Ask The Expert

1/29/2014

- Matt Crowley, Manager of Search Engine Optimization

Q: "What’s the difference between site speed and page load time? How do these things affect SEO and organic rankings?"

A: Many people often confuse site speed and page load time. Site speed refers to the overall average speed at which it takes for all of the pages on your website to load. Page load time refers to the amount of time a specific page takes to load. Considering that search engines rank web pages, and not necessarily websites, it is important to focus on site speed from a high-level perspective and page load time from a more granular one in order to see what improvements can be made.
Slow page load times can have negative effects on the organic rankings of a website’s pages for many reasons. However, two of the more important reasons include:

  1. Slow loading pages lead to inefficient crawling by search engines. The more difficult it is for them to crawl through the pages on your website, the more difficult it can be for those pages to perform well within Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
  2. Search engines consider usability when weighting how pages should rank. Slow page load is one way they can algorithmically measure user experience; if a page loads slowly that’s not great for visitors. Therefore, slow loading pages are less desirable for a search engine to return highly within the SERPs.

Although slow loading pages can have negative effects related to SEO and user experience, it is important to note that page load time is only one of hundreds of signals used by search engines to rank web pages. One signal alone is not likely to have a dramatic effect on a web page’s ranking in the SERPs, but when it combines with other signals that determines whether your web page will be successful in ranking highly and have the potential to receive organic traffic. However, considering that improving the overall speed at which pages on your website load can have a positive effect on both user experience and SEO, page load time is certainly an important signal to work on improving.

Lastly, as mobile device use continues to increase, it will only become more important to ensure that your web pages load quickly not only for search engines and desktop users, but also for mobile device users. Now, go check your websites analytics platform to determine if you have any slow loading pages!

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