Google announced in 2012 that they would use page load speed to rank websites. That is, the slower your page is to show up for visitors, the lower your value — all things being equal. All things usually aren’t equal, but a fast website is definitely a plus for SEO.
Your content and your links are always the most important things, and a fast load time won’t make up for poor content. But slow load times affect your website’s usefulness for your visitors, too.
You may know from your own experience that visitors can be frustrated by a slow-loading page. We expect lightning speed from the internet on all devices now. And since web visitors give your site just 4 – 12 seconds before they either commit or click away, a page that takes 7 or 8 seconds to load may lose a lot of visitors before they even get a chance to see much of your content.
How do you know if your website is fast enough?
You can’t just visit your website on your office computer to judge your website’s speed. There are too many other factors in play.
Start by checking your website’s speed with an online tool like the Page Speed Insights tool from Google. Just type or paste in the URL for your website and you’ll see your overall grade as well as suggestions for things you can fix.
This tool will give you specific improvements you can make.
How can you make your page faster?
Share your concerns with your web team, of course, but here are some things that can affect your page speed:
- Your hosting makes a big difference. Low-cost hosting can save you a few hundred a year in fees, but it can cost you much more if it slows down your site.
- Optimize your images. Don’t use images that are much larger than the size you need, and ask your web team to optimize those images before placing them.
- Make sure your code is good quality and up to date. Think twice about using automated website builders that add lots of excess code. And consider, if your website hsn’t been updated in a while, whether it might be time to upgrade.
- Resist the temptation to use lots of animation and other fancy stuff. Half a dozen jazzy plugins can slow you down quite a bit without really improving user experience.
- Minimize the number of ads on your website.
Take the necessary steps to improve your website speed.
What about your content?
More words won’t slow your website down. More pictures can, especially if you use very large files. Upload your videos at YouTube and embed them on your website instead of uploading them to your pages.
Certainly, if you have Flash or other special effects going on, think seriously about removing them. Their value to your visitors is probably not high enough to balance their disadvantages if your website is loading slowly.
Don’t obsess over site speed — don’t let concerns about speed overshadow other aspects of your visitors’ experience. But recognize that a speedy load time can make your website easier for patients and clients to find.