It’s been years since Google announced that PageSpeed, the speed at which a page loads, will be a ranking factor for search queries. In 2018, they extended this to mobile queries.
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What is PageSpeed Insights?
PageSpeed insights, is a tool to measure website loading speed and give Google’s optimal suggestions.
Google is pushing websites to work faster and provide a better user experience. If your site is slow, it will be penalized by Google’s search system. Your pages appear lower in search results, and in return, you get less traffic to your site.
This is no secret. Google has confirmed it, and extensive testing has proven it to be true.
You can even check for yourself. Type anything in the search bar. The top-ranked site is almost always faster than the tenth-ranked site, not to mention those on the second or third page of the search results.
However, this article we are not talking about the old news. Instead, we want to address the link between page load time (Page Load or Page Speed), user behavior, and SERP. It is much more complicated than people think.
Now, site speed is not just a flat number that Google’s search algorithm uses to calculate page rank.
In fact, load time affects SEO in many ways.
That’s why we’ll be looking at exactly how other speed factors into the SERP.
Let’s first look at what Google’s goals are.
On Google, users enter one or several keywords and Google will come up with the most relevant keywords for that query.
The goal of searches and its search algorithm is to provide results that not only answer a entered keyword, but also for user intent. That means it “rewards” any sites that provide a positive user experience and penalizes those that are not.
This is where site speed comes into play. Nowadays, most people are used to web pages loading as soon as they click.
Therefore, if a website is running slow, it will create an unsatisfactory user experience.
In fact, users hate websites that are slow and cause high bounce rates. Because this Google search algorithm penalizes them.
See, Google tries to get rid of all the websites that provide a poor user experience. Websites with low-quality content that don’t look good or are disliked by users for any other reason (like speed) are continuously analyzed by Google, which sees exactly what’s going on with the page. your web. The PageSpeed Insights tool will help you check if your website is on that “alarming” list.
Now, we will explain exactly how load time affects user behavior and what impact it has on search rankings.
Bounce rate and time spent on site
A high bounce rate is perhaps the most obvious sign that something is wrong with a website. Those who leave quickly let Google know that a particular page doesn’t deserve a high position in the search results.
Here’s what happens:
When a visitor finds a page in search results, opens it, and leaves without interacting with that site again, we say they’ve “quit”. This could happen because they don’t like something about the site or the site doesn’t have what they’re looking for.
All websites have some part of the visitor exit count by default. Even the best of the best have bounce rates between 25% and 40%.
You can’t get everyone to stay on your site.
But you can guess where this is going.
Long page load times don’t just exacerbate bounce rates!
If loading time yours increased from one second to three, bounce rate will increase 32% . Increase load time up to six seconds and bounce rate 106% higher . And it’s only gotten worse since then.
Slow speeds can easily yield over 90% bounce rates even for sites with great content and layout.
Now, imagine how this plays out in Google’s ranking results. Search engines don’t know exactly why 90% of users leave just after opening a page. A high bounce rate simply indicates that your page is not a result that satisfies (and solves) searcher queries satisfactorily.
The same goes for time spent on the website. If a user opens a website but doesn’t pay much attention to it (leaving quickly or only flipping through a page or two), that site is probably a bad search result. Google’s search system is bound to penalize it.
Rand Fishkin’s Moz demonstrated this in an experiment on Twitter . He can control where websites show up in search results by letting his followers leave one page and spend time on another.
As you might expect, site speed also affects time spent on site and pageviews per visitor.
In fact, if your site takes two seconds to load, you might have an average of 8.9 pageviews per user. If the load time is eight seconds, this falls into an average of 3.3 pages per visit.
Fast load times are not only good for keeping users interested in your site, but it also helps keep your site from experiencing a drop in traffic and conversions.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
Perhaps the best indicator of a good search result is the result that the user clicks on.
Admittedly, people are rarely too careful when choosing which sites to open. However, they tend to skim the results on the SERP to find the best one, and it’s worth it.
Therefore, if a site in search results gets disproportionately more clicks than others, Google will take note. Pages with higher CTR will quickly get to the top of search results, while those that don’t get clicks will fall behind.
Udi Manber, the former head of search quality at Google, confirmed this. It’s also obvious when you look at it Google patents. Google certainly uses data about how users interact with search results to modify results for future queries.
Again, page load speed plays a part here, although it may not be obvious from the data at first.
Your load times can affect how users interact with your pages as they show up in search results.
Specifically, 75% of users avoid returning to a site that takes more than 4 seconds to load. That load time may not seem like much, but it’s still enough to keep 3/4 of users away from your pages. That means they’ll ignore it if your content shows up in search results.
Obviously, this affects rankings.
Polls that study e-commerce websites show that fast load times are important to site loyalty for 52% of users. This just shows more clearly how load time can affect search rankings.
Last but not least, users will talk to each other.
They share experiences, both positive and negative.
In other words, if users wait too long for your site to load, they will likely share their bad experience with their friends. In turn, their friends may ignore your site if it shows up in search results.
The process is complicated, but it can result in slow loading speeds.
Here is the bottom line:
If your pages take a long time to load, you are walking on thin ice. Even if you improve load times, many users may continue to avoid your site. After all, it’s not their job to check if the speed has improved.
Such user behavior will result in penalties from Google’s ranking system, even if your site has great content, attractive design, and a well-structured user interface.
All in all, Page Speed affects search rankings in many ways.
Google has done everything it can for webmasters to make their sites faster, and the PageSpeed Insights tool was born for that purpose. This trend is sure to continue as site speed improves user experience and Google continues to act as a custodian of the desire to make the Internet a better place.
Many website owners have taken action and many have significantly improved load times in 2018. Sooner or later, there will be no room left for less than optimal sites.
That’s why you should go ahead while you still can and improve your own website.
What is your next step?
Get acquainted with the speed optimization technique and apply them to your website. If nothing else, at least cover the basics like optimizing images, GZIP compression, and choosing a quality web hosting site.
Ideally keep the load time under 3 seconds. This will help you avoid any direct and indirect penalties. Users will like your site and will be happy to pay you when it appears in their search results.
Google will have no reason to penalize you. Instead, if visitors spend a lot of time on your site, that will help your SEO rankings. You might just end up at number one on the first page of Google.
Work on optimizing your speed as soon as you can, and you’ll be amazed.
Good luck getting to the top! For now, open PageSpeed Insights and test your site.