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What is page speed?
Page speed can be defined in many ways. From a technical point of view, it can be defined as the length of time it takes to display all the content on a specific web page, or even for a web browser to receive a web server’s first byte. However, at the end of the day, what really matters is how fast will your visitors feel a page is loading. It’s a sensation above everything, not only metrics. Such a sensation is a bit trickier to measure with numerical values.
That’s why Web behemoths like Google came along with more accurate user-centric metrics. Those help determine how long it takes for a page to be ready for user interaction or to display added-value consumable content like text or images. It all depends on what part of the user experience you want to focus on and if you interpret it as a base metric, part of an overall page performance analysis.
Why does page performance matter for SEO?
Studies have shown that a slow-loading page will keep visitors from staying on your website. The slower a page is, the more a visitor loses confidence in a website and will leave it precociously. And if they do leave, they may not come back. After 3 seconds, nearly half of your visitors will switch to a competitor’s site. You do not want that.
Web developers know that page speed matters when it comes to SEO. Search engines have started to take page speed into account in their search results. In 2010, Google has gone public on the fact that they are using page speed as a ranking factor.
In 2017, they announced they’d highlight even more predominantly web pages that load fast on mobile devices. That’s also when Google started pushing hard for a new Web standard: the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This technology optimizes and makes web pages super fast to load on low-power and low-connectivity devices.
Making your web pages load faster gives you a better ranking for more search keywords and subsequently more high-quality free organic traffic.
As search engines have evolved, Google has placed a significant focus on the overall user experience of a site. In 2020, the search giant introduced Page Experience to its ranking signals. This new ranking signal combines Core Web Vitals with existing metrics like safe browsing and mobile-friendliness to generate search signals for the overall Page Experience.
Page Experience signals look to evaluate web pages by the experience of their users. In brief, they broaden Google's recent on-page criteria with factors that impact the person's experience while consuming the page content.
According to a report by Akamai, fast loading pages also lead to higher conversion rates. Walmart.com experienced a two percent increase in conversion with every second of increased page speed. This just one famous example that shows how spending the time on page load speed could lead to more sales as well as letting visitors choose what content they want to see without unnecessary wait times.
Although not all websites are as large and complex, those quick loading pages will keep visitor satisfaction and convert them into loyal customers.
Page Speed Metrics
When optimizing your website to deliver a fast experience, there are several core metrics you may want to consider. They all are part of a holistic approach to speed engineering. However, let’s have a closer look at the Core Web Vitals:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This metric describes a page's load time. It measures at which point the largest content element in the viewport is rendered to the screen.
- First Input Delay (FIP): This metric relates to a page's interactivity. FID is measured as the interval between the user's first interaction and when the browser begins responding to this event.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). This metric deals with the visual stability of the page. It shows you the instances when a page's layout shifts unexpectedly. A page that shifts can cause the user to accidentally click on the wrong button, and bring terrible consequences.
Several other important metrics compose the performance score of a Web page and should be optimized adequately:
- Speed Index: It calculates how quickly above-the-fold content is visually displayed during page load, in a controlled, consistent way across all devices and browsers you care about. We record a video of the page loading in the browser and examine the visual progression between frames.
- Time to Interactive (TTI): This metric measures how quickly a page is usable and interactive once the browser begins retrieving its content.
- Total Blocking Time (TBT): It determines the accumulated amount of time that a Web page is blocked from responding to any user input. It is computed by summing up the blocking portion of all long tasks between First Contentful Paint and Time to Interactive. Any long task that executes longer than 50 ms. The amount of time after 50 ms is the blocking portion of a long task. For example, when a 70 ms long task is detected, the blocking portion is 20 ms.
How to improve website page speed?
High-performance Web hosting
Hardware and software optimization of a server can bring response times under 100ms. The Time To First Byte (TTFB) measurement is one of the key performance metrics that search engines analyze of the pages they crawl to rank them against their competition. We recommend you always use the services of cloud providers with a solid track record as this assures you top-notch performance, security, features, and support. WP Engine is the battle-tested solution to get your fast website running in no time.
Leverage browser caching
Reduce HTTP requests
Keep the number of HTTP requests and their origin domains needed to render your page as low as possible. Each request adds computing and network latency to your Web application. Furthermore, every time the browser sends an HTTPS request to a domain for the first time, it needs to perform an SSL/TLS handshake with the remote server, which can regularly take several hundreds of milliseconds to complete.
Use the latest HTTP protocol
HTTP/2 is another easy way to make your web page faster! HTTP/2 is a next-generation version of the HTTP protocol that moves beyond HTTP/1.X performance pitfalls with binary data transfer, multiplexing, and connection coalescing. The 3rd version of the protocol is on the way and promises even better performance. You should give it a try.
Users face additional time waiting for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete each time page A redirects to page B. The cumulative impact of these redirects can be tremendous. We suggest using a performance-optimized redirection script and avoiding large numbers of redirects.
Defer or delete remove the maximum number of scripts from your HTML document so that the browser can get on with building a DOM tree and rendering your page without interruption. This makes your site load faster by decreasing the time it takes for the browser to find and parse all of its content.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Content delivery networks (CDNs) are distributed systems of servers that cache copies of your content around the world and deliver it blazing fast from locations close to the end-user. CDNs can offer a huge performance boost -- lowering your site's latency, reducing page load time, and reducing overhead on your server.
Be sure that your images are no larger than they need to be, that they use a next-gen file format and that they are compressed for the Web. For instance, WebP format offers a high compression rate while keeping the image quality high.
CSS sprites combine multiple images into one and are a powerful technique for speeding up your website. This reduces HTTP requests as you only need to load one large image, then render a portion of that image at specific locations of a page.
Enable Gzip or Brotli compression on the server greatly reduces files’ size before sending them to the browser. As it helps deliver smaller and faster pages with less memory consumption on the client-side, it’s an easy quick win for your website performance.
Remove dead code
Quickly load above-the-fold content
Often, Web developers design pages to be consumed only after the page and its resources have been fully loaded. However, optimizing your pages’ code and structure for above-the-fold content will give your users a significantly improved browsing experience as they’ll be able to consume its content much quicker.
Page speed defines how fast a page loads.
Page speed is critical to the performance of a site, brand perception, and overall user experience.
Page performance is as important on mobile as on desktop.
A slow page makes a visitor leave the website prematurely.
Page speed is critical for Search Engine Optimization.
High-performance web pages get better search engine rankings.
Investing in a solid Web hosting provider pays off.
Run our page speed test to assess the performance issues of any public page.
Apply the above recommendations to quickly improve your page’s speed.
Continually monitor the performance of your pages.
Perform a page speed test after each code change to keep providing the best user experience.
- Give a try to WP Engine hosting platform for best site speed.
- Regularly perform a full SEO audit to complete the optimization of your pages.
- Explore web.dev resources for the latest information about Web performance.