How Page Speed Affects Your Google Rankings (and How to Improve It)

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Last updated on October 19, 2023

How long did it take for this article to load after you clicked on it? No more than a second, right?

Otherwise, you wouldn’t have waited around. You would have left and opened up a different article — one that wouldn’t keep you waiting.

Even if you don’t think about page speed a lot, you care about it. And that’s why Google cares about it.

Page speed has long been a ranking factor for Google, but with the advent of Core Web Vitals, it’s more important than ever.

Let’s dive into page speed, why it matters, how to measure it and how to boost it.
How Page Speed Affects Your Google Rankings and How to Improve It

Why Page Speed Matters

I’ve already said it: Google measures your page speed. And if your site is really slow, you’re going to get punished in the rankings.

That’s why it matters from an SEO perspective.

But then you have the user experience perspective.

Think about how hard you’ve worked to rank your website. To build great content. To perfect your title tags and meta descriptions so people will click your listings in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

How much does that click you’ve worked so hard for actually matter if the user leaves before your site loads?

Zero. It matters zero.

That’s because the user isn’t going to see your content. They’re not going to see the product or service you’re selling. They’re not going to interact with your site.

And they’re not going to come away from the interaction with a very positive impression of your website or your business.

So, page speed matters. A lot. Now let’s look at how to measure it.

How to Measure Page Speed

Love Google or hate it, one thing is for certain: If Google cares about a particular website metric, it’s going to create a tool to help you measure it.

Page speed is no exception to that rule. Google has created a handy (and free) tool called PageSpeed Insights.
PageSpeed Insights.

Just enter the URL you want to check. Then click “Analyze.

You’ll get a bunch of information about the various amounts of time it took the webpage to respond to various requests:

As well as some ways to improve your page speed:
ways to improve your page speed

You’ll probably notice that a lot of the vocabulary words you encounter in this tool are pretty advanced. That’s because boosting page speed can take some pretty advanced coding and web engineering knowledge.

But don’t let that stop you.

If you have a developer who can do this stuff for you, that’s great. But if you don’t, don’t worry — I’ve put together some beginner-friendly ways to improve your page speed below.

6 Ways to Improve Page Speed

A lot of page speed optimizations take advanced coding and engineering knowledge. But not these six methods:

1. Compress Your Images

Who doesn’t love a big, beautiful image? Your page speed — that’s who.

“Beautiful” isn’t the problem — it’s the “big” part.

The truth is that huge photos are often at the center of page speed issues for smaller websites. Business owners think they’re doing everything right for SEO, but then they start uploading enormous images.

And then their sites start to slow down. A lot.

The good news is that there’s a simple solution: Compress your images.

This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s about making the images smaller. Yes, you sacrifice some quality. But on the traditional phone or laptop screen, most users are never going to notice.

But how do you compress images? That’s going to depend on your content management system (CMS).

WordPress is the gold standard. One of the reasons it’s so popular is that it offers such a huge number of plugins to solve various website and SEO issues — including image compression.

You can review the full list of image compression plugins on WordPress here.

Some are free up to a certain point. Some will do bulk image compression or automatically compress all images.

You can shop around and try different ones, but I can personally recommend Smush. It’s easy to use and gets the job done.

What if you’re not on WordPress? I won’t get into the specifics for every CMS, but most of the mainstream ones (like Shopify, Wix, Squarespace and similar) offer some version of plugins or apps. And they’ll each have an image compression add-on of some kind.

If, for some reason, your CMS doesn’t offer any sort of image compression add-on, you can do image compression in photo editing software like Photoshop.

A number of free and paid web apps will do image compression, too, but beware — they can be pretty low-quality and/or spammy.

Whatever image compression option you land on, I recommend that you use it right away. I’ve seen page speed scores increase by double digits after a simple round of image compression.

Just for fun, here’s one that you might enjoy: https://imagecompressor.com/ This free tool took the above Smush image from 209 KB down to 25 KB in about 1 second.

