It does not take years of experience in SEO to know that the favorite answer to any question for every SEO specialist is: “It depends.” But website speed is one of the simplest factors because in essentially every normal scenario, faster is always better. 

So how do you know if your website is slow enough to trigger a penalty? Or better still, is your page speed working against your SEO results?

Image source: Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

#1: Niche Assessment & Page Speed – Analyze Your Competitors

The first clue to whether you should focus your efforts on your page speed is by assessing your niche. Is your website slower than your competitors, peers, and partners? If your website is slower than the industry average, you can expect to see suboptimal bounce rates, time on site, return visits, and conversion rates compared to your competitors, and this may be the best way to see if you need to invest in better site speed in 2023. 

Yes, a page built only with HTML, without any images and media, will lead you to 100/100 on the Page Speed Insights test, but is it truly important for your business or website?

The answer, in many cases, is simple – no. In principle, you should always strive to minimize excesses that can slow down your website, but sometimes, it is much better to make a website that will be user-friendly & that will be attractive to your clients.


#2: Listen to Your Visitors!

This is probably the most underutilized tactic in improving SEO – ask your customers, partners, and employees whether they are ever frustrated by slow load times on your website. This type of “voice of the customer” feedback is tremendously valuable in discovering whether you have a problem with page load time – if your customers are telling you there’s a problem, it is very likely that Google already agrees with them, and are penalizing you for it. 


#3: Use Google Analytics to Isolate Slow Pages

Google Analytics is one of the best tools for measuring the speed of individual pages on your website. (And it is important to point out that you shouldn’t confuse overall website speed with individual page load times. It is common for a website to be relatively fast loading overall, but to have a few pages that drag down the site average, and with Google Analytics, you can easily see which pages are the problem areas. 


So How Do You Fix a Slow Website? 

If you determine that your website speed IS hurting you, here’s what you should know: 

First, although site speed is NOT all about your website host, if you are using a cheap hosting service, your website may be on a shared hosting server with hundreds of other websites, and this may be slowing your website down – moving to a dedicated hosting service will solve this problem. 

Second, it is important to have an SEO professional optimize your code. If you minimize the excess CSS, JavaScript, and HTML, your website will almost always load faster. Furthermore, by removing code comments, formatting, and unused code and compressing images and media, you can fasten your web page even more.  The formula is generally easy – the simpler your website is, the faster it will be. This explains how eCommerce websites will almost by default, be slower than most industries. Hundreds or even thousands of products that one webshop can encompass drags a lot more code, imagery, and demanding technology/platform. 

Third, limit javascript in general on your website. GoogleBots can have trouble crawling pages created with JavaScript, which can harm SEO. 

Fourth, review the size of files and images on your website – we often see high resolution photos and videos that are creating a heavy weight on page load times, and these images and files can be reduced tremendously without sacrificing any image quality. 

You can go beyond these four recommendations of course, and for important campaigns, we always recommend using a tool like Screaming Frog to meticulously find every factor that is dragging your speed down unnecessarily. But if you follow the four steps above, you will more than likely be able to improve your website speed, and, as we have already noted, faster is almost always better when it comes to SEO. 


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Julijana Spasic is an SEO Specialist at the Will Marlow Agency. Always curious and on alert, she is on a mission to disentangle the newest SEO riddles to help fellow websites ascend to the top of SERPs.

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