Everybody likes fast sites. 

And fast sites are measured with a clock not with grades provided by any website performance checking tools. A good letter grade doesn’t necessarily mean a fast website load time. 

Search engines like Google do check your website load time and they like it as fast as it can be. Ever since Google is switching towards the “mobile fast indexing” it’s very important for a webmaster to keep his/her page very well optimized in order to keep up with the competition.

John Mueller answered “YES” to this question in 2019, “site speed is definitely a ranking factor?” 

In this modern era fast load time is absolutely essential and if Google says so, the slow loading website can be penalized or ranked lower just because they are slow. So you need to keep an eye on that part and definitely need to give attention if you haven’t until now.

QUOTE: “To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.” – Doantam Phan, Google, 2016

Site speed is a small ranking factor, usually an inadequate consideration by the search engines.

Quote: “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load” – Neil Patel, Internet Marketing expert

Quote: “How fast your website loads are critical but often a completely ignored element in any online business and that includes search marketing and search engine optimization. And that includes page load times on mobile devices: The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, according to a new analysis. Yet 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. That’s a big problem.” Dainial An, Google, 2017

According to Google SOASTA research, 2017 the probability of page bounce rate increases with increasing page loading time, because it greatly improves the user experience.

Google-SOASTA-research_output

Every single second has an impact

The impact of page performance depends on its speed optimization and is reversely proportional. The reverse order of performance is not good for any business. The graph below displays how the abandonment increases along with the increase in page loading time in seconds.

website_page_loading_time_graph

Anonymous analytics data from multiple website sample shows the rate of abandonment can increase by 53% after a website load time reach 3 seconds threshold point.

abandoned-visit-record

Important: The bounce rate or abandonment rate varies depending upon various other factors such as content quality, type of content, features of a website, content interest, etc.

The conversion rate of a page also shows similar behaviors with an increase in page loading time. The approximate conversion rate decreases per 1 second are 0.4 -0.5, according to statistics provided by mPulse.

page-conversion-rates
Image credit: skilled

How much time is ideal to satisfy the Google Ranking Factor?

The potential of a fast website can be too fast, the fastest page I have ever tested (probably the fastest in the world) is in this link. The loading time of this page varies in different testing tools because of different testing environments. However, the number of requests (2) is constant.

This page loads in 115 milliseconds in Pingdom (check test result) and in GTmetrix it loads in 287 milliseconds (check test result).

fastest-page-test-result-1

Such kind of webpage loading speed is not easy to achieve in a business page or page full of contents. So we can only put a margin on how slow a webpage should not be!

QUOTE: “We do say we have a small factor in there for pages that are really slow to load where we take that into account.” John Mueller, Google, 2015

According to GTmetrix an average loading time of pages in their database is 7.2 seconds. With that as a reference, you can assume a page should not take more than 10 seconds else slow loading can cause a downfall in the ranking.

Another person from Google said when asked about a site with loading time almost 5 seconds,

QUOTE: “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Make it as fast as you reasonably can.” Gary Illyes, Google, 2016


Why slow loading is harmful?

Google and other search engines need to crawl a page in order to get them into their database. The crawler bot has a limited time amount to go through a page and can’t wait for long to load all the contents, because the crawling process is costly.

So a slow page is not recommended to ask Google and other search engines for crawling. The faster a page loads the more content will be fetched by the bots, simple as that.

In a statement, John Mueller also said they have got very little time to spend on a single page and a webmaster is responsible to make a full-page crawling possible by that time limit.

QUOTE: “We’re seeing an extremely high response-time for requests made to your site (at times, over 2 seconds to fetch a single URL). This has resulted in us severely limiting the number of URLs we’ll crawl from your site.” John Mueller, Google, 2015

I believe the speed index example below will help understanding the scenario better.

speed_index_gtmetrix

If a page is slow and exceeds the ideal loading time, I doubt some of the content will be missed from getting crawled, and definitely, limited numbers of URLs will be discovered on that page. If you are putting lots of internal links on that page, some of them may not be discovered due to slow page loading. That’s why it’s equally important to keep your page optimized for speed along with creating resourceful content.

