How Important is Page Load Speed?

There are two good reasons for optimising the load speed of your website, or even specific web pages:

  1. User experience
  2. Google ranking

Internet users today are buying technological equipment and paying for connections that should give them ‘instant’ access to the information they are seeking and that is what they expect.
Faster loading pages actively encourage users to view more pages and content, as well as deeming it good enough to share. In the long run, page load speed is a big contributory factor to conversions and sales.
Although site load speed is only a small part of Google’s ranking algorithm, a faster-loading site will almost always outrank a slower one. There are two factors to this, one is that fast sites are more popular with users and, secondly, that Googlebot can crawl and index more pages of a fast site.
Whose Responsibility is it?
SEOs are often tasked with addressing page load speed issues and to a certain extent, some optimisation techniques can improve it. For example: ensuring that the HTML source code is robust and validated, optimising graphics and images to reduce their file size and making sure that JavaScript and CSS files are called from server side, rather than being embedded within the website.
Beyond this, there are a variety of technical issues that can cause poor page load times, the main one being the use of ‘cheap,’ shared web hosting services. Their servers are often close to full capacity and are unable to expand available bandwidth.
How is Page Speed Measured?
There are three separate technical elements that can be measured in order to find if they are having an effect on page load speed:
Time to First Byte – This is a measurement of the time that a server takes to respond to a request, it can be measured easily using various free software options.
Download Time – This is the total time taken from the initial request until the whole page is fully loaded, not including server-side items, such as JavaScript files.
Total Render Time – This includes both of the above measurements, as well as render time for all server-side loading as well. Most web designers find that the easiest way to keep track of this measurement is via Google Analytics, which now includes the option to ‘Track page load speed by default.’
Causes Technical Issues
Poor results from any or all of the above measurements are generally caused by some specific issues:

  • Poor HTML coding
  • Lack of available bandwidth
  • Lack of caching facilities
  • Too many pages called from external sources

The answer to the problems above will require some technical and/or budgetary input to resolve them and the responsibility for that is likely to fall to the SEO for the site.
If you are currently in that difficult position, take a little time to prepare a solid toolkit, designed to prove categorically that this is a priority matter.
There are plenty of interesting articles, infographics and videos available online, created by retail giants (such as Walmart), which admirably demonstrate the direct correlation between page load speed and sales.

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