SEO best practice: Site Speed
Site speed is important.
As SEOs, we’ve been aware of Google using speed as a ranking factor since 2010. And it makes sense – Google’s aim is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. If a person clicks on a website which takes a long time to load the user experience is poor which is neither accessible nor useful.
The stats to back this up are pretty conclusive – 40% of users abandon web pages that take more than 3 seconds to load! Read on to find out how websites can serve their content to users at super-fast speeds to improve user experience and benefit SEO.
Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) are a form of ultra-fast loading mobile pages designed purely for speed and readability. The long and the short of it is that if you are a publisher, e.g. a news site, you really need to be supplying your content in AMP form.
Why? Well, aside from the increased speed providing a better user experience, AMPs take up a serious chunk of mobile-SERP real estate, as seen in the screenshot below. This pushes organic search results below the fold, which will have a big impact on click through rates. So if you’re a topical news site that isn’t publishing your content on AMP pages, you can expect to see a significant drop in traffic.
It’s worth noting that AMPs aren’t for every site. Not right now at least. The technology has been developed with content publishers in mind, which means there is not much opportunity for use on ecommerce and lead generation sites. Nonetheless, eBay recently announced that they have implemented AMP in an effort to provide an ultra-fast browsing experience for mobile users. And although Google currently has no functionality to support or promote ecommerce AMP pages in the SERPs, it’s likely that they will incorporate more areas in the future.
Whilst AMPs are more geared towards information publishers, all types of sites can make use of pre-* commands.
In short, pre-* commands can tell a browser to perform an action before it has been requested by the user. This works on the premise that a webmaster can predict with a reasonable degree of certainty what action a user on their site will perform next, and therefore, what resources they will need. This sounds difficult, but examining user journeys in the Behaviour reports of Google Analytics actually makes this quite simple.
Prefetch is based around anticipating what resources a user will likely need. For example, a user may currently be on Page A, but it’s likely they will navigate to Page B next. With this in mind, prefetch can be used to tell the browser to download some of the critical resources contained on Page B and store them in the cache. This means some of the work is already done by the time a user clicks through to Page B, which increases the page load speed.
Where prefetch tells a browser to ready individual resources, prerender goes the whole way by rendering a full page in a hidden tab. If a user then clicks from Page A to Page B, the hidden tab is instantly substituted in. As such, it is a much more intense and resource heavy command than prefetch, so be careful – if a user doesn’t click on the link to the prerendered page then you have wasted resources unnecessarily.
Faster page load speeds will increase your site’s ability to rank higher in search results and provide optimal user experience. Speed is a huge factor and can have massive implications on your site’s ability to convert users into sales and/or leads.
If you’re interested in further information on how AMPs, prefetch, and prerender commands can be applied to your site, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org