Google and site speed scores

 

If you’ve been working in SEO during the past year or so, you’re probably aware that site speed has become a prominent subject in many SEO talks, articles and strategies. Part of the reason this topic has become so popular is because of Google’s Mobile First Index update due in early 2018. It’s no secret that more and more users are going to browse websites via their mobile devices and mobile internet connections are still slow in comparison to broadband / fibre optic speeds. In addition, lately, keeping site speeds to respectable levels has become progressively tricky as websites are becoming heavier and the use of JavaScript frameworks are increasingly common.

Google’s algorithm has changed a lot since 2011, and today SEO optimisation strategies involve more than tricks and isolated fixes. It’s all about providing the best experience possible for the user and site speed is definitely a key factor in this. In an ideal world, every website would aim to have a score of 100 out of 100 (Google Site Speed scoring system is on a scale of 1 to 100). In reality, it takes heavy resource and incessant optimisations just to be within grasping distance of this achievement and as a result reaching 100 would be of little benefit in relation to profits gained. Therefore, rather than aiming for 100, sites should aim to be on par with, or just ahead of, competitors in their sector or website type.

Ideal landing page times

 

There is nothing more frustrating for a consumer than waiting for a page to load and various studies maintain that only pages with loading times under three seconds are satisfactory.

ChromeDev Summit 2016*Screenshot taken form the Google ChromeDev Summit 2016 (10/11/2016)

Yet, despite this advice, and the fact and figures presented in industry reports, it is still very unlikely that a site will have a load time of under three seconds. So, given that 53% of users abandon sites that take longer than three seconds to load, why do so many sites have loading times over three seconds? Below using three examples (retail, travel and insurance), this piece will turn to look at how it is only necessary to stay on par with competitors in your sector to avoid using up vital resource for little reward.

Retail

 

In retail, the most challenging factors you will face regarding areas affecting your loading time include heavy content management systems, imagery and scale. Therefore, don’t look at site speed as an overarching standalone metric but view it as a metric within a specific set in a sector. The site speed measurement algorithm is smarter today than ever and understands that every industry has its perks and downfalls. It takes into account the nature of the industry, and the fact that some pages will inevitably be heavy, for instance product pages.

As you can see below, the top performers in this industry tend to be around the four second mark, and thus any hope of breaching the three second mark would be either extremely difficult or simply imposing a high effort for little gain.

retail industry comparison

 

Travel

 

In travel, imagery is one of heaviest resources that pages will need to load, and as a result, in this sector, the top performers only tend to have a site loading time of around four and a half to five seconds. Remember, when optimising site speed for a travel client, it is vital to focus on visual resources. For instance, see an example of a travel website below. In this example, the site analysed has not fully optimised its visual assets and uses a large amount of JavaScript resources. Entering the fair classification could be achieved by fixing some standard speed issues, like imagery compression or JavaScript and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) file compression.

travel industry comparison

 

Insurance

 

Lucky for the insurance sector, websites tend to be lighter and smaller. On the other side, this means that you’ll be expected to get a better a site speed score. As you can see in the below example, a site that sits at six seconds would be considered a poor performer, compared to eight seconds for both Travel and Retail sites.

insurance industry comparison

 

Buying insurance on mobile devices tends be less common than purchasing a t-shirt or a stay at a hotel. Nonetheless, the research phase is a crucial part of the process, this means you might want to place emphasis on both desktop and mobile optimisations.

Findings and the future

 

As has been shown, there is no one rule that fits every website. Understanding your users’ behaviour and the sector you’re working within will define your site speed optimisation strategy.

Back in June, Google announced they were rewriting their page speed algorithm. This means it’s possible that the current factors impacting site speed scores will be changed and that the algorithm itself will become more accurate, especially regarding it taking into account recent changes in the industry. For example, the new algorithm works on the basis that mobile site speed is more important for numerous user experience reasons, and thus, will mark this as a ranking factor moving forwards. There has been a lot of chatter surrounding this and the Mobile First Index update as people fear for what will happen to their businesses over the next year, but there is one thing to remember; if you put your users at the centre of your SEO Strategy, there is no reason why your website should not thrive.