In 2023, the SEO landscape is only becoming more competitive — especially given the prevalence of AI technologies and non-human-created content. To get a leg up on your AI-powered competition, I recommend doing everything you can to leverage SEO performance boosts. One of the least-appreciated, in my opinion, is page speed.
The average page speed for Google-indexed domains is 1.65 seconds. If your website takes longer to load, chances are you’re taking an SEO hit without even knowing.
After all, Google’s PageRank algorithm is hellbent on making the internet as user-friendly as can be. A laggy, heavy website is one of the worst ways you can make your content inaccessible and painful to use for your visitors. That’s why I strongly suggest taking the steps outlined below to optimize your page speed and, in turn, improve your SEO performance.
Step 1: Check your current page speed
Your first step is to find out how quickly your website is displaying on the client’s device. The two main key performance indicators (KPI) for determining your page speed are: page load time and time to first byte. You need to find out both to get a holistic view of your site’s speed.
Here are some free tools that I have personally used over the years to obtain these KPIs with a high degree of accuracy:
Personally, I use GMetrix, but it’s just a matter of preference — there are essentially dozens of free tools like these that do the same thing.
Step 2: Audit your images
If I find a page is loading slowly, the main culprit is often image files being oversized. For me, compressing and resizing images is the single most effective method of reducing load times and creating a speedy, lightweight website.
Right-click every visual element on each of your website’s pages, and select the “Inspect” function. Pay attention to the dimensions (in pixels) and size (in Kb or Mb). My rule of thumb is to compress any image above 200Kb and to downsize any image wider than 1600px.
I personally use TinyPNG to compress image files and Adobe Express to resize oversized images down to a width of 1,600 pixels or fewer. These are both free tools that get the job done, but you can substitute them with any alternative you please. Once resized and compressed, permanently delete the old images from your website’s media library and replace them with their lightweight replacements.
Fortunately, you can run your website’s code through programs like CSSNano and UglifyJS to automatically optimize the code without the assistance of a technical expert. This is a process known to Google as “minification.”
Related: Vrooom! Why Website Speed Matters.
Step 4: Reduce HTTP requests
If too many websites are redirecting to yours, it can over-encumber your website and bulk up its load speed. You may want to manually eliminate any non-necessary 301 or 302 server transfer redirects you have set up on your website.
To do this, you may need to consult with a back-end developer who has experience in this area of expertise — something I recommend doing if you have ever transferred your website to a new domain in the past.
Step 5: Consider browser caching
To enable browser caching, you need to configure your web server to include appropriate caching headers in the HTTP response. These headers specify how long the browser should cache the resources before requesting them again from the server, which can reduce the number of HTTP requests made by the browser and improve page load times.
If you need assistance doing this, consult a back-end developer to handle this part of the process.
Regularly review and update your caching configuration as needed to strike the right balance between caching efficiency and content freshness.
Step 6: If all else fails, find a different host
Certain web hosting services can add unnecessary time to your page speed to the location of their servers, bandwidth and traffic bottlenecks, and Content Delivery Network (CDN) integration. If you have improved all other aspects of your website but still aren’t seeing results on page speed, consider opting for a new web host that specializes in lightweight, speedy load times for your target demographic.
However, I recommend keeping this as a last resort. Switching domain hosts can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it’s best that you exhaust all other options before arriving at this one.
Your website’s page speed is one of the most overlooked on-page ranking factors for SEO. If you can get your load times below the median, you stand a much better chance of ranking at the top of search engine results pages than your competitors with bulkier, heavier pages.
By following my method outlined above, you can trim the fat from your site and leave it faster, lighter and better equipped to enhance the user’s overall experience.