QUOTE: “Make sure they [web pages] load fast, for your users. I aim for less than 2-3 secs” John Mueller, Google, 2016

This should give you an assumption of how much time Googlers prefers to spend on-page to discover contents.

More than anything, nobody likes a slow-loading webpage. A slow-loading page will also be going to have lots of uncompressed resources that cost a large amount of data to download a single webpage.

By then you are going to lose traffic, page time, impression, and revenue. Slow loading time is bad practice even though we ignore it most of the time.

slow-loading-webpage-affect

What important rule webserver plays in website load time?

Almost every guide about page performance says to get a fast & reliable web server. Yes, it’s true. It doesn’t matter how much optimization and compression you do to the page contents, in the end, a better web server gives you a final boost to get a decent website load time.

It’s also true that with an average web server, you can still achieve 1-2 seconds loading time but as soon as you change the server that page can load in milliseconds.

QUOTE: ‘For every 100ms decrease in homepage load speed, Mobify’s customer base saw a 1.11% lift in session-based conversion, amounting to an average annual revenue increase of $376,789. Similarly, for every 100ms decrease in checkout page load speed, Mobify’s customers saw a 1.55% lift* in session-based conversion, amounting to an average annual revenue increase of $526,147′  (from wpostats, 2016)

And having a better server worth it because you never know with contents how bigger your page going to be.

You may notice a recommendation to improve server response time or to improve time to first bytes (TTFB) if testing tools detect that your web server is not responding quick enough to the requests.

website-loading-time-recommandation-1

QUOTE: “For Googlebot, a speedy site is a sign of healthy servers, so it can get more content over the same number of connections. On the flip side, a significant number of 5xx errors or connection timeouts signal the opposite, and crawling slow down.” Gary Illyes,  Google, 2017

With a good web server, you can reduce this initial waiting time significantly. There are lots of web service provider nowadays, we all know that. To be honest, kinsta and Siteground would be the most ideal dedicated webserver (with CDN service) to drastically improve your website load time.

Many people are already using and trust these two web hosting services. If the plans of kinsta don’t suit your budget I would suggest trying Siteground. They are fast, reliable, supportive, and easy to use.

These are some positive visual reviews about Siteground on twitter:

combined-siteground-reviews-test-1

Affiliate Disclaimer: The web hosting links mentioned above are affiliate links which means if you purchase any of these services I will earn a percentage as commission. This commission is not intended to cost you extra while purchasing the service.

Fast servers can reduce the waiting time of core elements and HTML of a page, hence make a huge difference by enhancing the TTFB. Once the initial waiting time is reduced, other elements will follow the short server response time.

time_to_first_byte-1

The average loading time of pages…

The average loading time can be different depending on the testing environment. According to GTmetrix average loading time of webpages is 7.2 seconds. Google lighthouse measures the overall page performance rather than loading time. It has classified them into three categories – slow, average, and fast page within the range slot (0-49), (50-89), and (90-100) respectively.

QUOTE: The average load time for mobile sites is 19 seconds over 3G connections. – DoubleClick research

QUOTE: “From the millions of tests performed using our website speed tests, we found that the average load time for a webpage is 3.21 seconds…[] What we found was that, unsurprisingly, a page’s load time directly impacts bounce rate….[] as soon as the page load time surpasses 3 seconds, the bounce rate soars, to 38% by the time it hits 5 seconds!” Pingdom, 2018

The data from backlinko states that the average page takes 87% longer to load on mobile devices vs desktop. It is the direct impact of Time to First Byte (TTFB) which is 1.28 seconds on desktop vs average 2.5 seconds on mobile devices.

mean-ttfb-speed-on-desktop-and-mobile

MachMetrics speed blog says the average speed index of webpages is 4.7 seconds in desktop and 11.4 seconds in mobile whereas HTTPArcive data explains that average size of these website are 1.966 Mb for desktop and 1.778 Mb for mobile.

