Site speed – How important is it really?

Oct 16, 2020 by
Site speed – How important is it really?

Faster is better. That much is a given, particularly in our increasingly fast-paced, “gimme now or gimme never” society. As technology has improved, people have become less patient and while we once thought nothing of waiting 5 minutes for a dial-up site to load, 5 seconds is now seen as a major inconvenience. So, site speed is important, of course. However, its importance as it pertains to SEO might have been slightly exaggerated in the last few years.

Site speed is clearly a factor for Google in determining SERPs (especially for mobile) and has been explicitly so since 2018. But is it the make or break thing that a lot of people believe it is? Rewinding to 2018, when Google unleashed what has become known colloquially as the “Speed Update,” Google said themselves that it only affected “pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries.”

The official, from the horse’s mouth line, is that Google “applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.” So, has it all just been blown completely out of proportion?

Page Speed vs Content

Nine times out of ten, if a small business focuses on improving SEO by fixing site speed, there will be nothing to improve. The vast majority of sites are plenty speedy enough already and even a slight boost at that level is going to make a minor difference to their ranking at best.

The internet today is a speedy mistress indeed. Even if your broadband connection at home is limited to a few measly megabits per second, it’s unlikely you’ll find any website taking more than a couple of seconds to load, even if it’s loaded with fancy graphics and videos.

There’s always going to be a balance to strike between loading your pages with content that converts customers and content that causes the site to lag, but these considerations are nowhere near as important as they used to be. Indeed, you might be shocked to learn that many of the most popular sites on the internet have relatively low site speeds but major conversion rates. Using Google PageSpeed Insights, for example, a site scoring under 50 is seen as ‘slow’ but Amazon ranks at a meagre 52!

Increasing site speed

Whilst it’s not the be-all-and-end-all, boosting your site speed is something you should be able to do quite comfortably yourself. So before you ask your favourite SEO experts to boost your site speed, try following the steps below first. They’ll thank you for it, we promise.

Server/Hosting configuration – Pick a fast host that uses modern software/hardware and Solid State Drives. SSD should be industry-standard by now but there are holdouts.

Optimising images – Big images lead to better conversions, granted, but they don’t need to be 3000 pixels to make an impression. Most people are browsing on their phones, after all.

Caching – Caching saves site code so it can be loaded faster and should be a no-brainer.

Using a CDN – A CDN (Content Delivery Network) does exactly what it says on the tin; distributing the hosting of your site’s static assets across multiple servers to take a load off of your own resources.

Site speed might not be as important as you think it is and content and sales are always going to trump speed when it comes to SEO. The best thing you can do is to compare your site speed to other sites. If you notice any difference at all then we’d genuinely be surprised. But then, who knows, stranger things have happened. Particularly in 2020!