Category: Author: Lindsey Bouffard
Many people are aware that an important aspect of website performance is site speed—how quickly it loads. At Infinity Dental Web, we have been paying a lot of attention to this aspect of our website designs. In a recent podcast released by Search Engine News they clarified the effect that site speed has.
Does Site Speed Affect Search Engine Optimization?
Some people in the SEO community are focused a lot on site speed, and occasionally technical people evaluating our websites will talk about the load time of a website and its impact on a website’s rankings. As such, we were interested to hear SEO expert John Heard from Search Engine News report on recent comments by John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google.
Here is what John Heard said:
“Is site speed that big of a ranking factor? Well, if you listen to Google’s John Mueller, you’ll hear he only warns against really slow load speeds, and he’s talking something like maybe 27 seconds may have a negative ranking impact.”
John Heard went on to explain that if your site is loading that slow, your bigger problem is user experience. Visitors will become impatient and leave your site before it fully loads.
Site Speed Guidelines
John Heard then gave these guidelines. Keep in mind that the times quoted are referring to the load time for the mobile version of your website over a 3G network:
- If your site loads in 27 seconds, we’d better fix it ASAP.
- If your site loads in 15 seconds, let’s make some improvements soon.
- If your site loads in 7-8 seconds, let’s work on this when time is available. It’s rainy day work.
- If it loads in 1-2 seconds, you should ask for a raise, a steak dinner, and a bottle of champagne!
What We Do to Address Load Time
Of course users want your website to load fast. But they also want an attractive site. If it were all about load time, the best websites would be stripped down with no graphics or moving parts and nothing but plain text. We also know from marketing research that “selling” visitors high-end dentistry demands a high-end website, and subtle moving parts can give a luxurious feel to a website which helps create that important first impression telling visitors that you operate a quality dental practice. We don’t want to sacrifice those features at the altar of site speed. The best user experience is to have the fastest load time while meeting these other requirements. Accordingly, we invest a lot of our technical expertise into minimizing the load time. We also use some of the best tools in the industry to improve site speed including WP Rocket and WP Smush. Here are a few key items that we address:
- Optimize images – Images can significantly slow down your website and should be optimized with modern compression techniques.
- Enable Browser Caching – When someone visits your site, the browser needs to download all of the resources including, HTML, CSS, JS, Images etc. If browser caching is enabled, the browser will use what is called a web cache which means it will temporarily store assets on the device’s local storage. This way assets will not have to be downloaded again when the user goes to another page on the site or visits the site again.
- Avoid unnecessary videos and sliders – While some videos and sliders will enhance the user experience, users can find them annoying when they auto-play. We want to be careful when deploying these assets that they truly are helpful. A video that plays only when it is clicked places much less burden on a site load time than one that plays automatically and may be preferred by the user.
An important takeaway from John Mueller’s comment is that it’s not all about load time. While we don’t want the site to be slow, we don’t want to sacrifice the branding and visual impact of the site in an attempt to make it the fastest among all competitors. The site performance data we collect on all our clients show that conversions, especially for high-end practices offering smile makeovers and complex dentistry, are greatly enhanced by attractive features that may slow the load time. But employing the tactics above can minimize the effect of those features on load time.