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Faster Websites Lead to Better SEO

The continual integration of the digital world with our personal lives has made it difficult to practice the art of delayed gratification, or “the ability to postpone an immediate gain in favor of greater and later reward.” The devices and internet we use daily are faster than ever, and our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. As a result, we want things right away, and many of us no longer have the patience to wait around, especially when browsing the web. A study from Google showed over half of mobile users will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load.

Because your website is a significant part of your business, a poorly performing site will have people ignoring your online presence. You may be left in the dust by your competitors with better performing websites.

A Faster Website Can Improve Your Rank

A fast-loading website will improve the experience for the user and now influences the ranking of your website on Google. The better you rank, the more people will see your site. Google recently announced their new Core Web Vitals, which is “a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness, and visual stability, to help site owners measure user experience on the web.” One of the Core Web Vitals metrics, First Contentful Paint (FCP), measures the speed of your website.

First Contentful Paint (FCP)

The FCP metric from Google “measures the time from when the page starts loading to when any part of the page’s content is rendered on the screen.” 

The content for FCP measurement includes images, text, non-white canvas elements, and SVG elements. If your FCP is 1.8 seconds or below, you are rated in the “good” category and would be in the 75th percentile of page load speed for all websites. If it’s above 1.8 and below 3.0 seconds, your website is in the “needs improvement” category. And if the site is over 3 seconds for FCP, it is rated as poor. You can test your website’s Core Web Vitals performance, including your FCP metric, by using PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse.

If you need to improve your FCP load time, there are many ways to do so, including removing any unused CSS, minifying CSS files, reducing server response times, and eliminating render-blocking resources. Google PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse will also give you custom recommendations on what you need to do on your site to improve its FCP metric.

Site Speed Best Practices

All websites can use standard practices to achieve a better page speed performance. Moz has a list of page speed best practices, and some of them include:

  • Minifying HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. When you minify your code, you remove the extra spaces and unnecessary characters that can slow down your site.
  • Leverage browser caching. When you visit a website, your browser can cache many different files such as images, stylesheets, and JavaScript files. Caching helps speed up the load time when the user revisits your site.
  • Enable compression. Use Gzip to dramatically reduce the size of your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. If you’re using a Content Management System like WordPress, there are many caching plugins that allow you to enable Gzip compression on your site.
  • Use a CDN. A Content Delivery Network (CDN) can be used to store copies of your website at various data centers around the world to improve load times on your website.
  • Optimize images. Make sure the images you include on your website are the correct size. You don’t want to scale a large image to fit into your website because it will be a larger file size. Instead, correctly size the image in a photo editor and use the appropriately sized image on your site.

These best practices, as well as avoiding custom fonts and minimizing redirects on your site, can not only improve your page speed on desktop but will also improve your mobile page speed. “Lazy loading” images is another great way to improve page speed, especially on mobile devices. Lazy loading will load only “above the fold” content and serves up the rest of your content as needed. It prevents the entire page from being loaded right away, thus improving page speed and user experience

Images Are Important

The type of image file you use on your website does matter. Some image file types can be bloated and large compared to modern alternatives. The most common images you’ll find on websites are static raster image files, such as JPEG, PNG, and GIF, as well as SVG files, which are vector images.

JPEG and PNG have been around since the mid-1990s and are the overwhelming majority of image file types you see on the web. All browsers universally support both file formats. JPEG files are suitable for products, headshots, and blog images. For images that need a transparent background or include text, it’s best to use a PNG file.

An Emerging Image Alternative

The WebP image file type was developed by Google and released in 2010. Google developers intended it as a modern alternative to JPEG and PNG. WebP only recently started to be supported by all modern browsers (Safari 14+ supports WebP). Now that the format is widely accepted, more people are switching to WebP because it can save up to 35% of disk space for files of the same quality in JPEG and PNG format. If you have a lot of images on your site, making the switch to WebP could make a significant improvement to your page speed.

An Optimized Site Adds Value to Your Business

We no longer live in a time where users will tolerate slow websites, and Google recognizes this. Prioritizing website performance can lead to major SEO gains. If you have a poor performing website, it could be hurting your profits. More visibility on Google leads to more website traffic, which usually leads to more business.

Talk to Peabody today before you get started on your next website project.