2. Minify Your Code

Pretty much every website you see is the result of HTML, CSS and JavaScript working together. These coding and markup languages build the web we know and love today.

But there’s more than one way to code a website. In fact, there are near-infinite ways to code a website poorly.

And many of those subpar methods involve using A LOT of unnecessary code. Parts are repeated. Other parts aren’t even processed. Extra spaces and characters are added.

All without you — a non-expert in coding — ever noticing.

But guess who does notice: web browsers. When they try to load your website, they’re processing every single line of code — including the unnecessary ones.

That can add up to a lot of extra processing effort. Which affects your page speed.

This is a big deal. It’s not as powerful (in most cases) as image compression, but reducing the size of your website’s code is one of the best ways to improve your page speed.

Don’t scroll away just yet. I get it — I’m not a big coding guy either. But this isn’t hard.

It’s just a matter of finding the right plugin.

(That’s assuming you’re on Wordpress, of course. But if you aren’t, your CMS will likely have its own version of code-minifying plugins. And if that isn’t the case, you might consider hiring a developer for a few hours of code minification.)

How do these plugins work? They’re pretty simple:

  1. Install the plugin and activate it.
  2. Go to the settings or configuration wizard.
  3. Tell it you want to minify your HTML and in-line JavaScript.
  4. Tell it you want to remove comments from your HTML, JavaScript and CSS files.
  5. Let it do its thing.

WordPress users will have multiple options, but most will follow that basic process. Some are free; some are paid. I like Minify HTML, but you can do your own research if you prefer.

Once you’ve run your plugin of choice, you’re ready for the fun part. Pop your site back into PageSpeed Insights.

You should see better scores right away.

3. Consider AMP

I’ll begin this one with a caveat:

AMP isn’t what it used to be in the world of SEO. It stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and there was a time when everyone was saying it would change the game forever.

That hasn’t really happened. And Google — the creator of the AMP initiative — appears to be backing away over time.


AMP pages are FAST. Really, really fast.

So, if you’re having a ton of trouble with your page speed, AMP may provide a solution. It’s not for everyone, but it works really well for some websites.

Basically, AMP pages strip every single unnecessary bit away from the code so that there’s nothing but the content. This makes the pages load in milliseconds on mobile devices.

If you want to play around with AMP pages, you’ll want to use a plugin unless you’re super familiar with HTML.

Various WordPress plugins will walk you through the steps to create AMP pages and deploy them on your site. My favorite is AMP for WP.

It’s a solid, no-frills choice for those who want to try out AMP pages with as little fuss as possible.

4. Implement Browser Caching

The very first time someone visits your website, their web browser has to process a lot of resources: your logo, your footer, your sidebars and various other assets on your site.

That processing affects page speed. To be clear, it slows page speed down a lot.

But you can make it so that the NEXT visit to your site is much faster. It’s all about browser caching.

Internet browsers can “cache” particular assets associated with various websites so that they don’t have to process them the next time the user loads the website.

That’s browser caching. It’s probably already happening to some degree on your website. But you can improve it by changing how long your site tells browsers to cache your resources.

See, unless you have a site that changes in design or structure really frequently, you’re probably fine to have browsers cache your site for as long as a year at a time.

There’s a super fancy way to do this with a bunch of code. And then there’s the way that makes sense to the rest of us: a WordPress plugin.

Here again, you’ll see that there are dozens of options. But one of the most popular (and my personal favorite) is W3 Total Cache.

It’s lightweight and straightforward. Plus, you can kill two birds with one stone because it also will minify your website’s code.

How much of an effect browser caching has on your page speed will depend on what your settings were BEFORE you installed and used the plugin. But expect the effect to be significant — it almost always is.

5. Do Lazy Loading

Lazy loading is one of the most overlooked ways to increase page speed metrics. That’s probably because it takes such strong coding and engineering skills to implement by hand.

