Search engine optimization (SEO) has become one of the quintessential determinants of website traffic. It is no longer a question of if you have good SEO, but how you can have the best SEO. Having a great looking website simply isn’t enough if no one finds it, or if when they do find it the page loads so slowly they click off before even seeing the content. Digital Commerce 360 reports that nearly half of website traffic for retailers comes from organic search. Yet, still there are millions of web pages that could match a user’s keyword search. How will your site stand out among the crowd? And for much of the ecommerce industry, one of the principal considerations in establishing good SEO is page speed.
So why does page speed matter so much for SEO? Well, back in July of 2018, Google began using page speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches. Since then, webpages have had to prove their worth in the battle for better search rankings. Among the very top sites, speed will not be the only factor that sends your site to the top – but in the crowded landscape of ecommerce it is supremely important.
But you don’t have to guess blindly about if your load time is good enough for Google. There are plenty of tools that can help you evaluate if your site has an optimal page speed. PageSpeed Insights is a tool directly from Google that incorporates data from the Chrome User Experience Report to help evaluate your site based on a variety of speed metrics. This tool will also help you identify specific areas where you could improve your page speed. What’s the magic number to ensure your website is fast enough? Our recommendation is to aim for a load time of 2 seconds or less.
There is no exact science to having the fastest site online. There are, however, a few general principles that will help you to increase page speed no matter what your site’s content needs are:
Reusing components in a single design system decreases the overall bulk of your site’s code. This inherently makes your site leaner, and will help improve page speed significantly when compared to a site that is not using a component based system.
Also, using a component based system to design your site rather than a rigid template allows for flexibility as your needs grow and change. This means you can make swift changes to the site depending on how customers choose to engage.
Image optimization is also incredibly important, meaning no image is larger than necessary and they all use the appropriate file format for the web. If images are too large, they will load slowly, which often results in customers clicking away.
When optimizing your images, make sure to serve appropriately sized images depending on the users’ devices. Mobile devices with lower resolution screens don’t require large images like desktop computers do.
Images aren’t the only thing that needs optimizing, you should ensure your hosting provider is also in tip top shape. If you’re on a shared hosting plan, consider moving to a virtual private server (VPS) where you won’t have to worry about other websites affecting your website’s performance.
Content delivery networks (CDNs) also improve load times by using servers that are closer to your end–users. The setup process is a bit tricky, but when done right you will see a significant increase in page speed.
All that might seem like a heavy load for a few bumps in the search results, but ultimately, a slow site is doing a lot more harm than just wrecking your SEO. Slow page speed also decreases your site’s overall ROI. One study by Akamai showed that a 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7 percent. That’s a big deal when you’re a small ecommerce site dependent on customers following through with their purchases.
Customers tell their friends about bad online experiences too. So ultimately, a loss of one customer may have a negative chain reaction. All that could be avoided when you optimize your website for the best possible load time.