The clear answer is “Yes” and “Not much.” Google does use page load speed as a signal for ranking. But, says the search giant, “it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. Currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal.” So, if it does not matter much to Google, why concern yourself with speed? Because your audience demands it. Site speed may not be a huge ranking factor with search engines, but it is with searchers themselves. By improving speed, you can improve the user experience, click-through rates, and profitability. And that certainly matters. Now, how do you make your site speedier?
- Use the Google Page Speed tool to put your site to the test. See what your average load time is.
- If you have a lot of images on your site, this tends to slow down the works. On the other hand, sites with images sell better than those without, so you need them. You can reduce the size of the image (to between 60 and 80 percent of the original to keep clarity) or use an image compression tool that does this automatically.
- Minimize HTTP requests. This simply means that your computer is sending requests for files. To minimize requests, minimize scripts, style sheets, images, and other items that have to be loaded. Again, you don’t want to eliminate them, but you do want to keep an eye on how heavy your site is.
- Use a tool like Gzip. This compresses the size of the page that is sent to the browser, and then decompresses it for the viewer. You can shrink your file size down by up to 70 percent, which will have a dramatic effect on speed.
- Consider a CDN (content delivery network). Instead of delivering content through a single host, a CDN is able to route it through hundreds of servers. This allows users to download items simultaneously, resulting in faster load times.
Google may give precedence to signals like freshness or quality content, as it should, but your audience likes speed. Taking the time to optimise your site will pay off.