As we continue our SEO Essentials series, we’re discussing how the speed of your website plays a crucial role in your conversion rates, so much so that this one issue alone can make or break your online business.
Our Head of SEO at Content Champion, Tom Peary, joins me again on this episode to explain why site speed is so important - and how a slow site can drive away potential customers and kill your conversions, even when your organic traffic is doing well.
In this quickfire show we also discuss what load impact is, how technical SEO and hosting factors can influence the speed of your website, and how you can improve your site speed on WordPress with the various plugins available.
Listen To The Site Speed Show
The first thing to look at regarding site speed
How to see an improvement in your conversions
The relationship between site speed and conversion rates
What Google will do if your site has been running consistently slowly
Why you should take load impact into consideration
The relationship between load impact and your server
Why you should choose your hosting carefully
[Podcast] Website Speed (SEO Essentials) From Content Champion #contentmarketing #seo
Read the transcript
Loz James: I'm Loz James and this is the Content Champion Podcast, the content, marketing and SEO show where you can learn actionable techniques from real world examples. Hi guys, welcome to the show. This time me and Tom Peary, our Head of SEO here at Content Champion, are talking about site speed as part of our SEO Essentials Series.
Now, why is site speed important? We're going to look at that. We're going to look at some examples based on our own eCommerce store as to how this can basically cut your conversions and cause a lot of problems for you, so Tom, give us the background on site speed and why it's so important.
Tom Peary: Yeah sure. I think the first thing to look at is your visitors, your users. That's the primary reason you have a website. So if your site's running slow, we don't all have access to super fibre 200 mg connections. Sometimes we're on 3G or non-3G or 4G, so when the user's trying to visit your site and it's taking a long time to load, they're probably going to give up. You can see this with certain tools anyway, which we'll go into in a bit.
So that's the first thing is losing potential business because your site's not performing how someone would expect and they just get bored and they'll go elsewhere because somebody else will serve them that information faster even if they're further down in the ranking. So you could be just turning away business just because your site is running slowly.
There's a great tool called Mouseflow. I can plug that because again, I think this is an amazing tool that everyone should be using. I think this should be if you've got analytics you should be using something Mouse Floor simply because you can view how people in real time have looked at your site and how they've engaged with it or in some cases not engaged. They come onto your site, they've found what they needed, and you can see the egg timer going round or you can see the images are loading slowly or they clicked add to cart and it's just taken an age to get to the point where they want to spend money with you.
At that point they'll leave. You can set actions within tools, analytics and things like drop-offs, but also just in Mouse Floor, just looking at this data. So you can see, if you notice your conversion is going down and your traffic really hasn't, your traffic is kind of the same but your convergence has really lulled, you hear a lot of this zombie traffic in Google Forums and in the SEO world, and sometimes I believe it is really just down to how your site's performing.
Don't just think because you're using a broadband connection that's super fast that everyone sees it as super fast. Use tools out there such as Pingdom or the Page Insights by Google - and do this regularly. At least once a week or if you know it's in a drop in conversions, whether it be eCommerce sales or leads or calls is look at this and say, "Oh, the site is running at 30 seconds." Really you want to get your site loading in five seconds. That's kind of the general rule of thumb. By changing this you're going to see an improvement in your conversions.
Loz James: Okay. Just to shout out to Brian Dean here because he did a great post on the 200 Google ranking factors and site speed is very definitely one of these. Google will algorithmically penalise your site if it's running very slowly consistently, won't it?
Tom Peary: You won't get an official penalty, but what you'll notice, Google serves up sites that are performing well all the time. Not just a day where your site is running really bad or really slowly or it's been down and it's brought up a 500 server error, but over a period of time, prolonged time where your site's just not performing well, why would it serve it to people? It's going to try not just to look at the links your site in the content.
It's going to say this site isn't readable and if you notice in Webmaster Tools things like a lot of server error notifications and page errors where it says server unresponsive. You need to be looking at this now and finding out why. It could be you've got a bad host, a host with lots of different sites. We're dealing with that at the very minute with someone where they've used another host ans the site, it's just loading terribly. Get these things sorted out straight away.
Loz James: You're listening to the Content Champion Podcast, available at ContentChampion.com and on iTunes. Just to be clear, when we're talking about our own eCommerce store we go in daily and take certain measures, which we're going to talk about in a minute, to ensure that the site's running quickly all the time because we do notice an uptick in conversions when the site is running quicker. When it's running slowly we sell less stuff. It's as simple as that.
Another thing related to this I should quickly mention is that as well as site speed you've got to take into account load impact, which is basically how many people can come on your site at any one time. The knock on effect as to whether that slows down the site, so you've got to take that into account, and things like your web hosting and your caching and everything else to make sure that your site can handle a spike in traffic say if you've got a promotion on or anything else.
