Is your site speed negatively effecting your SEO?

Is not getting the basics right harming your SEO?

Effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can mean the difference between a site that gets results and one that does not. However, many organisations receive conflicting advice about what contributes to higher natural (or organic) search listings. How can an organisation improve their SEO? Using backlinks, infographics, blog posts, social media or site speed?

Before Lesniak Swann start exploring these options with a client we like to ask more fundamental questions. The starting point for this is often: ‘is the site safe, secure and up-to-date?’ and ‘are there any technical issues?’. If there are, this is the first step.

So, what is site speed and how important is it?

Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and evolving but put simply, Google will rank sites that give a better ‘experience’ to the user in organic search listings than those that don’t. The reason? Many users will not make the connection between ‘the web’ and ‘Google’ and they (Google) don’t want to lose those users to a competitor like Microsoft.

‘Site speed’ is the time it takes for a web page to load. Google started ranking sites on Page Load Time in 2010 (1) and this is becoming a more important factor in how sites index in organic search. Ranking sites by how quickly they load was initially a response to the rapid increase in traffic from mobile devices. Now, with most internet traffic 2 coming from mobile devices Page Load Time has become a much more important signal for Google in how its algorithm crawls and subsequently ranks sites in their natural listings.

How can site speed be increased?

There are some basic steps any organisation can take to increase the speed of their website.

  • Enable compression: Reduce the size of CSS, HTML and JavaScript files that are larger than 150KB.
  • Good housekeeping: Removing spaces, commas and other unnecessary characters can have a positive impact on site speed.
  • Optimise your images: Are your images heavier than they need to be? Heavy images can impact on site speed / page load time, especially if the user is browsing on a mobile device.
  • Reduce re-directs: Pages which reference a duplicate effects load time. Make sure your pages are unique.
  • Use browser caching: A user’s browser remember a lot of information which can slow down the experience of your site, especially if they are a frequent visitor. Unless the design of your site changes. frequently we would recommend a cache expiration of after 12 months.

Enter Bedrock

In simple terms Bedrock is a system that packages the separate components of a website site into one. This brings a site in line with the ’12-Factor App’ guidelines (3) , the development playbook for major software platforms and can even be used for WordPress sites. Rather than the many Plugins in a WordPress site loading separately and slowing it down, Bedrock can streamline this process. The benefits of a Bedrock framework include enhanced security, easy further page deployment and improved Page Load Time / Site Speed.

Following the 12 Factor App guidelines for developing a website greatly improves site speed. Separate forms and components load as one reducing the time it takes for a web page to load. The structure of the site is changed considerably to close off most common entry points and security vulnerabilities, making the site far more secure. The server is set up using automated scripting to give best practice for both security and speed.

Chris Eardley | Senior Developer | Lesniak Swann

As well as improved page load time and enhanced security the effects of a Bedrock deployment on a WordPress site from an SEO perspective, can be profound.

Case Study:

The Client: Stoke-on-Trent College
Objective: To improve rankings for key search terms and improve security
Solution: Re-build the current site using a Bedrock Framework
The Results: Stoke College now appears on Page 1 of Google for key search terms such as ‘Apprenticeships in Stoke-on-Trent’. Previously, for key search terms Stoke College featured on page 2 or 3. Crucially, no changes to ‘on site’ content or external link referrals were made as part of this exercise.

The Page Load Time is now 0.75 seconds. Google (4) negatively flags pages that load in over 1.5 seconds.

Conclusion:

A website’s construction is a bit like a building, the foundations need to be secure. We would always encourage any organisation to ask the fundamental questions about their website before discussing content or digital marketing strategy based initiatives.

However, we are not advocating that on site, third party or social media activities to improve SEO are wrong. Indeed, most SEO specialists will employ a variety of techniques for a client to ensure that websites increase their natural search presence. Empirical evidence however would suggest a Bedrock installation for either a new or an existing WordPress site improves SEO significantly. As the name suggests, Bedrock is a good development foundation that everything else can be built upon.

Sources:

  1. https://www.seroundtable.com/google-crawl-slow-tw0-seconds-20070.html
  2. http://marketingland.com/digital-growth-now-coming-mobile-usage-comscore-171505
  3. https://knowledge.hubspot.com/articles/kcs_article/reports/what-is-the-ideal-page-load-speed-in-page-performance

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