Pagespeed optimization – How to improve website loading times

What is pagespeed anyway and how is it measured?
Why is the loading time of a page so important?
Pagespeed Analysis
Optimize loading times – But how?
These tools help you to measure your pagespeed
Conclusion

Pagespeed, i.e. the speed at which your website loads, has long been an important quality criterion. Even if it was not initially considered a ranking factor, page loading time has always played a significant role in terms of user experience. For this reason, Google declared pagespeed an official ranking factor for desktops in April 2010, and since July 2018, it has also applied to mobile devices.

What is pagespeed anyway, and how is it measured?

Pagespeed can be described as “(page) loading time” or “(page) loading speed”. Roughly speaking, it is the time a website takes from the moment the page is called up until it is fully displayed in the browser. This period is measured in seconds, sometimes even in milliseconds – depending on the speed of the page in question. There are various fixed points that can be determined:

What is the optimal speed for a website?

As a rough rule of thumb, a website should load in less than three seconds to keep the user reasonably satisfied. Clearly, the shorter the better! But this is easier said than done. Because some factors that delay the loading of your website, you can influence only with difficulty or not at all. These include:

  1. Bandwidth: If your website visitor is affected by low internet bandwidth, your site will also build slower. This is not due to poor pagespeed optimization, but often due to poor network coverage or, more rarely, the user’s slow DSL connection.
  2. Browser cache: If a user’s cache has not been cleared for a long time, this also affects the loading time of your page. However, it is not up to you how often a user clears the cache, which is why a page load can be greatly delayed if the cache is full.
  3. Computing power of the user: Older PCs or smartphones also influence the page loading speed. This is often due to insufficient memory or low processor performance.

Why is the loading time of a page so important?

Pagespeed is often neglected when optimizing a page. Webmasters usually focus on other areas of their site for improvement. But this is a big mistake! Because the fact is: Internet users are impatient and don’t feel like waiting. According to Google, as many as 53% of mobile visitors leave a page again if it takes longer than three seconds to load. This increases the bounce rate of your page, which in turn sends a bad signal to the search engine.

If a page takes too long to load, the users are gone or surf on the competitor’s page. In the worst case, they even become buyers there. Thus, you lose consumers without them even being aware of your offer or website. A low loading speed is therefore responsible for potential customers not checking out products or services offered on your site. A missed opportunity! By now, you should be aware that a faster website will lead to a better user experience and thus to higher conversions.

Pagespeed as ranking factor

Pagespeed is equally relevant for visitors and search engines. If a website loads only with delays, this has an impact on the crawler. Because slow loading pages are also crawled slower. This means that the crawling budget is used up more quickly and not as many pages can be indexed as is the case with fast pages. The loading time of a page is therefore one of the Google ranking factors since 2010, which are decisive for the position in the SERPs on which your page is displayed. Since mobile searches in particular are becoming more and more frequent, Google introduced page load speed as a ranking factor for mobile websites as well in July 2018.

This means:

If you want to achieve a lot of organic reach through good positioning, you must consequently focus on an optimized page load speed.

In summary: Here's what optimizing your page speed will bring you:
1. Improvement of the user experience
2. Optimization of the conversion rate
3. Official SEO ranking factor
4. Faster crawling
At a glance: This is why pagespeed is important

Pagespeed analysis

You can only improve your loading time through optimization. But in order to know at which point a pagespeed optimization makes sense, an analysis is important first, i.e. you have to find out where you stand at the moment.

The status quo of your pagespeed

Pagespeed Insights is a free tool from Google that helps you get a first look at the status quo of your website.

Here you can see that Google has already checked the website for various metrics and then summarized them. Based on the perf score, i.e. the overall result, you can see at a glance how well you are performing in total. This is color-coded similar to the traffic light system:

The higher the score, the better. However, you should know that it becomes more and more difficult to achieve good points towards the top. Optimizing from 90 to 94 points, for example, will cost you just as much work as optimizing from 99 to 100 points. Nevertheless, the effort is worth it!

These key figures are analyzed by Pagespeed Insights

Pagespeed Insights is divided into two areas where metrics are analyzed: Origin Summary and Lab Data.

Origin Summary deals with four metrics:

  1. First Contentful Paint
  2. First Input Delay (FID)
  3. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  4. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

In the Lab Data section, Pagespeed Insights refers to six different metrics, also called performance metrics:

  1. First Contentful Paint – At what point is the first text or image on the site displayed?
  2. Speed Index – How quickly is the website content displayed?
  3. Largest Contentful Paint – When is the longest text or largest image displayed in the visible area of the website?
  4. Time to Interactive – At what point is the first user interaction with the website fully possible?
  5. Total Blocking Time – How long do the page resources block the loading time?
  6. Cumulative Layout Shift – In what proportion do the elements in the visible area change the layout during loading?

In the evaluation, you see an overall evaluation. If you want specific recommendations for individual URLs, you have to analyze them.

These six elements are subjected to the Google Lighthouse performance evaluation. Each performance metric is weighted differently and flows differently into the result of the pagespeed analysis:

PERFORMANCE METRICWEIGHTING
First Contentful Paint15%
Speed Index15%
Largest Contentful Paint25%
Time to Interactive15%
Total Blocking Time25%
Cumulative Layout Shift5%

Excursus: Pagespeed and the Core Web Vitals

In the context of Page Experience, Core Web Vitals are also an important signal, which Google also lists as a ranking factor. For this reason, you can already view them in the Google Search Console. To do this, go to “Core Web Vitals” under the “Improvements” tab. Thereupon, the URLs that are good, bad or need to be optimized are displayed. In addition, these are divided into mobile and computer, so that you have better insights into the optimization potential.