That kind of goes hand in hand with site speed. So as Tom mentioned there, we've got various tools that we can use to find out if our site is running slow. We've got Pingdom, Gmetrics, the Google page speed impact tools. Then there's load impact itself, finding out about those spikes in traffic as well. We've gone through all this, Tom. We know that there's a problem with our site speed, it's running slowly, we've put it through the tools and they've confirmed this, how do we deal with it?
Tom Peary: You mention there something quite interesting with the lower impact if you're getting people from say promotional advertising, so you've done a TV campaign or pay per click where you've seen an unexpectedly high amount of traffic than you used to. This could be causing problems with the database because most sites use a database, unless it's an HTML site that doesn't have any call outs. Using a database people are trying to access that database to pull up the product, the information on your site.
If it's too many access requests you're going to find it's going to hang, and especially dependent on the server so a lot of people are moving towards Cloud solutions and CDNs, which are great, but you have to pick the right one. Be doing these tests regular. So like you mentioned Pingdom, GTmetrics, the Google Page Insights tool, be checking this daily or weekly if you can. That's my best advice, be checking this.
Don't leave it once every six months or once a year. Just think of this as something that takes 30 seconds just to check it and then what you can do is most of these tools will tell you where your site's having problems. That could be like for example within Pingdom there's a table that will say saw by page load times or things like that. When you have a look you can see what's causing the load times a bit longer.
Address these issues. It might not be anything to do with your host. It might be to do with your caching - when we look at this daily on our eCommerce store we're looking at the performance. If we get in a lot of activity that's going to log a lot of entries to the database. We make sure that's cleaned and the cache is deleted. If you update in the products on a regular basis there's tools within your site, like for example WordPress and others where you can go and clear the entries from previous updates and edits. So make sure you're doing this all the time. Just it's good housekeeping really.
Also, tell us about the hosting side of things because you can get round this if you've gone through all the sort of technical aspects of what's slowing your site down, the caching and everything else, and it is a hosting problem, you could go onto another host. I use WPX Hosting, which I recommend, but you can also use a content delivery network like CloudFlare, can't you?
Tom Peary: Yeah. It depends on what your site does and how many visitors you get and what kind of traffic you're pulling media content across. Is it just text, is it videos, is it images? There's some great plugins on platforms like WordPress and Drupal that you can add in to do really cool things like adding in Google Analytics or a cart recovery system.
These all add something to your server requests, so the more plugins you have, and make sure that you delete your plugins from your system that aren't being used, that are reactive. Get rid of them. There's no point in having them there if you're never going to use them again. If there's a reason they're off just remove them.
Loz James: Ultimately if you have access to a development team in-house or you can employ a skilled coder to look through the site, you've got to make sure that the site coding structure is light, it's agile and it's optimised for page speed from an SEO perspective, don't you?
Tom Peary: Yeah, definitely. The other types of hosts that you mentioned, just going back to that, I'd probably say that being the foundation of your whole site, without the premise of hosting you don't have a website. It's where it all sits in layers. It's where it's all served from. Don't cheap out on your hosting. Don't think well, I've got a good deal from this hosting company. It's really cheap. They promise the earth. It says 99.9% up time, which we know just means that the machine is turned on.
The machine could be on raging fire burning the building to the ground and still be classes as on because the switch is turned on. It doesn't mean it's working or active. It just means it's turned on, so don't kind of fall into that. They all say 99%. Look at hosting companies that don't shove you on with 900 other users on one shared host. Try and get ones where not always possible to get dedicated host and it's just not affordable for everyone or even required, but boutique hosting is great because you can speak to someone over the phone when you have a problem or even a bigger hosting company.
Just make sure you're on a network that's good with not loads of sites. Things like tools like a really good one is You Get Signal and it's a reverse IP check on there. All you do is just put your demand in and it will tell you how many other sites you share with. You obviously want to make sure you're on a good network so nothing that's going to be considered negative and make sure that you're not on with 900 other sites.
Because if they all get a lot of traffic, it's probably going to cause a load impact. Or if one of them gets hacked you're probably going to see a load imbalance on that server where it just can't serve up your website. Sometimes it isn't even your site's fault. It's the host you're on, so just choose carefully and don't think because I'm with this host it's hard to move. I want to stick with them. Shop around.
Loz James: Okay, and I'm just going to put in another plug for WPX Hosting because we use it on Content Champion and it massively increased our site speed not only because of the host itself, but the advice they gave us on caching and how to deal with server loading and everything else. So that has been the SEO Essential Site Speed Podcast. Next time we're going to go and talk about link auditing, so thanks again for listening.
You've been listening to the Content Champion Podcast, actionable SEO and content marketing techniques based on real world examples. Until next time, thanks for being here.
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