Last Updated on April 8, 2020
For SMBs and SMB marketers, there can be a lot of moving parts when it comes to maintaining a website. There is no doubt how important page speed is, but diagnosing and fixing page speed issues can be outside the skill set of many SMBs. The goal of this blog series is to help make page speed more understandable and improving page speed more accessible.
There is nothing worse than waiting for a page to load when trying to buy something or fill out a contact form, especially on a mobile device. Aside from being an annoyance, these are the reasons page speed matters for SMB websites:
- User experience: For SMB websites, users are likely trying to quickly find information about services offered or complete another action quickly.
- SEO: A slow website can have a negative impact on organic search visibility and traffic if it takes users or search engine crawlers a long time to access website content.
What Google Says About Page Speed
In January of 2018 Google announced that in July page speed would be a ranking factor for mobile searches.
“We encourage developers to think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics.”
Although Google specifically mentioned page speed in the announcement, they also recommended that we think about user experience as well. SEOs know that user experience has a big impact on important conversion metrics like website sales and other metrics like time on site and bounce rate.
The other grey area is how fast should a site actually be? There was a Google study that said 53% of mobile visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load, so three seconds has become the “target” when optimizing for mobile page speed.
A current client was hosting their blog on Hubspot and their website on WordPress. We noticed the blog was getting a healthy amount of organic traffic but people weren’t spending much time with the content and were bouncing pretty quickly.
We recommended that they migrate the blog over to WordPress, as their WordPress site was one of the fastest I’ve seen. Within a month we saw drastic improvements in bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration for the blog section of the website.
Which Page Speed Metrics Matter
With so many different page speed metrics, which metrics actually matter? There is a lot of debate on which metrics we should spend our time focusing on. I had my own opinions on which metrics actually matter, but I took to SEO Twitter (always slightly risky) to what others thought.
Surprisingly the Twitterverse responses aligned similarly with what I was thinking. Time to first byte and first contentful paint seem to be the most important page speed metrics to focus on.
Kinsta defines the time to first byte (TTFB) as “a measurement of how long the browser has to wait before receiving its first byte of data from the server. The longer it takes to get that data, the longer it takes to display your page.”
GTMetrix defines First Contentful Paint (FCP) like this: “First Contentful Paint is triggered when any content is painted – i.e. something defined in the DOM (Document Object Model). This could be text, an image or canvas render.”
The process of diagnosing what resources on a website are impacting TTFB and FCP can involve multiple tools. The next blog post in our page speed series will drive into these issues and a couple of other common page speed issues and how to test for them.