So, what the heck is page speed optimization anyways?
Your website’s page speed measures how fast the content on a particular web page loads.
Page speed optimization is the process of reducing the time it takes for your web page to load. It includes all the steps you can take to improve your website for better, faster load times.
Why is it something that you should actually care about as a small business owner?
Why Page Speed Matters
Small business owners tend to focus a whole lot of their time on the things that they can do to build traffic to their website.
- They try to build an active presence on one or more social media platforms.
- They pay for listings in online business directories.
- They often spend a LOT of time stressing about how to improve their search engine optimization.
- Or, they pay big bucks to someone to provide SEO services for them.
Whatever they do, business owners focus a lot of energy on getting more eyeballs on their websites, but significantly less time building websites to convert that traffic.
It doesn’t matter how much traffic you have if your website is turning visitors off.
Who cares if you have 1000 visitors if none of them are sticking around on your website because your website takes too darn long to load.
A slow loading website is a conversion killer.
We have the attention spans of gnats.
It’s time for some stats, and these are from this great article by Neil Patel.
- A one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
- 73% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load.
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Those numbers underscore the importance of why you should care about how quickly (or not quickly) your website loads.
If you’re spending a whole lot of effort to get potential clients to your website, you need to make sure you aren’t doing anything that could hurt your page speed. At least, not if you have any hope of converting them from website visitors into customers.
Why you should care about Page Speed
In a nutshell then, you should care about your page speed because slow page speed creates a poor user experience for your website visitors and a poor user experience can negatively impact your leads and conversions.
However, what many business owners don’t realize is that their search engine optimization is also impacted by their website’s Google PageSpeed Insights score.
Note that “PageSpeed Insights” is not to be confused with “page speed” as they are two different things, but they do overlap.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is a family of tools by Google designed to help a website’s performance optimization. Whereas, page speed measures how fast the content on a web page loads.
Generally, if you improve your PageSpeed score, you should also see a decrease in your overall page speed load time.
However, if your PageSpeed Insights score is low, that will also hurt your Google ranking in search results.
So not only are your conversions going to be negatively impacted, the initial traffic to your website will be hurt as well.
How do you know if your site is too slow?
You may already know that your website is too slow, particularly if you’ve had visitors to your website telling you that it’s taking a long time to load.
There are also quite a few tools that exist to help evaluate a website’s page speed.
They each have their own place, here are a few you may want to check out:
For the purposes of this post, I’m just going to focus on Google PageSpeed Insights.
How to Check Your PageSpeed Insights Score
First, go to Google’s PageSpeed Insights website and enter your website’s URL into the provided field. Then, click on the “Analyze” button.
Then, record the scores your website receives. You can make a written note, or even better, take screenshots of both the mobile score and the desktop score.
The reason for recording your score is simple. If you don’t have a benchmark to refer to, you won’t know if the optimization efforts you’re implementing are actually working.
A lot of business owners don’t take this step. Or, they forget to do it until they’ve already started working on page speed improvements. At that point, it’s too late to obtain your initial starting PageSpeed score.
To be honest, the only thing you may use your PageSpeed insights score for is to evaluate where you’re at and how much you improve. You may not be able to do a whole lot else with the other information that Google provides in terms of translating their feedback into action items.
What do the results mean?
PageSpeed Insights will run a series of tests that interpret your website’s code and then it will provide you with results and instructions on what you can do to improve your ranking.
Google will give your website a performance score between 0 and 100.
100 is the best possible score, which Google indicates represents the 98th percentile and is a top-performing site.
And a score of 50 represents the 75th percentile.
Google will colour-code your performance score into one of the following ranges:
- 0 to 49 = red/poor
- 50 to 89 = orange/needs improvement
- 90 to 100 = green/good
Understand that it’s going to be a challenge to obtain as high of a mobile score as compared to your desktop score, regardless of how your website was built. This is due to how Google currently evaluates websites for mobile.
Do the best you can to get your scores up using the techniques I’ll talk about in the rest of this Page Speed video series. However, you should go into this process understanding that your mobile score is almost certainly going to be lower than your desktop.
Also, note that the score you get may fluctuate a few points from one page speed insights analysis to another, and it’s not something you can control.
A Caveat About Google PageSpeed Insights
I also want to state a caveat at the outset of our page speed conversation. PageSpeed Insights is simply a tool in your toolbox. It can be a great starting point to alert you to potential problem areas on your website that you can address.
For example, it can alert you that you have too many large images which can be compressed. This is a good recommendation that you can actually act on (while some of the recommendations it spits out are either unrealistic or impossible to address).
Google’s PageSpeed Insights can also be used to create a benchmark to measure whether the changes made on your website have had an impact.
However, I also think that chasing a specific grade on PageSpeed Insights is a waste of time because it’s rare that a website gets a perfect grade.
It is not the end-all, be-all, and your scores can tend to fluctuate a lot.
Please don’t stress about your score.
PageSpeed Insights is a great tool but it is not the holy grail of page speed.
It’s best to look at PageSpeed Insights as one of several tools in your arsenal that might provide some pointers, but your goal should always be to improve your actual speed, not your grade.
WordPress vs. Website Builders
If your website is on WordPress, you are going to be able to take advantage of a variety of page speed improvement techniques.
However, if you have built your website using a website builder like Squarespace or Wix or something similar, you will be more limited in terms of the modifications you can implement to help your website’s page speed.
With WordPress, you have direct access to your website’s theme and code.
With a website builder, you do not have access to any of those components, so page speed optimization is largely up to your provider to manage.
You’ve now got your Google PageSpeed Insights scores and you know how your website is performing on that test.
Watch for next week’s video, when I’ll start outlining some of the specific methods that you can take to improve your page speed so you can create a better experience for your website visitors.
If you already know that your website needs page speed optimization and you’d rather delegate that task, be sure to check out our WordPress Health Checkup.