Page speed optimization: Six areas to focus on for better SEO results

Page speed optimization should be at the core of your SEO strategy. Your page speed is just as important as site speed is to SEO. Here, page speed should not be mistaken for website speed.

What is page speed optimization and how important is this factor to your overall website ranking? Your page speed is technically how long it takes the content of a specific page on your website to load completely – or in more technical terms, “time to first byte”, which the time it takes for your client’s browser to get the first byte of data from your web server. Just like site speed which measures how fast a sample of page views on your website, page speed is critical to your search rankings.

Several reports are saying, including Google admitting in 2010, that site speed due to the high relevance of page speed, is used as a web search ranking factor. Now that this is the case, how can you optimize page speed and improve your search rankings? Read on to learn more.

Site speed as Google’s page ranking signal

Since Google’s admission to the importance of page speed, we’ve seen several tutorials on how to understand page speed and improve it for your website. Given Google’s reputed tight-lipped stance on what makes for their ranking factors, it’s understandable to see the level of importance users have paid to page speed since the announcement.

In my view, page speed would be critical to Google owing to the fact that good user experience is one of its chief aim for its users. It’s now important to take measures to get your page speed right by focusing on the following areas.

1. Time to first byte (TTFB)

An area to focus on to get insight on how to improve your page speed is how long it takes your browser to receive the first byte of information from your web server. This is what is technically known as “time to first byte”.

A perfect tool to evaluate this is Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which measures reports from the FCP (First Content Paint) and DCL (DOM Content Loaded) by polling data from CrUX (Chrome User Experience Report).

Running a test using Google’s PageSpeed Insights doesn’t only provide you with site speed data but also includes suggestions on areas to work on to improve speed. An example is a test on NYTimes/section/politics which returned 45% for the desktop and 34% for mobile – which is actually more important.

2. Your web hosting

While most would go ahead and start tweaking their web design and looking at what plugins may cause a lag in page speed, the culprit is not always obvious.

Your web host would play the biggest role in how fast the pages of your website loads. You can run a lean one-page website on some hosting services and still come short on the page speed or website speed.

According to a guide on website speed published by Kinsta, mediocre web-hosting contributes significantly to how fast a website loads. Factors such as geographic proximity to users (cloud hosts are superior in this regard), the volume of clients on a single server and the size of a server’s RAM and bandwidth limit all contribute to the performance of a website hosted on any giving server.

Since 74% of users will never return to a website that takes longer than 4 seconds to load, a poor hosting provider could cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue opportunities. This is not counting the loss of traffic as a result of negative search rankings from poor SEO.

3. Redundant and inactive plugins

Inactive plugins on your website are often serious culprits in slow site speed.

Although, the reason plugins have the option to “activate” and “deactivate” them is to make them dormant while you decide whether they may serve any need in the future, rather than deleting them. However, the most efficient way to prevent plugins that are not being used from dragging down your website is to remove it.

To prevent plugins from unnecessarily slowing down pages of your website, you can consider taking the following measures:

  • Only install plugins when they are absolutely necessary
  • Clear your website cache and Minified CSS/JS after removing a plugin
  • If a plugin hasn’t been active for three months, consider removing it from your website
  • Only install plugins that are up to date and marked as compatible with your WordPress version

Aside from causing lags in your website’s page speed, inactive plugins may cause vulnerability to the security of your website leaving you exposed to attackers and hackers. This undoubtedly will negatively affect your website’s SEO and rankings, costing you traffic and revenue.

4. Clean your website codes

Another area you should look out for when dealing with page speed is the codes that make up your website. While this is a more technical exercise and is better handled by technical professionals, taking care of your website codes and ensuring nothing is off can help you gain some speed.

When investigating website codes that could affect site speed, look into these areas:

  • JavaScript
  • CSS
  • HTML
  • Theme files

Poorly configured theme files, for example, may conflict with your users’ browser, thereby negatively affecting how fast your website loads. Below are some aspects you may want to investigate to make sure your website codes are in proper shape:

  • Enable dynamic caching
  • Minify JavaScript and CSS files
  • Avoid making changes to parent theme files and opt for child theme instead

5. Content delivery network (CDN)

Using a content delivery network or content distribution network, commonly known as CDNs can significantly reduce the time it takes to fully load pages of your website. When users are browsing the internet, proximity to your server can affect how fast content is delivered to them.

What CDN does is host your website content in the cloud, and let the nearest server to your clients handle the delivery of the content when they access your website. Since geographic proximity is also a factor in the speed of content delivery, using a CDN takes care of this and eliminates the associated delays that come with loading a website’s content from a distant location.

CDNs also utilize caching to reduce your hosting bandwidth, making room for smooth content delivery and rendering. Plus, it also helps prevent downtimes with your website.

