Can SEO stop your site from killing the planet?

Jul 22, 2022 by
Can SEO stop your site from killing the planet?

OK, we appreciate that’s a pretty bold headline and we seldom think of SEO in the same breath as sustainability but there is actually a lot you could be doing with your SEO to help cultivate a greener internet.

Yes, online content is less of a polluting problem than cutting down trees to print magazines and newspapers but the servers upon which our beloved internet rests still account for around 4% of all global emissions. That’s about the same caused by the air travel sector so it’s not exactly insignificant.

The internet consumes more power than the UK thanks to its heavy usage of both data centres and mobile devices. The more intensive websites also require more data and more energy. So those websites with flashy videos and animations that slow down most websites and irritate more than they fascinate are not just annoying; they’re killing the planet. Albeit very slowly.

So, what SEO practices can you undertake on your website to make it more sustainable?

Measure your emissions

They say it’s pointless going on a diet until you’ve weighed yourself and the same logic is true when trying to make your website more sustainable. Thankfully, many of the best technical SEO practices already work to cut emissions but you’ll still need to know the damage to gain some perspective on the good you’re doing.

Use the Lighthouse Chrome extensions to break down all of the things that might be slowing your site down or Beacon to more accurately calculate how much energy every part of your site is using.

Make everything faster

The slower a website loads; the more damage it’s doing to the environment. Thankfully you should now have a rough understanding of the parts of your site that are slowing it down. The next step is to remove or edit the worst offending parts. This isn’t just good sustainability practice but good SEO practice.

Common tactics for speeding up a website include using more common fonts, including a caching solution to both reduce server energy and improve page load time and using accelerated mobile pages. These are small pages built to give mobile users a faster and more digestible experience. Given that so many of us browse the internet on our phones now, this is always a powerful SEO tactic.

Optimise your content

As technology has improved, images, videos and animation have grown larger and more highly defined. However, while these sharper images might be more aesthetically pleasing, the more intensive on-page elements that a site has to load, the more data is needed to load it. This means that the moving images, videos and other complicated elements that make your site look so good might also be helping it kill the planet. Again. Very slowly.

As a rule of thumb – the smaller the website, the faster it will be and therefore the more sustainable it will be. This means using compression wherever possible to cut down image sizes even if it sacrifices a little quality. Chances are most users won’t notice the difference anyway. Also, cut down on the video if you can and if you really need to include video then at least ensure that autoplay is switched off.