Google change puts website speed under the spotlight

Thursday 17 January 2019, 11:17AM
By News Online


Improvements to Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool may only be enough to get the digital geek world excited, but it’s also a timely reminder to New Zealand marketing managers that the amount of time their websites take to load could be having a major impact on sales.

CEO of Auckland digital marketing agency, Insight Online, Kim Voon, said today that page speed is a huge Google ranking factor because the time a website takes to load influences the user experience of customers who are using their mobile phones to browse the internet.

“In our experience, most Kiwi websites could improve their website speed if they want to rank better on Google and win more sales and leads. Site speed is even more important for mobile users due to the slower internet connections. Sixty-four percent of smartphone users expect pages to load in less than four seconds.

“A one second delay in loading speed can reduce your sales conversion by around seven percent per day,” Voon said.

Until recently, Google provided two tools to measure website speed. Google’s PageSpeed Insight (PSI), favoured by digital marketers, and another open source tool called Lighthouse, which was preferred by website developers. In the latest development, Google’s PSI has switched to using Lighthouse as its analysis engine.

“Page load speed, particularly on mobile, is probably one of the top five factors of more than 200 that can impact your keyword rankings. Speed has always been important but, with the recent rounds of Google updates, the faster your website loads on mobile the more likely Google will favour you.

“Other factors that impact your website’s ranking and ability to convert more sales includes the quality of the technical build of your website, your content, the strength of your brand, even user behaviour,” Voon said.

For example, if lots of people are clicking on your search result, landing on your website and then immediately leaving to return to the search page (“pogo-sticking”), your website will suffer in rankings for whatever that search was.

Some reasons for people leaving might be because your website is too slow, or what the customer finds is not what they expected.

Voon offers the following tips for marketing managers who want to improve their website speed:

1. Make images smaller 

The biggest thing is to compress (make smaller) all your images, photographs and graphics.

“People unwittingly upload large images because many websites automatically adjust the image to fit the site’s parameters, but that doesn't change the size of the image and big files take time to load.

“Speak to your website developer about the best sizes for images on your website, and make sure all your images comply,” Voon said.

2. Ask your website developer to minify your HTML, CSS and JavaScript

“This means that your developer will put all the code on the website through a process that removes all the spaces and line breaks (squeezes the code together). This cuts down on loading time,” Voon said.

3. Minimise and update redirects

“If you update/redesign/redevelop your website a couple times over the years, you might have a lot of URLs redirecting a few times, sometimes called a ‘redirect chain’. It’s important to shorten these chains by keeping your redirects updated because it can impact your page authority and how long it takes Google to ‘see’ your website and start ranking it.”

4. Chat with your developer

“The best thing to do, if you are a marketing manager, is to test your website’s speed via PSI, and take the results to your website developer. Work with an expert to improve your website speed, it could make a significant difference to your business,” Voon said.