Google recommends keeping the size of a webpage under 0.5 MB.

website-loading-time-data

Once again optimizing your WordPress and improving TTFB with a fast webserver are two major solutions to improve average page loading. I recommend using the siteground hosting and optimizing your page contents will help you achieve great improvement in the above criteria.


Major steps to improve website load time

However, a website not necessarily always have to be slow because of web servers, there are tasks to by the webmasters as well to make a website fast. The combination of both can give an impressive loading speed to the website.

The following steps are extremely importent to improve webpage loading time.

#1. Install a caching plugin

Caching plugin is a must for a WordPress website because it instructs the webserver to store or remember some of the files to disk or RAM, depending on user-directed configuration.

Thus, it can duplicate the same content it’s been serving in the past. As a result, your web pages load much faster, directly from the cache without requesting and downloading original content over and over again. Basically, caching reduces the amount of work required to generate a pageview.

Configuring a caching plugin can significantly reduce the number of page requests, page size, and most importantly the loading time.

#2. Optimize image

Images consumes the largest part of a page in terms of size, so compressing them and using properly scaled images can reduce great amount of page size. Try to use web optimized image format such as WebP to reduce the page size even more.

#3. Unload unnecessary elements from you page

Do not serve the unnecessary element on your page. You can look at the page wisely and decide which elements are actually required then unload the unused components from that page. I would suggest using the AssetCleanup plugin to find and unload unused elements from every page of your website.

WordPress by default call the functions of installed plugins and theme to every page so whenever you are not using a feature in a particular page consider unloading them.

#4. Minimize js and try not to render blocking

JavaScript and other 3rd party elements on a page may resulting in slowing down your page. You can remove them if not entirely necessary or serve the compressed version of JavaScript.

Remove render blocking if your that doesn’t break your page during initial loading.

#5. Use a CDN to serve your contents

Using CDN can produce high availability and performance by allocating the service spatially relative to end-users. CDN makes it easy for the server by distributing the contents on behalf of the server and reducing the logical distance between the users and server.

#6. Consider removing unnecessary meta tags and meta contents

Try to include the only meta tags your page requires and search engine crawlers. Check these meta tags that Google understands.

These are pretty much the important stuffs you need to do optimize your webpage performance, though these configuration may take little longer to get the prefect shape.


My personal experiment with site speed, Ranking & Bounce Rate

Some times ago I decided to optimize one of my tutorial page performance and loading time and check how it impacts the page ranking and page engagement as well as bounce rate.

The following statistic displays what I achieved with the page performance and how it impacted the bounce rate of that page!

The history of the page size & request in last 20 days:

website-loading-time-page-history

History of page loading time in last 20 days

website-loading-time-history-data

The bounce rate however didn’t made a much difference (let’s consider the quality of the content and length are required as well) however, the time on the page significantly improved during these 20 days by approximate 48%.

bounce rate website loading time

Honestly, I do not believe that 20 days time barrier is enough for predicting or track some changes in the search engine ranking still I noticed that the page ranking was frequently changing between 3rd position – 9th position over this period.

I never presumed faster website load time to directly promote the rankings of my page since there are other key factors but let’s be optimistic about it that page loading time will impact positively on the ranking factor as long as the Googlers have mentioned it many times.

QUOTE: ‘content’ and relevance’ are still primary’ Maile Ohye, Google, 2010

I did want a faster site, not only for ranking but to improve user satisfaction and proving a fluent page surfing experience. I do believe it is still a matter to take care for increasing the bar of business growth and of course for bringing in more revenue.

The maximum performance I was able to get with this website (wpblogging.in) is:

website-loading-time-result-1

Free tools for website performance checking,

  1. https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights
  2. https://tools.pingdom.com
  3. https://gtmetrix.com
  4. https://www.webpagetest.org
  5. https://www.uptrends.com/tools/website-speed-test

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