How Page Load Time Affects Your SEO

loadingIconYour page load time has a direct impact on your bottom line, because getting someone to click is only the first stage of the battle. Then you have to reel in customers or readers to minimize bounce-back rates, and most humans aren’t known for their patience.

Nobody wants to watch that page-loading icon for an agonizing series of seconds, and that includes Google algorithms. If your page loads too slowly, search engine optimization (SEO) points will be docked for that. You already knew that a slow-loading page is bad news, but now there’s research to back it up.

What’s the ideal pace?

Amy Gesenhues, a news reporter for Search Engine Land, noted in March of last year that the average time for a page to load on the country’s leading retail sites was longer than seven seconds. In an ideal world, it should take less than three seconds for your page to load.

KissMetrics says that if your page takes between four and five seconds to download instead of the ideal three or less, it will cost you as a national retailer billions of dollars. Just a one-second delay can cause a seven percent sales loss, according to KissMetrics, and that’s something nobody wants.

Speeding things up

There’s more to slow speed than a poor customer experience and profit losses, because it also directly affects your SEO. Professionals in the field have known about this forever, but it’s becoming more widely known as well as essential.

Google keeps some things transparent, such as the page speed patents owned by the tech giant. “Using Resource Load Times in Ranking Search Results” was published in February 2014, a full seven months after the official announcement from Matt Cutts that Google was using site speed as part of SEO algorithms.

Under this particular patent, Google goes into detail about how a faster load time gets “ranking score bonuses,” which significantly pushes sites toward the top of Google rankings. Whether you operate a medical resource site, sell flowers in Tulsa, or manage a gossip blog, faster load times can and will improve your SEO.

The patent states, “A search result for a resource having a short load time relative to resources having longer load times can be promoted in a presentation order, and search results for the resources having longer load times can be demoted.” In other words, speed can reward or punish you.

(Literally) keeping up with the Google

It’s one thing to use speed to help with SEO, but it’s another to understand exactly how Google is ranking speed. Chrome is the ticket here, not the web crawler that figures out all the other Google SEO goodness.

When the Chrome browser was created, tools were included that let engineers and developers pinpoint the speed of pages. That makes sense; the tracker sends information directly to Google every single time a page is visited with Chrome (but no other browser).

However, this doesn’t mean you can focus solely on Chrome (that would probably be called a black-hat trick, if it were the case).

Any Google search on any browser or device is taken into account by Google. The page speed of all relevant matches is looked at, and a ranking bonus is applied to the fastest.

Your page is being compared to your competition and Google immediately re-orders the search results. Just like anything else in life, if you’re not delivering, you can bet someone among your competition is … and being rewarded for it.

About Larry Alton

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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