When you opt for a CDN, the following aspects of your website’s content are taken care of:

  • Images and videos on your server
  • Your website JavaScript files
  • HTML pages
  • Stylesheets

Apart from speeding up your website and helping you to improve your SEO, utilizing a CDN can also be beneficial in the following areas:

  • Security: Your website can be protected from hackers and random attacks targeting your website
  • Mitigation against DDOS attacks: Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks is the most common form of hacks launched against websites to date when a malicious agent tries to disrupt the service of your website. CDNs can fortify your website against this common attack.
  • Increases content redundancy and availability: Since CDNs keep content distributed, pages of your website will remain active and accessible should there be a malware malfunction or spike in traffic

 6. Images

Images are important components of every webpage. And roughly nine out of ten pages on a website would include at least an image. It also goes without saying that images consume the most bandwidth on a website.

To boost your website page speed and enjoy solid SEO dividends, you should optimize images on your website to consume as little bandwidth as possible. Heavy and oversized images are among the top reasons a website may experience slow page speed.

Images that are wider than the content area of your website would overlap on the screen, causing the user experience to suffer. Getting your image size right can make a huge difference in how your page loads.

6a. Image compression

According to findings reported by Blake Hawksworth for effective inbound marketing on how to improve website page speed, it is revealed that –

“Compression has the potential to have the largest impact on page speed, as on average, images make up a total of 65% of a website’s weight.”

This further solidifies the fact that getting your image size and compression right can have the biggest impact on your page speed optimization.

In order to see gains on your SEO, improving page speed by compressing images on your website should be a top priority. To get this right, use image compression plugins such as WP Smush (for WordPress users) or Mass Image Compressor to reduce the file size of images that are uploaded to your website. On image width, ensure you’re not uploading images that are wider than the frame of your website content display area.

6b. Google’s guidelines for image optimization for page speed

Another reliable way to ensure images are well optimized for page speed on your website is to follow Google’s guidelines for image optimization. Realizing the traffic generated by images and their impact on a website’s page speed, Google decided to release a set of guidelines for webmasters to adhere to meet content efficiency and page speed optimization.

And since Google is releasing a set of guidelines for image optimization, it’s safe to assume that images would have significant outcomes on a website’s rankings. Since the scope of this article would not allow me to go over everything in Google’s image optimization guidelines, I recommend visiting the resource for consultation. Rather, I’ll share a breakdown of the most important factors required in the “image optimization checklist”, as recommended by Google, in the next point.

6c. Image optimization checklist

Google declares that there is no definitive answer for how best to compress an individual image, but there are “well-developed” techniques and algorithms that can help see improvements in size reduction. Below are the tips they shared:

  • Prefer vector formats: to meet the demands of a multi-device and high-resolution world, vector images which are resolution and scale-independent are the best option.
  • Minify and compress SVG assets: Ensure your servers are configured to apply GZIP compression for SVG assets.
  • Pick the best raster image format: pick images based on the most-suitable functional requirements.
  • Experiment with optimal quality settings for raster formats: Google recommends dialing down the “quality” settings and you’ll see significant byte savings.
  • Remove unnecessary image metadata: Google concludes that many raster images contain unnecessary metadata such as geoinformation, camera information, etc. They recommend using appropriate tools to strip this data.
  • Serve scaled images: Google recommends that you resize your images on the server and ensure that the “display” size is close to the “natural” size of the image. Pay more attention to large images because they account for the largest overhead when resized.
  • Automate: Google recommends investing in automated tools that will ensure all image assets are always optimized.

Conclusion

Page speed is, as we’ve seen, an important factor in Google’s SEO rankings. And from this article, it’s obvious that getting image optimization right takes the lead in improving your website’s page speed. Try the tips I’ve shared in this article and let me know how your page speed has improved, and if it translates to better rankings for you.

Ayodeji is the founder and CEO of Effective Inbound Marketing, a leading digital agency. He recently acquired BoostMyMedia.com to help clients in the online reputation area.

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Five factors that determine the overall page quality

Google always ranks a web page after determining its overall quality. Page quality is a measure of the importance of a web page in the eyes of Google.

In order to determine the overall quality of a web page, Google hires real humans who are known as “Search Quality Raters“.

Page Quality rating or PQ is a grade given by Page Quality raters who have the responsibility of evaluating “how well a page achieves its purpose”.

Purpose of the content, author expertise, links, and brand citations all come into play while measuring the quality of a page.

In this article, I will discuss the top five factors that directly impact the overall quality of a web page. Let’s start!

1. Purpose of the page

The purpose of the page is the real reason behind the creation of the page.

A page can be created to serve a particular purpose or multiple purposes, make money or harm the user by inserting malicious code via cookies or download buttons.

The first thing that Google does is understanding the purpose of the page in response to the user search. Google applies semantic search to understand the meaning of the words behind the query and matches them with the purpose of the page.

Google presents the best answers to the user after accurately identifying the real intent of the searcher. The purpose of your page must match the real intent of the searcher.

Different sites have different purposes. Hence it is important to identify the real purpose of the page.

Some common purposes of a page

  • The homepage of a news website to share the news with the people.
  • The category page of a shopping portal to sell products to people.
  • A personal review site to inform users about the features, pros, and cons of the product.
  • A how-to page created to help users find the answers to a specific question.
  • A video created to educate people on how to draw a summer landscape.
  • Category page of a software website to allow people to download a particular software.

