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When should you actually care about page speed?

My usual response is “only if your page is painfully slow - as in 15+ seconds before users can interact - or if it’s significantly slower than your competitors.”

But I got rightfully called out on this:

screenshot of a comment that site speed affects google rankings

… so let me try to bring a little more nuance (and supporting evidence) to this claim.

If you’re counting on organic search traffic

Page speed matters - though not as much as relevance:

screenshot of google documentation: site speed is not as important as relevance

So if someone’s searching your brand name, or the brand name of a product, Google’s not going to give up the top search result to some other site because it happens to be faster.

But what about blog posts you’re trying to rank?

All else being equal, a faster-loading page has the advantage. But “all else” means … a lot. The age of your domain, the relevance of your title tags and image alt text … and about 197 other things.

Not to mention it’s pretty common for blog pages to drive little-to-no actual business.

So for organic search traffic, on highly competitive, non-branded pages, which may or may not impact your business … page speed matters. A little bit.

If you’re buying ads

Speed is a factor!

screenshot of google documentation: site speed is not as important as relevance

And look at that scary link - you’ll lose half your visitors if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load? 😰

Well … I clicked the link, and there’s no page there. Error 404. How many visitors do you lose if your page literally doesn’t exist?

Speed’s a factor, but as above, we should ask “how much of a factor?”

Well, your ad position is determined by your bid and Quality Score.

Your Quality Score is determined by your ad relevance, click-through rate, and landing page experience.

Your landing page experience is determined by page experience and Core Web Vitals.

And your Core Web Vitals capture what we think of when we say “page speed.”

So, page speed is one of a couple factors that determine landing page experience, which is one of a few factors that determine Quality Score, which is one of two factors that determine your ad position.

“Speed is a factor!”

Yes, that is technically correct. But should you care?

Unless your site is painfully slow, or significantly slower than your (ad buying) competitors … no.

So why does everyone talk about page speed?

Consultants want to get paid to speed up your site. Because it’s a fun and challenging technical problem, and because they want your money.

They also want something to blame when your ads cost too much, or your pages don’t rank well. Page speed is a great scapegoat - unless it’s 0.00 seconds, it can always be faster.

Google wants you to use its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) platform. Maybe because they care about improving user experience on the mobile internet! And maybe for other reasons:

screenshot of an article about publishers suing google over AMP pages

So what should you do?

Focus on making your website’s offer more appealing. Talk to customers. Take a nice walk outdoors.

And if you really think your page speed is an issue to prioritize, send me a link and we can walk through your numbers together.

    © 2024 Brian David Hall