We all know that having a fast website is something important for any online business. For every extra second, you’re estimated to lose 11% traffic and 7% conversion rates. This translates into quite significant profit losses on the long term. But, from my experience as a manager of a top WordPress speed optimization service, I know that most people who are trying to increase their page speed, are doing this because of SEO reasons.
This shows a lack of public awareness about conversion rate, bounce rate, traffic, etc. statistics. Over the years, big companies such as Google, Yahoo or Amazon have conducted countless studies regarding the impact of page speed on profitability. Big businesses are treating these numbers very seriously:
— Financial Times manager
Statistics about the importance of page speed are nothing new under the sun. They have been around and have been saying the same thing since as far as 2008. Still, they have yet to reach the ears of the regular webmaster. The average netpreneur or SEOer is highly sensitive to any information relating to SEO but is turned off by boring bounce rate statistics. This is probably the reason why most people who end up searching for a speed optimization service are doing it because of SEO reasons.
But, how much does page speed really matter in SEO?
To answer this question, let’s take a look at this graph from a SemRush study performed in June 2017
As we can see, three of the top four factors that show the strongest correlation with top placement in Google Rankings are factors dependent on page speed. These are also called “UX (user experience) signals.” Lately, Google has begun giving more and more importance to user experience signals as opposed to backlinks and other traditional ranking factors. Of course, backlinks and traditional factors will always remain important, but user experience signals have been gaining more and more importance over the years.
Remember that Google can see these bounce rate, time on site, pages per session, etc. statistics through Google Analytics. If Google notices that visitors are not engaging with the website, it will lower it down in the results.
When does this hurt the most?
From my personal experience and from what I’ve read online regarding this problem, the SEO effects of page speed are more pronounced on the first page of results. It’s like Google starts giving a little more importance to user experience factors when deciding how to arrange websites on the first page of results. Though I am not aware of any serious studies regarding this effect, so it’s hard to estimate too accurately how big it is.
Is it worth to optimize your website speed purely for SEO benefits?
Like everything in the field of SEO, it depends on the size of the project and the importance of that website. It is up to every individual webmaster to do the math and decide how much they should invest in improving their website performance. Generally, the conversion rate, traffic and bounce rate statistics alone make it worth it for any website producing over 500$ a month. If one were to do it purely for the SEO benefits, that would require a bigger threshold. But why are we doing SEO to begin with if we are not interested in CONVERTING that traffic brought on our website through SEO?
Consider a website making 1000$+ a month. If the website is decently optimized for speed, but not optimized to absolute perfection, it will be losing at least 10% profits due to standing a 3-5s instead of 1-2s. In a year, that adds up to 1200$. Who cares about SEO anymore when you have this bunch of money standing on the table?
After the August Google update, there has been a noticeable increase in speed optimization demand. Even though they should have started long ago and for different reasons, at least people are doing it now. Leaving aside monetary concerns, the internet is getting faster, and this is a good thing. A lot of progress has been made over the years in the field of internet services. Internet speed is getting better by the day. Still, most of this responsibility lays on the shoulders of webmasters and SEO experts. An incalculable amount of efficiency is lost due to slow, unoptimized websites. The fact that Google has started pressing the big SEO boot on regular webmasters necks is a positive development in my opinion.