Google have been taking site speeds into account for over a decade now, initially just on desktop around 2010, then onto mobile devices too in July 2018.
This information wasn’t very good initially, but we eventually got the Core Web Vitals (CWV) reports in Google Search Console (GSC). This meant that we could see issues in more depth and see which specific issues were affecting sites, rather than just being labelled as slow.
This is changing again slightly in early 2024, but the fundamental speed issues are the same. So, whatever it’s called, you need to make sure that your website is fast to help it rank and convert.
What Can You Do?
If you haven’t already, make sure you have a Google Search Console account, and get the whole domain information from your site – not just the prefix version. If you’re unsure what you’ve got, find out more here.
This will populate the Core Web Vitals report, showing you the performance of pages on mobile and desktop. They will be grouped into poor, good and needs improvement, and you should focus on the mobile results first. One will probably affect the other, so any changes can be done incrementally to see the affects.
There are other tools to check on page speeds too, with Google’s own Lighthouse reports being the preferred method. This can be accessed through Chrome by using the inspect element tool. Again, more information can be found here.
It’s best to run this tool in an incognito browser to remove any Chrome plugins and extra scripts from the results. You can also run these tests in bulk through Screaming Frog, or via other tools.
How To Fix a Slow Website
This is the tricky part. Once you know what aspects of your site are slow, you can move onto the changes needed.
Some fixes are site-wide, such as enabling text-compression, gzip or Brotli, image formats and others.
Some will be based on templates or improving your coding, such as minifying html and css, or improving a certain template. For example, if your blog pages are all listed as bad, then it’s much more likely to be an issue with this template or a plugin on each of these pages, rather than something sitewide.
Of course, you might still get some pages which require more specific attention. These will need to be worked on by your development team to ensure they function as intended.
If you are an SEO and you’re unsure about any development related tasks, make sure you play it safe and ask rather than jumping straight in. No-one wants extra work or their work undone, so play it safe in the first place.
There are myriad reasons as to why your website could be slow, so we can’t list everything, but here are some of the more common ones we see:
- Images being far too big in pixel size, such as using full images as thumbnails.
- Older image formats.
- Uncompressed images.
- Unused code.
- Old plugins – particularly on WordPress.
- Sites not using compression.
- Images and resources being loaded when not on the screen.
Why Should You Do This?
If you’re reading this, then you probably already know. It will help improve your rankings and make your domain much more competitive, helping close in on the number 1 spot.
Page Speed isn’t all-encompassing though, so you can have a 100/100 page speed score and not rank, likewise you can have a slow site ranking at position 1.
You should aim to be the fastest in your niche and against your competitors. Don’t worry about what unrelated sites are doing, but look to improve your page speeds to get ahead of competing websites and give your overall SEO a boost.