How search engines punish poorly performing websites

Posted on:July 17, 2023

Page speed has been an important SEO factor for over a decade. While the true nature of “The Algorithm” may forever be a topic of debate - choosing to ignore load times could earn you a painful page rank demotion.

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A brief history of page speed and SEO

Anyone who remembers throwing a blanket over their desktop to muffle the dial-up noise remembers that fast internet used to not be a thing.

There was a point in the not-too-distant past where having to wait for flash animations on Albino Blacksheep or Homestar Runner to load was a simple fact of online life.

Today, page speed is no longer just a luxury - it’s become a critical factor in determining a website’s ranking in search engine results.

Google is perhaps surprisingly transparent when it comes to publicizing their SEO guidelines, and they’ve formally announced on more than one occasion, that page speed plays an important role in their overall judgment of a website.

SEO is sometimes controversial because despite often being sold as a kind of creative strategy - a huge part of SEO is really just following a set of published rules. So when the rules start getting muddled, people selling SEO strategies start punching the air.

You spent your SEO life as "Technical SEO" and chasing goals that Google gave you as little carrots over a decade via "trusted influencers",

like
- page speed
- mobile friendlieness
- SSL
- and other technical implementation details that helped Google to crawl better...

...then Google says:

Nah, know what? Doesn't matter anymore.
"Congratulations."

—Christoph C. Cemper 🇺🇦 🧡 AIPRM (@cemper) April 22, 2023

The current state of page speed and SEO

As it stands today, speed is still undeniably a major consideration for search engines.

Users have little patience when it comes to slow websites, and we shouldn’t expect our bot visitors to feel too differently.

There are a lot of statistics thrown around, but the two most often-repeated bits of trivia go something like this:

  • Users will leave any website that doesn’t load in under three seconds.
  • The average website takes fifteen seconds to load completely.

If they’re both true, then we can infer:

  • The majority of people are getting away with having slow websites.
  • There is an opportunity to get an easy leg up over the competition.

Google themselves put out an article detailing the business impact of Core Web Vitals. The writeup features some pretty cool case studies of companies boosting conversions by improving their overall page experience.

In other words, more speed = more sales.

What slows down a website?

Website performance is impacted by a range of factors, though much of it comes down to poor web development practices.

Of course, if you didn’t code the website yourself, it’s hardly your fault. Page builders and no-code tools are awesome, but it’s easy to no-code yourself into a corner.

Websites can very quickly become bloated by what seem like awesome plugins, and widgets. Snap-in solutions can be convenient, but the price is often tons of unnecessary extra code that ends up bogging down the whole thing.

Oversized images also tend to be a primary suspect, as properly sizing and serving them can require some knowledge of HTML and CSS.

<img
  srcset="
    bald-man-with-glasses-320w.jpg 320w,
    bald-man-with-glasses-480w.jpg 480w,
    bald-man-with-glasses-800w.jpg 800w
  "
  sizes="(max-width: 320px) 280px, (max-width: 480px) 440px, 800px"
  src="bald-man-with-glasses-800w.jpg"
  alt="An oil pastel drawing of a bald man with glasses"
/>

Tips to Improve Your Website’s Page Speed

If your website is slow, there are several things you can do to improve its page speed and avoid being penalized by search engines:

1. Optimize Images

One of the most common reasons for slow website speed is the use of improperly sized images. Optimizing images can take a significant chunk reduce page loading time. You can use image compression software or tools like Photoshop to compress images without losing their quality.

2. Minimize HTTP Requests

Reducing the number of HTTP requests can also improve your website’s page speed. HTTP requests occur every time a browser requests a file or resource from the server. Reducing the number of requests can be achieved by doing things like:

  • Combining multiple CSS files into one
  • Minimizing JavaScript and CSS files
  • Removing unnecessary plugins

3. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN is a network of servers that are distributed all around the world. Using a CDN can help improve your website’s page speed by reducing the distance between the server and the user. A CDN stores a copy of your website on multiple servers around the world, making it faster for users to access your website.

4. Improve Server Response Time

Server response time is the amount of time it takes for your server to respond to a user’s request. It’s entirely possible that you’ve done everything else right, and are now just dealing with a slow server.

To remedy this, you may need to look into upgrading your hosting plan, as well as seeing if your database can be optimized.

Hiring a Web Developer to speed up your site

Does reading about this stuff give you a headache?

Sometimes the easiest way to improve page speed is to simply hire someone else to do it.

A professional web developer can help you identify exactly what is negatively affecting your website performance and provide you with the best solutions to optimize the website speed. They can also provide ongoing maintenance and support to ensure that your website stays fast and responsive.

At the end of the day, a poorly performing website will serve only to frustrate users, damage your SEO, and ultimately kill your conversions.

To avoid being penalized by search engines, and disregarded by users - website owners need to take steps to improve their website’s page speed. By hiring a web developer or digital marketing specialist, you can optimize your website for speed and improve your overall page experience for both bots and humans alike.

Get in touch with me today to find out how.