(If you haven’t caught on by now, here’s a spoiler: You don’t have to do it by hand. There’s a plugin for it.)

Lazy loading is when your website waits to load certain assets until the user actually reaches them.

Rather than loading every single image in a 4,000-word blog post, for example, your site would load the first image.

Then, as the reader scrolls closer to the next image, your site would load it. And so on.

Here’s the thing: Lazy loading can improve your Core Web Vitals metrics (extremely important), but it’s not always going to change your overarching score in PageSpeed Insights.

You can tell whether lazy loading would be a good thing for your site by looking at your PageSpeed Insights report. More specifically, look at the recommendations.

If you see the recommendation to “defer offscreen images,” then implementing lazy loading will boost your Core Web Vitals scores.

To do it, just download a plugin. Same deal here: You’ll have lots of options, but I like LazyLoad.

6. Avoid Unnecessary Redirects

If you don’t know what a redirect is, let’s get up to speed before we get into this one:

It’s a directive that “redirects” users and search engines from one page to another on your site.

If you delete or move a page, you might set up a redirect that points from the deleted URL to a relevant one or a new one.

Most users have no idea when they encounter a redirect. They happen fast.

But if you’re doing tons of redirects, they can add up and affect your page speed.

This is common on really old websites. Over the years, you move pages around, change URL structures and so on. You end up with a bunch of redirects that increase your page load time.

To help your page speed over time, don’t redirect pages unless you absolutely have to.

And to improve your page speed now, use a tool like the plugin Yoast or the SEO tool Semrush to audit your redirects.

These tools will show you existing redirects. In particular, look for those that are unnecessary or “chains” of redirects (multiple redirects in a row).

Remedy the issues you find, and your page speed will increase accordingly.

Page Speed FAQs

Page speed is a big topic. So you’re bound to have a lot of questions. I’ve got answers to some of the most common page speed FAQs below.

What Is a Good Page Speed?

The idea of a “good” page speed is somewhat subjective. For the average website user, page speed isn’t even on their radar. But you should still optimize your site for better page speed.

Why? Because your conversions — the percentage of people who actually contact you after reaching your website — will increase.

That’s the takeaway of a 2022 study that found that websites with a load time of one second had conversion rates that were twice as high as sites that loaded in six seconds.

Meanwhile, Google has released some information about what it considers to be a “good” page speed. But it’s not a direct number. That’s because Google assesses speed by various metrics under a collective umbrella called Core Web Vitals.

Two of the Core Web Vitals metrics deal directly with loading speed: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and First Input Delay (FID).

LCP measures how long it takes for the largest content asset on a webpage to load. A “good” LCP score is anything less than 2.5 seconds.

FID measures how long it takes for your website to respond when a visitor interacts with your page or content by clicking or typing. A “good” FID score is anything less than one second.

Do I Need a Perfect Page Speed?

You don’t need perfect page speed. You just need to pass Core Web Vitals assessments.

It’s natural to want to get a perfect score. But the SEO difference between a passing score and a perfect score is going to be pretty negligible.

The amount of work it takes to perfect the score, however, is going to be considerable. Get your page speed to a passable point and move on to more important SEO matters.

Do Videos Affect Page Speed?

Videos can affect your page speed, but they don’t have to. You just have to take the right approach.

If you self-host your videos directly on your site, they’re going to slow down your page speed significantly. But if you embed the videos using an external player — like YouTube — they should have no effect on your page speed (or at least a negligible one).

Don’t Slow Down Your SEO

Page speed is easy to ignore. You focus on content, link building and on-page SEO, and you simply don’t look at your page speed scores.

I get it. It’s stressful, especially because page speed optimization is a relatively advanced SEO technique.

But if you ignore page speed, you’re putting your SEO at risk. Plain and simple. Google cares about page speed. And so should you.

Thanks for reading this post!

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