Site Speed for SEO
Technical SEO

Site Speed for SEO

September 7, 2021

Site Speed for SEO

Improve Your Core Web Vitals for Page Speed Optimization

As the responsibilities of SEO specialists are ever expanding, it’s time that SEO providers take core web vitals and site speed for SEO into account as a ranking factor for clients. It’s important to note that this ranking factor does not replace or come before the core ranking factors that drive rankings, such as great, relevant content that attracts natural organic links. With that being said, it could be the difference between top rankings for websites that have very similar metrics in terms of content, on-page SEO elements, and authoritative links. 

What are the Core Web Vitals That Matter Most to Google?

The factors that search engines like Google take into account most are largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. There are a couple of tools that are going to help identifying where a website stands with these factors and how changes made impact and improve these metrics. To analyze these factors, one will need to familiarize themselves with the following tools:

Google Page Speed Insights:

Google Search Console:

The above tools will help measure these factors and see the difference that the changes to the website make to improve these metrics. Google will be making these factors a ranking factor in the near future, and depending on when you’re reading this, they may have already done so. 

How to Improve Largest Contentful Paint

Improving the largest contentful paint is important, because this is how long it takes for a user to actually be able to see the majority of the content on the web page. This is where one turns to Google Page Speed Insights

Input your website URL in Google Page Speed Insights and see where the score currently is. There are 3 brackets that Google puts the score out of 100 into. They are “Good” (90 -100), “Needs Improvement” (50 - 89), and “Poor” (0 - 49).

In the lab data section, you will also notice little markers beside the metrics that are core web vitals. See below with the blue markers beside Largest Contentful Paint and Cumulative Layout Shift:

The information that Google Page Speed Insights provides will give specific recommendations for the website being checked. Below is an example of the kind of action items that you may see:

Generally speaking, removing unnecessary scripts, lazy loading images, and reducing or removing large web page elements can help improve this. If you are using low quality hosting, moving to a better, faster host can also help improve this. 

There are a number of things that can help with these factors. If you’re running on WordPress, there are multiple options for plugins that can help. Caching plugins are a great place to start and using a CDN for images can also help. There are free plugins that will help, but sometimes springing for a paid plugin such as WP Rocket will provide better improvements and more functionality than free plugins.

First Input Delay & SEO

Once the page is loaded, users still need to be able to interact with your web page. This is what first input delay measures. This means that the user can actually start clicking on web page elements and doing things on the web page like clicking the main navigation, entering text into a field, and more. 

It makes sense that this is an important factor, because even if users can see the page, they still must wait to do anything if the main elements of the page are not active and can’t be interacted with. 

One thing to consider with this factor is the type of elements on a page. If a page is mostly simple text-based content, it will likely be easier to achieve a better score with this factor. This is where deciding what kinds of elements and how complex they are that are included in a page can make a difference. If there is a large amount of rich media, interactive content, videos, .gif images that are loading animation, and other similar elements, it can increase how long this takes. 

Reducing elements like the examples above to only what is actually needed for the optimal user experience is probably a good option for improving first input delay. Don’t remove necessary things that users need for the sake of speed, but consider what is actually necessary and prioritize those elements when setting the layout of a web page. 

Improving Cumulative Layout Shift For SEO

If you’ve ever seen a page do all kinds of crazy and fast changes with lots of elements moving around as it loads, this is probably related to cumulative layout shift. The goal is to not have a large number of elements changing or being added as the page loads. The page should be fairly stable as it loads and in what it’s loading. 

The way the page is designed can impact this greatly. Using a set size for elements on the page, making sure ads have specific space reserved, and adding UI elements above the fold can all help with this. These things will all help the page be stable and load in a way that the users expects it to as it’s loading. 

Final Thoughts on Page Speed And SEO

Getting these elements to a place where they need to be for a good score on Google Page Speed Insights can be difficult, but they can make the difference in ranking above the competition when all other factors are close. If you’re stuck and can’t seem to improve these elements beyond a certain point, it’s always a good idea to contact a SEO professional that can help. Each website is different depending on the content management system, the theme used, and the way the page is coded. Without some fairly advanced coding knowledge, it can be a real time-consuming task to improve page speed for SEO. Do your best and ask an expert to help reach the best possible score for your website when needed.

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