For example, this page of Best VPN Zone site might have a high PQ rating for the query “how to save money on internet safety” because it lists 55 ways that actually help the searcher to find different methods that helps them to save money on internet safety. Content is over 3000 words and it is divided into proper subheadings that improve the overall readability score of the page. (For tools that you can use to check the word count and readability levels of a web page, please see point three).

When creating a web page, you should keep in mind the actual intent of the user. Identify the main purpose of your page and ask yourself – Does it accurately serve the user intent? The answer should be “yes”.

A page should not be created solely to earn money by running ads or to harm the user. Such pages have the lowest PQ rating.

2. Amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness

Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are collectively known as EAT in SEO. Pages that have strong EAT are rated highly by the search quality raters. Let’s understand what EAT means:

Expertise

Who is the creator of the content? (An article written by Danny Sullivan on SEO has more expertise when compared to an article written by any new author having a few years of experience).

Authoritativeness

How authoritative is the website where the content is published or how authoritative is the author? (An article published on science mission on the NASA website is far more authoritative when compared with an article published on a local science magazine such as this).

Trustworthiness

How trustworthy is the website where the content is published or how trustworthy is the author? (An article published by the Medical Association of Alabama is found to be more trustworthy when compared with the information in the personal blog of any random Alabama blogger).

EAT is an extremely important factor to evaluate the overall quality of a page. A page lacking EAT is considered to be of a low-quality and ranks poorly in the search results.

3. Main content quality and amount

The quality of the MC or main content is another major criteria in the calculation of the PQ rating. While determining the quality of MC, Google pays special focus on the following things:

  • There should be no spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Content should be clearly written and comprehensive (an interesting point to note here is that long-form content gets more backlinks when compared to shorter content and this is another reason why long-form content actually helps in rankings. This Backlinko study proves it.)
  • The information presented on the site should be factually correct.
  • The information should be presented well.
  • Content on a shopping website should allow users to find the products easily.
  • Any video or other features on the site like a calculator or game should be working properly.
  • EAT also applies here.

You can check the word count of a web page using a tool like Word Counter. Similarly, Grammarly can be used to check the content for any grammatical errors. Sophisticated tools like Readable give you a score for your content based on its readability levels.

A good example of a page having high-quality MC is this Wiki on Siberian Husky. The information is comprehensive, clearly written, accurate, has lots of images to make readers understand the various characteristics and every point is backed up by proper data. This makes this Wiki a page having very high-quality MC and no wonder it ranks on the first position in Google for its target keyword.

4. Clear and satisfying website information

Any website on the web should have clear information about who is responsible for the information contained on the website along with details like office address and other contact details.

Having all the contact details on your websites adds to a high degree of trust. For websites that are directly responsible for the health and well-being of a human, disclosing the details of the organization or the person behind the site is extremely necessary.

For shopping websites, adding a customer support number is important because it helps the users to resolve issues. Hence, contact information along with customer support numbers or live chats are a factor in the PQ rating of Google. Depending on the niche of your website, you must add all the information in it that will help your users.

5. Website reputation

Google also finds out the reputation of the website by analyzing the web about references from other experts regarding what they have written or said about a website.

Some ways how Google identifies a website’s reputation

  • Articles published in reputed news agencies about the website.
  • Awards and recognitions won by the business. For example, a website run by a culinary expert who has won the James Beard Foundation Award for culinary excellence would be trusted more by Google when compared to any random blog run by a blogger who hasn’t received any awards.
  • User ratings about an online store or business or about a particular product or service. Google considers a large number of positive reviews as evidence of a positive reputation.
  • For health-related queries, Google carefully considers both the website and the author’s reputation while evaluating the PQ ratings. For example for a query like “what is CBD”, this resource from CBD Central might achieve high PQ ratings because it has clear information about the author. Similarly, this resource from Medicine Net has all the claims are backed up by trustworthy references and might be rated highly by the raters.
  • Any other information about the website or the author of the article on any other website like Wikipedia, niche blogs, magazine articles, and forums.

You can check the reputation of a website using tools like the Moz (for checking Domain Authority), SEMrush (for checking the Trust Score), Ahrefs (for checking the Ahrefs Domain Rating) and Majestic SEO (for checking the Trust Flow). Each of these metrics is important to determine the reputation of a website.

Bonus

Here are some useful ways that you can use to build the reputation of your website.

Final thoughts

You can’t ignore the page quality if you want to rank your page(s) highly in the search results. The above five factors should be considered carefully and steps should be taken to optimize your pages in accordance with these.

Remember, PQ rating is given by real people so don’t think of applying any Black Hat tactics to fool them. Offer the best services to your customers and genuinely earn a positive reputation for your brand. Focus on the main content quality and the purpose of the page.

Last but not least, try to earn brand mentions and links from reputed media publications and nominate your business for prestigious awards in your business category.

Joydeep Bhattacharya is a digital marketing evangelist and author of the SEO Sandwitch blog.

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