At Algorithm, we have a significant amount of data on each of our client’s campaigns. We use this data to guide and drive our SEO strategy and implementation.
One of the big trends we have seen over the last 2- 3 months is a strong increase in rankings and exposure in Google of sites that load quickly and generally have a fast load time.
This is nothing new, Google has been talking about this for some time. With the data clearly showing how important site speed has become, we decided to explain some of the key metrics we look at from a site speed perspective and then unpack some of these without the jargon, so that we can get to the heart of what Google is after and more importantly, how you can ensure your users have the best possible experience on both mobile and desktop devices.
The first important aspect to look at is if your site speed tool looks at each and every page on your website individually, or if you get one score for the site as a whole.
The reason this is important is that each page on your site will perform differently, for example, your homepage may be a lot more resource heavy than a product page and as a result, load slower. The important outtake here is that you need to look at all the pages on your site in isolation and make each one the best version of itself.
Our approach to this involves creating a priority list ranking the pages from slowest to fastest and cross-referencing this with what pages have the highest importance in achieving the business goals of the website, ie if it’s your primary lead capture page we need to make sure it loads fast to maximise conversions.
Once you have a list of all your pages and their site speed performance, you need to take into consideration what platform your site is built on and judge what success looks like from an improvement point of view. WordPress, for example, is a brilliant and largely free platform to build your website on, but it struggles with site speed. The point here is to focus on the changes you can make and to get your page to the best version of itself.
With that context, lets look at some of the key metrics to monitor on your site’s pages.
First Paint is the time it takes for the page to go from blank to the first elements starting to load. This could be the background appearing or an aspect of the page loading. This gives the user their first impression that something is happening and that the page is loading.
First Contentful Paint:
This is the next step in a page loading and as the name suggests this is when the first real content starts to show on the page, here an image might have loaded or a heading or 2. The user can now start to see what the page will look like and might be about.
First Meaningful Paint:
The third step is First Meaningful Paint. Users are now really starting to see that the page is loading and that the content they were after is showing. By this point, the bulk of the pages content and images are showing and users can actually start to read what they see before them.
Time To Interactive
As the name suggests this step is the time it takes for the page to load all the images and content and for the user to be able to interact with the page. They can now scroll through the page, click links and generally perform any of the required functions on the page. This is the goal for us, we want to get to this point as quickly as possible.
We measure each of these steps in seconds and added together we get the total load time for a page and as we discussed earlier in this article we should focus internally on making our pages as fast as we can. Having said that its always good to get a sense of what global benchmarks are.
The following dataset looks at the top 100 000 websites as per the Alexa ranking data, (ie top traffic sites globally based on their data) The test was done on a 1.5Mbps DSL connection.
10th Percentile – 1.6
25th Percentile – 2.7
Average – 5.4
75th Percentile – 7.0
95th Percentile – 12.3
How quickly do the top pages on your site load? Contact us, if you need help with page level site speed analysis.