Now is the time to increase site speed. We have been looking at site and page load speed as a factor in SEO for quite a few years, but now it is critical. Why? Well, it’s the usual answer – Google has told us it is, and backed it up with a dreaded algorithm update (or two).
There have already been four updates in 2018, including a Core update. Does it feel like your website traffic has been all over the show, up and down like Donald Trump’s tweets? You aren’t imagining it – the ranking results have been a rather unstable place so far this year!
Site Speed & Mobile First Indexing
So why are we focusing on speed? The main reason is the fact that Google has now shifted to mobile first indexing. I hear you – is this actually something I need to know, or is it just more Google-speak? You do need to know, and you need to listen up.
In times gone past, Google would look at the desktop version of your site and use that to determine if you were relevant for a users search or not. With mobile first indexing, Google ignores your desktop site and gives all the love to the mobile version of your website. If your website loads slowly on a mobile device and is impossible for a user to navigate around, then guess what – you probably just lost a whole packet of your website traffic.
Should I Panic?
About plastic in the oceans? Yes. About your mobile site? Probably not so much, unless you have a mdot site – you know where your mobile site is completely different to your desktop site? Then you can get jittery. Most of us however have a responsive website that does okay on mobile devices. Want to know if yours is mobile friendly? Just use our friends at Google’s cool mobile testing tool to see if your website stacks up.
So then why does this post exist if most people shouldn’t panic? Because even though your site loads on a mobile device, it probably takes so long to do it that everyone gets bored and just bounces off. When we paid our developers to craft our sites, I doubt that “it must load faster than lightening” was on your criteria for your site. Big animated sliders, fancy page builders and huge, bloated WordPress themes that load 50 unnecessary plugins all contribute to slow-ass sites. And I hear you – “My site loads fine on my phone”! Well, Google does not care how it loads for you on your high speed Fibre wireless connection – they test it on a standard 3G connection. So your site needs to load fast on a general smartphone with a 3G connection. Now you should be sweating.
How To Increase Website Speed
A lot of the things that make our sites slow need to be fixed by a geek who has great knowledge of how the thing is put together – to be honest, if I told you to minify your CSS, you would probably think I was deeply dodgy. In truth, there are quite a few tricks to be able to speed your site up right now and hopefully claw back a little organic traffic in the process. Fo those of you without a WordPress site, you may need to dig a little deeper, as these tips of really for WP users.
- Enable AMP. AMP stands for accelerated mobile pages and we first told you about them in 2016. This is a project where Google and some other clever publishers came up with a way to deliver content to mobile devices super-quickly. You have seen an AMP, even if you aren’t aware of it – try to a search on your smartphone – see the pages that come up with the little lightening icon next to them? That’s an AMP page. To get AMP on your WP site is easy – download the AMP plugin by Automattic and enable it. There are thousands of videos on Youtube showing you how to do this. Just remember – if you have optimised your pages and posts using Yoast, you need the Glue for Yoast and AMP plugin by Joost van der Valk as well, to make sure your metadata gets transferred across.
- Check your server allocation. For most companies, your website uses shared hosting. This means your website lives on a server with lots of other websites, and the hosting company makes money by cramming in as many as possible. Your site has probably also been on the same server for years, and you haven’t even considered how it has grown but your hosting package has stayed the same? It may be time to ask your hosting company what your server allocation is. You should have 512Mb memory, 512Mb WP allocation and be on at least PHP version 7. Don’t worry about what it means, just get your hosting company to up your limits and versions. Essentially we are making a bigger pipe to pour your website through and making sure we are greasing the inside of the pipe as well.
- Ditch the slider. You know the big animated banner with huge images that loads at the top of your website? The thing that you probably spent the most time fighting with your web developer about because you wanted it absolutely perfect? I have sad news for you – nobody on your website actually looks at it. Numerous eye-tracking studies have shown that users generally scroll past the slider and look for information that is relevant to them. Not only that but the large images combined with the script to make the slider move generally results in the beast just slowing your site down. Yoast even goes so far as to say that sliders just suck.
Is It Worth Rebuilding My Site?
Have you done everything above and your site is still slower than the queue at Home Affairs? Then it may be necessary to rebuild it on a faster, slicker theme. It is painful, but sometimes our past technology decisions do come back to bite us. Rather ditch a badly built theme and move on with something more robust that will stand the test of time.
Need to increase site speed, or rebuild your website entirely? Get in touch with our experts to give you a hand!