms. OK, there is no big news, right? You probably expected this. And I’m pretty sure you’re wondering whether to continue reading this or not.
But there are some additional data that we have found, which makes the previous paragraph a bit contradictory. At least in certain cases.
Site speed research findings
As I said, the speed of the site has a definite influence. But this is somehow relative. In sites with an established presence and high authority, SS does not play an important role. They keep their ranks even with outrageously low metrics.
As an example, see the image below:
Yes, kind of shocking: this is the score for one of the biggest hosting services in the world.
Does it mean Amazon’s servers are low quality? That they’re slow?
NO. A big resounding NO!
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is amazo-ing (hey Amazon people, I want credit for this!). They simply don’t care about their website optimization.
Why? Because they can afford to do so!
Amazon is a leader in its segment, and even if they are hit by a small micro percentage in SERP algorithms, all other variables are so high that it doesn’t matter. In other words: it would be a waste of energy and resources.
But what about you? Do you have a high rank in all those variables that will allow you to rank lower in site speed? If so, congratulations, you probably don’t need to focus on the issues. Otherwise, keep reading.
Oh, my data!
Because most of us can’t afford to lose traffic just like that, here’s a brief recap of our findings. Of course, we keep the juicy part for our clients, but some of these insights could be very valuable if you’re concerned about site speed.
These insights are obtained from several variables studied. Including choice of web host, indexing time, using Google webmasters tools suggestions to improve search engine rankings, optimizing for mobile or web, etc.
Average loading time for websites is around 6 seconds
Believe it or not, the average loading time for all measured sites is around 6 seconds. This means that anything less than 6 seconds should be good, right?
Well… not exactly. While I don’t fully buy on the attention span stats that have been floating for a few years, the attention span is something to consider. And in a world where speed is paramount, it would be stupid to ignore it.
However, there is an opportunity for any site that loads faster than that: they will undoubtedly get more “juice” from search engines. And that is a fact.
So, if your site loads “above average” but below the 3-second mark … you should consider optimization before your competition does.
1 second means between 8 and 12% in SERP position
Take the above with a pinch of salt. We did not have a large number of sites to draw a 100% accurate conclusion. However, based on around 300 sites we analyzed, we found that 1 second equals between 8 and 12% in the SERP positions. Both above and below.
This means: 1 second faster could make your site’s position increase between 8 and 12%. Similarly, 1 second slower could mean an 8-12% loss in your ranks.
Of course, this does not happen overnight and there are other factors. But given similar variables between sites, these numbers are quite accurate.
Myth: “It’s impossible to rank high with WordPress”
This is simply ridiculous and pure nonsense. I’ve heard it many times and, according to my own experience, it’s quite the opposite.
In any case: is it feasible for anyone? Yes, with some work and research. And some knowledge about what to do and what NOT to do. A common problem is the excess of plugins, outdated add-ons or themes, incorrect code, bad hosting or a combination of any of these.
But this site is built on WordPress. See below:
If you checked our front page (and if not, do it NOW!), you probably saw all those morphing shapes that take a lot of computer processing. Yet we rank really, really, REALLY high. Do you want to know HOW HIGH? See below:
In case you haven’t noticed, these are the results of Google. And yes, we rank higher than Google (and again: as if it mattered!).
The point in all of the above is that whoever says they can’t rank high with a WordPress website is lying or just doesn’t know how to do it. Even a plugin like Jetpack will give you an instant boost.
Myth: “Site Speed Optimization (SSO) will affect the features of the site”
Well, there is some basis for this myth.
Many webmasters try to do SEO on the site on their own without adequate knowledge of technical problems.
They may know everything about PPC, conversions, content, etc.
But making a speed tweak for optimal performance and some love from GTmetrix and Google is a completely different story.
Honestly, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may find yourself fighting an endless battle against scripts, CSS, analysis and other things.
Okay, SSO is sometimes a bit of trial and error. And it is so even for the most experienced expert. But this is because no site is the same, nor does it have the same scripts or the same server configuration or the same content. On the contrary, each website configuration is unique and we can hardly find two websites that are exactly the same.
But on the other hand, the logic is more or less similar, and once the particular adjustments that each site needs are made, it is more or less the same.
Therefore, I think we can describe this myth as … well, as a myth
SSL and CDNs plays a part in SERP algorithms
YES. Without a shadow of a doubt.
We compared the same site before and after adding SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), and the results were conclusive: almost 75% of them obtained a higher SERP rating almost instantly (within the same day or a day later).
The same happened with CDN (Content Delivery Network), although in lower figures and with a little more delay: 63% of the sites ranked higher in a week or so.
However, adding SSL and CDN gave us 100% net. You are reading well: 100% of the sites obtained a higher ranking by adding SSL and a CDN.
The bottom line is: if you don’t have SSL and CDN yet, you’re already late for the SEO party!
Almost 70% of sites were never optimized
Although SSO is not a secret locked up and in fact it is something that is heard very often, approximately 75% of websites were never optimized.
And of the remaining 25%, a percentage greater than 80% of them were “optimized” incorrectly or partially.
What does the above mean? That a site that could have had a very high ranking in search engines, loses it due to ignorance of the possibilities about its potential, or due to the flaws of those who promise optimizations that are not such.
Can you achieve Site Speed Optimization on your own?
You certainly can. For example, if you use WordPress, you can use plugins to help you achieve results like ours. This is one of the greatest advantages for those that have a WordPress site.
How to work with caching, optimize plugins, files, page load and gzip may provide a boost as well. You might need to work with your hosting provider in order to improve load time and uptime. Or if your host has good support, they might even help you with some of the above.
Once you have the above technical issues covered, you must consider content improvements.
They include Onpage SEO, Duplicate Content, Redirects, SEO friendly content, Meta data, Voice Search, etc.
While these won’t affect your speed, it’s convenient to have all of this ready in order to test site speed with real content.
And yes, you can find all kind of tutorials to do this, so it’s still doable. And if you are working on search engine optimization, you really should do it!
With some work, even amateurs can reach a B graduation on GTMetrix, maybe even an A Grade for those with more technical skills.
Aiming to improve the site speed of a website is an almost mandatory task for anyone who has a website and is looking for Search Engine Optimization. Of course, this is just one of many ranking factors, but a very important one.
Ignoring this is simply giving away money. The market is always a variable of X + N (where X is the number of people who want a product and N is the number of people who do not know they need the product or service but discover it in some way). If you do not cover your market share, someone else will do it. It really is as simple as that.
And in that context, the position in search engines is crucial, and the SSO has an effect, which will be positive if our site is well optimized, or negative if it is not.
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