The Rising Importance of Speed Optimization in SEO

Image Taken From Flickr by Tobias Munich
Image Taken From Flickr by Tobias Munich

Maybe my parents are old, and this is some long forgotten mentality from the 50s and 60s they’ve passed on to me — but growing up in America there used to be one golden rule for businesses:

The customer is always right.

The reason I say “used to” is because it seems that entire generations of today’s programmers and e-commerce merchants have forgotten this simple axiom.

As I browse the Web day to day, I am taken aback by the number of e-commerce merchants who expect to succeed online only to be betrayed by their own (or their developer’s) shortcuts. Pages simple need speed optimization.

Each time a site makes me wait, has a confusing or poorly designed user interface, or some section that obviously wasn’t tested before launch, I cringe. You can safely assume, without me having to tell you, that web customers of today all want:

  • Speed: Fast load times on every click, be it ajax or a new page loading.
  • Simplicity: A simple, easy to use interface to find and purchase what they want.
  • Novelty: New, or at least up-to-date, content.
  • Security: Secure connections (SSL) when they are putting in personal credit card information
  • Trust: A reason they should trust your smaller e-commerce store over a larger competitor (e.g. Amazon) — be it a site-verification button, customer testimonials, or a third party vouching for your service.
  • Speed: Your customers want it!

Not convinced? Crawl out from that rock you have been hiding under and look at today’s leaders in the every industry from e-commerce to search engines. If you missed cell phone companies over-eagerly pushing generation after generation of newer and faster networks, or the constant speed-related improvements in Web browsers over the past few years, then take a moment to look at the nearly uncountable number of pushes search engine giants (e.g. Google, Yahoo, and Bing) have made to increase the speed of all of their products across the board. Fortune upon fortune have been built upon instant gratification, and if you haven’t bought in yet, you are shooting yourself in the foot

What is in it for me?

Simple, better page speed benefits you threefold:

  1. More customers
  2. More conversions
  3. More money

Let’s break this down. The faster your page loads, the happier (and less frustrated) your customers are going to be. Customers who enjoy the experience of visiting your e-commerce site are more likely to come back and purchase again. At the same time, search giants like google and yahoo consider faster pages important for SEO and give them more credence.

On what basis am I saying this? Because it is coming straight from the horses mouth: Google now counts site speed as ranking factor. That means by spending time to make your website faster, you can rise higher in the rankings for keywords that are making you money — and thus you will start to see more customers visiting your e-commerce store.

All right, so how do I increase my speed?

There are many factors that play into your site’s load time and each of the search engines have their own slightly different set of rules. But instead of focusing on just one, why not judge your site based on all of them at once? I’ve tried a number of methods, and I have to put in my plug for the page speed metric aggregator GTmetrix.

GTMetrix is free, allows you to monitor a number of pages, and keeps your speed records for a long time so you can watch how your changes have improved (or not) in this area. It also gives you scores from Google’s Page Speed and Yahoo’s ySlow. If you are really serious about your site’s loading time, you can get both Google and Yahoo’s browser add-ons for Chrome and/or Firefox.

How fast do you like your internet?

I like talking about speeding up the web. Have you had any luck speeding up your website? Leave me a comment about your favorite CDN or speed monitoring service. Or yell at me because you’re a backwards naysayer who wishes we were all back on 56k modems.

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