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How to Improve Google Page Speed Insights

How fast do your web pages load? Are they fast enough for Google? Do they pass Google’s page speed insights analysis?

Since Google owns the lion’s share of search queries, it’s important that your web pages meet and exceed Google’s standards for speed, also known as Core Web Vitals.

Google first made page speed a ranking factor for search results back in 2010. That was a time when everyone used a desktop computer or laptop to access the internet. In July 2018, Google made page speed a ranking factor for mobile search results.

Now that Google has launched their mobile-first index, optimizing page speed isn’t an option – it’s mandatory if you want your web pages to rank.

What is page speed?

Page speed measures how fast your web page content loads on a given page. Each element on a page takes a certain amount of time to load, from JavaScript to images, text, and video. Page speed is determined by the amount of time it takes for all content to fully display on a web page.

Why does page speed matter?

Why does page speed matter

Page speed matters for two reasons: ranking and visitor retention.

Ideally, you want your web pages to load as fast as possible. More than 50% of all visitors bounce when a mobile web page takes more than three seconds to load. The result can be catastrophic for businesses. Visitors who experience slow web pages are unlikely to return, destroying what could have been a sale.

Since page speed is now an official ranking factor for all Google searches, it matters for every website. However, you can only optimize your web pages to be so fast. There are limitations, and you don’t want to spend all of your time obsessing over a millisecond. Once you optimize your page speed to a certain level, you’re just splitting hairs.

Google said not to worry about page speed – is that advice still applicable?

In 2016, Gary Illyes from Google Tweeted that webmasters don’t need to worry too much about page speed, even though it’s a ranking factor. However, that was two years before page speed became an official ranking factor for Google’s mobile-first index, which is now the main search index.

Today, we know that page speed matters, and is even more important in light of Google’s mobile-first index. According to Google’s industry benchmarks, speed equals revenue.

Increasing page speed can directly influence conversions

If you’ve ever wondered why mobile conversions are lower than desktop conversions, it’s pretty clear the common denominator is speed.

The average mobile site takes 27.3 seconds to load, but the average visitor bounces when a site takes longer than three seconds to load. If visitors bounce after three seconds, that means most mobile websites don’t stand a chance at maximizing conversions.

It’s time to start optimizing page speed

Prior to Google’s mobile-first index, many webmasters abandoned optimizing page speed when they couldn’t identify a direct correlation between page speed and ranking. Although, that doesn’t mean a correlation doesn’t exist. We know it’s a ranking factor, but it might not be as direct and obvious as other factors like time to first byte (TTFB).

TTFB has a measurably direct correlation with ranking and webmasters have been focusing on improving this speed metric. Google wants all of its indexed pages to have a TTFB of 200 milliseconds or less. Still, page speed is equally important, even if it’s mostly for your visitors.

3 steps to get a perfect score from Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool

Google Page Speed Insights

Do you want a perfect score from Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool? Keep reading, because we’ll show you how to get it.

Step 1: Diagnose your page speed problems

Skip the third-party tools and head straight over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Type in your web page URLs one at a time to have each page analyzed.

The results will tell you if your page is in the red (slow), in the middle, or green (fast). Underneath your overall score, you’ll get a bunch of metrics that show you the speed of various elements. Then, you’ll see a list of opportunities that can help you increase your page speed.

For example, the system might tell you to:

  • Limit third-party code
  • Serve static assets with an efficient cache policy
  • Minimize main-thread work
  • Reduce JavaScript execution time
  • Avoid large layout shifts
  • Keep request counts low
  • Avoid chaining critical requests

Each recommendation will have a drop-down menu that reveals associated details. For instance, under “keep request counts low,” you’ll get a list of how many requests your page makes for each type of resource along with the transfer size of those requests. Under this item, the system will recommend adding a budget.json file to better manage your resources.

Make sure to test your page load time specifically for mobile users. If you have one site for desktop and mobile users, you only need to run one test per web page. If you have a separate site for mobile users, you’ll need to test all of your mobile web pages as separate pages.

Once you identify where your page speed is struggling, you’ll be ready for the next step.

Step 2: Identify the specific culprits

It’s good to know when JavaScript is slowing down your site, but then you need to investigate each script to identify the cause. If large images are slowing down your page speed, you’ll need to identify which images are at fault.

Once you know what the problems are and which specific elements are causing those problems, you’re ready to take specific actions to improve your page speed.

Step 3: Make changes to improve page speed

Before you make changes, set your goal. How long do you want your page load time to be for each of your web pages?

The optimal page speed load time is two seconds or less. Research conducted by Portent shows conversions drastically increase when page load speed reaches two seconds or less. For instance, from three to nine seconds, conversion rates remained at or below 2.93%.

However, at two seconds, conversion rates began to jump. Conversion rates were 4.64% at two seconds, 6.32% at one second, and 8.11% at zero seconds.

What do you need to change to increase your page speed?

Site Speed Impacts Conversation Rates

According to Google’s benchmark data, the ideal web page should be 500KB or less. That’s about a two second load time.

Once you have a specific goal – and hopefully that goal is two seconds or less – it’s time to make a list of what needs to change. Here are some ideas:

  • Minify your JavaScript and HTML. Minification can make a huge difference in your page load speed. Essentially, this involves truncating all unnecessary characters in your source code. You can do this by condensing your code and eliminating unnecessary comments and/or condensing your comments. This applies to code and markup, including JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.
  • Eliminate dynamic content as much as possible. Dynamic content will slow your pages down big time. WordPress is a big culprit. However, you can cache your plugins to make it better. Still, WordPress underperforms in terms of speed compared to Weebly and Squarespace.

If you’re running WordPress for an ecommerce website, consider migrating to Shopify for a better, faster experience.

  • Compress your images. If you’re not optimizing your images before uploading them to your site, you probably have pages that are loading extremely slowly.

If you have a Mac, use ImageOptim to optimize your images. It’s so easy to use, all you do is create your settings and drag and drop images into the program. In most cases, you can reduce the size of your images by 50%.

  • Use Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP strips away unnecessary content on your mobile web pages, which drastically increases the load time. With AMP, your web pages will be presented to visitors as a stripped-down, barebones webpage.

The coolest part about AMP is that once a visitor is done reading your page, if they keep scrolling, they’ll continue to the next AMP-powered search result.

  • Switch to a raw PHP/HTML website. If your website doesn’t contain many pages, hire a developer to create your website using PHP, HTML, and CSS files. You won’t have all the bells and whistles that come with WordPress, but you can get a backend admin panel to make editing easy.
  • Hire a mobile developer. When you hire a mobile developer, you’ll get a speedy, mobile-optimized website from the ground up. You’ll also get a user-friendly interface that your visitors enjoy.

Slow website? Get in touch with Website.Design

Is your website slow? Are you not getting the green light from Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool? If you need to speed up your website, but you’re not sure how, we can help.

Want to learn more about what it takes to get a speedy, high-ranking website? Contact us today and we’ll be happy to share our insight and create a plan to get your site on track for success.

The Dev.co development team can speed up your existing website or create a new, speedy design from scratch. If you’re not ranking in the search engines and your site is slow, you’ll benefit from increasing all of your speed-related metrics.

When you partner with us, we’ll get your site up to speed so you can rank better, keep your visitors engaged, and increase your revenue. Contact us today to learn more!

Ryan Nead