Racing to the 1st page of Google

A Faster Page Could Race You to the 1st Page of Google

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Surely, there must be some deep-geek SEO wizardry to get your website to achieve that coveted first page of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). If only you possessed this arcane knowledge, you would hold the power over your competition to drive the most traffic to your site and get the edge in generating leads and making sales!

Well, we’re going to reveal this closely guarded secret now: Improve the speed of your website’s pages.

It’s really that simple. But if that’s all there is to it, this would be the shortest blog post in history. We’re going to cover the “why” and “how” so you can get your site ready for the win!

Why page speed is a ranking factor

While you may be familiar with the need for optimizing your website for speed, page speed is a different subspecies. Moz defines page speed as a measurement of how fast the content on a web page loads.

“Page speed is often confused with ‘site speed,’ which is actually the page speed for a sample of page views on a site. Page speed can be described in either ‘page load time’ (the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific page) or ‘time to first byte’ (how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server.)”

Google identifies site speed – and consequently, page speed – as one of the signals its algorithm uses to rank pages. Since launching its Speed Update in July 2018, Google has made page speed a ranking factor on mobile, which more people now use to access the internet than a desktop computer. A slow page speed also means that Google and other search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget – which could have a negative impact on your indexation.

Of course, the user experience (UX) enters the equation in a major way. Pages that take longer to load have higher bounce rates as frustrated visitors give up and leave the site – and immediately go to a competitor’s. Those who stay average a lower amount of time on the page. As a result, longer page load times negatively affect conversions as well as rankings. According to Google, “Users want to find answers to their questions quickly and data shows that people really care about how quickly their pages load.”

Let Google show you how fast your page is now

Fortunately, you don’t have to guess about the page speed of your website. Google itself provides useful free tools. Test My Site allows you to test your mobile page loading time to identify areas for improvement. A favorite (also free) page speed test among industry pros is GTMetrix, which permits you to take a broader look at your site’s performance.

Writing for WordStream, Allen Finn cites the ulterior advantages of utilizing this help. “Since these tools don’t require you have admin access to your website, you can run them on any site you’d like! Benchmarking yourself against your competitors will let you know if your site is particularly vulnerable for a rankings drop.” And don’t think for a nanosecond that your competitors aren’t doing the same thing with your website!

How to make your page faster

If the tests reveal that your pages aren’t loading at lightning speed, the experts at Moz and WP Engine offer the following remedies:

Optimize images – Your site’s images should be no larger than necessary, in the right file format (PNGs are recommended for graphics with fewer than 16 colors; JPEGs typically are better for photographs) and compressed. Larger image files – as well as those incorrectly formatted – can slow page speed significantly.

Improve server response time – According to Moz, “Your server response time is affected by the amount of traffic you receive, the resources each page uses, the software your server uses, and the hosting solution you use. To improve your server response time, look for performance bottlenecks like slow database queries, slow routing, or a lack of adequate memory and fix them. The optimal server response time is under 200ms.”

Reduce redirects – Every time a page redirects to another page results in additional time your site’s visitor has to wait for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete. It’s important to minimize the number of redirects your website issues – especially for resources needed for starting up your homepage. Restrict your use of redirects to only those cases where it’s technically necessary, and to find other solutions where it isn’t.

Eliminate render-blocking Resources  – Render-blocking resources (e.g some Java and CSS scripts) slow down your web pages.. Every resource on a web page takes up bytes, more of which can result in longer download times. Using Google’s PageSpeed Insights will identify them.

Check your website’s browser caching – Browsers cache a great deal of information so the browser doesn’t need to reload the entire page when a visitor returns to your site. To leverage your browser’s caching means that you can specify how long web browsers should keep images, CSS and JS stored locally. That way the visitor’s browser will download less data while navigating through your pages, which will improve loading speed.

Minify CSS, JavaScript and HTML – Optimizing your code – which includes removing spaces, commas and unnecessary characters – can significantly increase page speed. In addition, remove code comments, formatting and unused code.

Use a content distribution network (CDN) – Also called content delivery networks, this is a highly-distributed platform of servers that helps minimize delays in loading web page content by reducing the physical distance between the server and the user. Basically, copies of your website are stored at multiple, geographically diverse data centers so that visitors have faster, more reliable access.

The take-home message and our blatant self-promotion

As we mentioned at the top of our humble blog post, reaching the first page in search results by improving the speed of your website’s pages isn’t one of the world’s great secrets. However, as you’ve probably gathered, it does take a good deal of specialized knowledge by web development pros. If you need one, it’s also no great secret where to look! Our Virtual Stacks Systems team is here to provide experienced website design and redesign, web content writing, SEO services, pay-per-click marketing and social media marketing.

Contact us to learn more and get started – at maximum speed!

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