What is page speed?

Page speed — also known as load speed — refers to the amount of time that a webpage on a site takes to load. There are various ways to optimize your site for page speed.

Site and Page Speed Optimization for SEO

Search engines take a variety of measures into account in order to best satisfy searcher intent. Site speed is an important component of a site’s performance. 

What Is Page Speed?

Page speed — also known as load speed — refers to the amount of time that a webpage on a site takes to load. With a society focused on immediacy and wanting things now, the amount of time it takes to display all of the content on a particular page becomes exceedingly important for SEO ranking — as well as visitor retention. There are various factors that can affect the speed of a specific page that include:

  • Browser: Older or outdated versions of browsers may present loading lag because they may not be compatible;
  • Connection Speed: The type of connection you have (i.e. dial-up, DSL, fiber-optic, etc.). If an individual is using dial-up, the effort put into optimization will not matter. But the difference between DSL and Fiber-optic can make a difference in page speed;
  • Files: The more files — and the larger the files — that are present on-page, the longer it will take for said page to load. This is especially true if your files are not optimized;
  • PC Cache: Since the cache on your computer is meant to help access recently searched information in a more efficient manner, the computer used to access the website can affect the page speed;
  • Plug-ins: Plug-ins are intended to simplify website maintenance, but having too many plug-ins can slow down your website (especially if they are not optimized);
  • Server/Hosting: The web hosting company — as well as the server you place a website on — affects the page speed directly;
  • Traffic Volume: Most websites have a maximum rate of data transfer across a given path — also called a website’s bandwidth. If your bandwidth cannot support your traffic volume, the page speed can be slowed down. This should take checking mobile traffic into account as well.

How Is Page Speed Measured?

There are a variety of metrics that can be used to determine page speed. This creates some confusion with the definition (in some cases) due to the nuances of the term. It then becomes important to understand the different page speed measures. These measurements include:

  • Fully Loaded Page: This measurement alludes to the amount of time it takes for an entire page to load;
  • Time to First Byte: This measurement is in reference to the amount of time it takes for a page to begin the loading process;
  • First Contextual Paint: This measurement refers to the time it takes to load the resources necessary to browse the content on your page (this includes your main page, as well as sub-pages);

Page Speed Test

Site owners and webmasters can utilize the following free tools in order to evaluate the speed of a site:

  • Google's Mobile-Friendly Test: A site dedicated to testing how well a site loads for mobile readers;
  • Google Page Speed: A open-source add-on that analyzes a website and offers suggestions for ways to improve page speed;
  • WebPageTest: Offers a waterfall chart of your pages in relation to page speed as well as suggestions for optimization;

YSlow: An add-on that analyzes web pages in order to understand their page speed based on Yahoo!’s rules for high-performance web sites.

Want to learn more?
Visit our blog to learn more about search and search engine optimization.
SEO Keyword Research

SEO Keyword Research

Read our comprehensive SEO keyword research guide to learn how you can get your web pages to show up higher in the SERPs.

 Link Building Guide

Link Building Guide

Check out our ultimate link building guide to learn how to earn powerful backlinks to empower your web content in search.

Why Is Page Speed Important?

In 2010, Google began using site speed in web search rankings as part of their search algorithms. The reasoning behind retaining a visitor is important will vary between site to site (i.e. to push to a landing page, etc.), but more often than not, all sites want to limit bounce rates. Thinkwithgoogle provides statistics surrounding page speed that state:

  • As a page’s load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds, the probability of a searcher bouncing increases 32%;
  • As a page’s load time goes from 1 second to 5 seconds, the probability of a searcher bouncing increases 90%;
  • As a page’s load time goes from 1 second to 6 seconds, the probability of a searcher bouncing increases 106%;
  • As a page’s load time goes from 1 second to 10 seconds, the probability of a searcher bouncing increases 123%. 

So far, site speed does not appear to be weighted quite as heavily as traditional measures of SEO like backlink profiles (to pages and domains as a whole) or having high-quality content on each page. Instead, site speed is a newer consideration in Google’s ranking factors, coming largely on the heels of the shift to mobile-first indexing. It focuses on two measures primarily: page speed in mobile search ranking, as well as traditional desktop browsing methods. It has affected 1% of search queries according to Google.

Page Speed Optimization for SEO: Tips and Best Practices

Since page speed is one of the metrics taken into account for Google rankings, it becomes important to understand the methods to improve page speed for your website. These techniques include:

  1. Browser caching: By enabling HTTP caching, you can save time during future visits;
  2. Content Delivery Network (CDN): CDNs are a network of various servers located at multiple locations throughout the world that help make information load faster based on geographical location to promote website localization;
  3. Image Optimization: Since images are large parts of a site, utilizing image compression, lazy load, or CSS function can improve image optimization efforts;
  4. Minify Resources: Minifying your resource coding within your site to remove white space, newline characters, comments, as well as blocking delimiters;
  5. Minimize HTTP Requests: In order to promote page speed, you need to reduce the number of HTTP requests;
  6. Plug-in Reduction: Plug-ins promote site efficiency for site management, but too many can slow down your website.