In the sidebar of the Google Search Console you can find the Reister Core Web Vitals. Here you can see how your URLs are performing and what you can optimize.
Viewing Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console

Core Web Vitals cover three metrics in detail, representing the following areas:

Except for “First Input Delay”, all metrics should already be familiar to you from page load time. FID stands for the time when the user can interact with the website for the first time. This is to determine how problem-free the interactivity with a website is.

Since these metrics are also relevant for page load speed, you can now also find them in the Pagespeed insights analysis. Here, all metrics to which the Web Vitals refer are marked with a blue badge.

In the screenshot of the PageSpeed Insights tool, you can find the Core Web Vitals in the "Origin Summery" section marked with a blue badge.
You can find the Core Web Vitals in the “Origin Summery” section marked with a blue badge, source: Pagespeed Insights

Optimize loading times – But how?

Load time optimizations are not a no-brainer. You really have to do something about it if you want your website’s pagespeed to improve. Once you’ve done the previous step and taken a close look at your status quo, it’s time to take action. Don’t worry: you don’t need any special programming or coding skills, nor do you need to have in-depth knowledge of hosting providers or servers. In the following, we will explain the most important points that you should consider so that your site loads faster. In addition, you will find a checklist here, in which all improvement possibilities for speed optimization are summarized.

These are the factors you should consider

Web server/web hosting

Without a good server or host, your site simply won’t run smoothly, because that’s where all the files of your website are located. So if the server performance is too slow or the connection to it is too bad, your site will be slow too. For this reason, there are three particularly important points you should pay attention to when choosing a host for your site:

  1. Server location – Stay as close to your target audience as possible.
  2. Performance – Compare the performance of different providers to find the best package for you.
  3. Service – Support is the be-all and end-all if you ever have problems. So look at customer service ratings.

Image optimization

Images are often the linchpin of fast websites. Only if they are perfectly optimized, they do not cause loading delays. Therefore, you should pay close attention to the following four points:

  1. Image format – Use modern formats for your images.
  2. Image dimensions – It is important that images have the right dimensions. This is the only way to save data and improve loading times.
  3. Responsive images – These help you to display the right image dimensions for every device.
  4. Image compression – Image compressions optimize the file size. Google recommends formats such as JPEG 2000, JPEG XR and WebP for this purpose, as they enable faster downloads and consume fewer data. This improves the loading time.

OnPage optimizations

OnPage optimizations are the guiding principle for pagespeed of your website. Especially in connection with loading or response times, there are some points you should consider:

Caching

When it comes to pagespeed, you should inevitably address the issue of caching. Cache serves as a kind of memory that compresses and temporarily caches static content or resources, such as images, text or other data. This allows these elements to be accessed more quickly the next time they are loaded, and the page also loads faster. In addition, a cache reduces the server load. So make sure that it is optimized. You can make adjustments, for example, with WordPress via various plugins.

It is important that you should rely on both server-side caching and browser caching. The former stores frequently requested content on the server, the latter stores important elements of the website in the web browser. By using these two methods, you can further optimize your loading time.

These tools help you to measure your pagespeed

You will notice that the loading time of a website is very subjective. Therefore, it is often difficult to determine it manually. In general, your users will find loading and thus waiting much longer than you do. Tools and webpage tests help you to get an objective view of the whole.

Google PageSpeed Insights

You have already read about this tool in this article. Pagespeed Insights is developed by Google and therefore uses its own performance rating to provide you with information about the loading time of your page. Once Google Pagespeed Insights has analyzed the various factors, you get a score from 0-100, which shows you how well the page load time is optimized. The special feature here is that the data is analyzed and evaluated separately for desktop and mobile. This gives you a better insight into which version of your website you should optimize specifically.

Pingdom Tools – Website Speed Test

The cool thing about Pingdom Tools: It tells you the load time as a value within seconds. So you can quickly and easily read out whether your pagespeed is good or bad. Just to remind you: an optimal loading time is less than three seconds.

Insights into the Pingdom Website Speed Test. Here you can see the results clearly and the following four factors:
1. performance grade
2. page size
3. load time
4. requests

Below this overview you will find the optimization options.
Insights into the Pingdom Tool

Another plus point: Evaluation and recommendations for action are clearly summarized. With the help of this tool, even newcomers to the pagespeed business can get off to a perfect start. You can even select the server location, in our example it is “Europe – Germany – Frankfurt”. This will give you more realistic results about the speed of your site.

GTmetrix

GTmetrix is in contrast to Pingdom Tools something for advanced users. This is because the former dictates very detailed recommendations for action or improvement. Also in terms of clarity GTmetrix is inferior to Pingdom in some ways. However, if you already have knowledge in pagespeed optimization, the tool is a good help to recognize potentials.

Einblicke in GTmetrix und seine unterschiedlichen Bereiche:
1. Performance Scores
2. Page Details
3. Optimierungsmöglichkeiten unterteilt nach PageSpeed, YSlow, Waterfall, Timings, Video und History
Insights into GTmetrix

Conclusion

So, in the course of search engine optimization, pagespeed is an important factor. Loading times have an impact on the ranking of a website, but also influence the user experience. Long loading times discourage your visitors, in the worst case they leave your website again. Not only do you lose the interest of your visitors, but you also miss out on potential customers. Pagespeed is therefore of major importance for the sustainable success of your website. Even if it takes a lot of work to optimize your site, a successful website will compensate you for your efforts.

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