Blog post SEO: Page speed

Aug 30, 2016 · 7 min read

Optimising your blog posts for people optimises them for search engines. When your users are happy, the search engines are happy too. One thing, that is increasingly important for your readers, is how fast they can reach your blog posts. Slow loading times will turn readers away and keep them from coming back. And that will also hurt the search ranking of your blog posts. As a matter of a fact, SEO professionals say page speed is one of the most important search ranking signals.

Blog post SEO: Page speed -- Mervi Emilia

People online have a very short patience. A slowly loading blog post will be abandoned before anyone even gets to read it. It's been studied that only 1 second delay in page loading speed can reduce conversions significantly. It also appears that lots of people expect websites to load in 2 seconds or less, and if a website takes more than 3 seconds to load it will be likely to be abandoned. The loading speed of your blog post affects whether your readers will stick around to read the post, click to other pages and perhaps comment and share your posts. Because the page speed is so important to your blog readers, it is also important for search engines. Last week in this series, I talked about optimising images to improve your blog post performance. As mentioned there, site speed is one of Google's search ranking signals:

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we've seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.
Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts. Using site speed in web search ranking. Retrieved Aug 29 2016.

In addition to using speed as a ranking signal, Google's search bot may crawl less pages in your site if it loads slowly. When search engine bots won't crawl your blog posts, they won't appear in searches at all. The search engines don't even know they exist. In order to get your blog posts to be crawled, you must make sure your page speed is as fast as possible.

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Optimising images to load faster is only one of the many ways to improve your page speed. A good way to start is to check the current state of your blog post performance. Google has their own tool for this, which also offers suggestions to how to improve your page performance. It apparently doesn't really measure the speed of your page, but gives a grade based on other features of your site. However, if both of your Google PageSpeed grades (mobile and desktop) aren't very impressive, I suggest looking into the issues and trying to fix them. A better tool to test page speed is using Pingdom Website Speed Test, which also shows which elements of your blog posts are slowing your page speed. You can think things that slow your page speed as weight. More weight the site has, the slower it gets to load and use. Do note, it's best to check the speed and performance of specific blog posts to find out how the posts are doing. Your blog's front page may perform very differently than an actual blog post.

You may notice that many issues have a lot to do with the design of your site. Different JavaScript snippets and your site's CSS are adding weight to your site. Many premium WordPress themes, which are built to accommodate a wide variety of websites from blogs to ecommerce, are very slow. They are designed to be flexible for a variety of uses, for which they implement tons of things that aren't necessary for your blog. If you know how to make your own theme (theme frameworks also can come with extra bulk), you may be able to create one that weighs less. In case you don't know how to do this, you have other options to fix the speed. Image optimisation is a good start. Other ways to improve the performance of your blog is to implement compression and caching, and to minify the HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Developers can minify the script snippets, CSS and HTML themselves, and there are some ways to apply caching through HTML meta tags and HTTP headers.

Fortunately for you, there are also many ways to compress, cache and minify your site without knowing what that sentence meant. For WordPress, WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are very popular, robust caching and minifying tools. For only minifying your site, you can use such plugins as WP Super Minify and Better WordPress Minify. They aren't always compatible with the more complicated themes with lots of features. For those who use Drupal, there are multiple website performance modules. Amongst very popular caching modules are Boost, Authenticated User Page Caching (Authcache) and Varnish. For minifying your Drupal site you can use such modules as Minify HTML and Minify. Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation is a very powerful module for improving the frontend performance of your site. Always test with multiple devices and browsers which settings and which plugins and modules work the best for your site. You may also need to use multiple different plugins and modules to create the best results.

Just remember, the plugins and modules your content management or blogging system uses gives your blog posts extra weight. I recommend going through your installed and enabled plugins and modules, and disabling and uninstalling those you don't really need. Even if a plugin or module isn't really used, but is enabled, it may add stuff to your blog's HTML, CSS and JavaScript, which then slow your site down. Unnecessary plugins and modules are good to be completely removed also because they are often the culprits when your site gets hacked. They are usually those plugins and modules that have kind of been forgotten to your site and aren't even being updated. Thus they cause harm, even if they aren't enabled and being used.

I mentioned design before, and there's one thing especially less experienced web designers forget. In addition to images, scripts and other stuff like that, also your website fonts increase the weight of your site. Each web font you use, whether it's from a web font service (such as Google Fonts) or it's a font you installed to your server, is bad for your website performance. That's gives you one reason for not to use too many different special fonts. Also check which font weights you really need for your site and remove all those weights that aren't needed. Another way to make your blog posts faster is to reduce the amount of different widgets and blocks within the page. Are all those things in your sidebar really needed or do they just add more weight to your site? Do you need that huge hero image to the top of each post? How many navigations are really needed and what's going on with all that stuff in the footer? Look into the structure of your blog posts and think which elements might be unnecessarily reducing the speed.

Your website hosting could also be bad for your blog speed. Optimal server response time is under 200 ms. Server response time doesn't only depend on your hosting, also your content management or blogging system, and the amount of traffic your site gets may affect this. Keep in mind that doing the performance testing, sometimes the server your site uses may respond slowly due to heavy traffic or other temporary reason. A slow hosting is easily fixed by getting another, faster hosting. For this you will have to ask recommendations, Google what others have said about hosting speed and perhaps even test yourself. Check also that there are no needless URL redirects. Each redirect slows your page speed. Redirects can happen for many reasons, such as website or server configuration, or if you have changed blog post URLs. They are needed in many cases, but using common sense in assessing the need for a redirect is always recommendable. By the way, your email subscription pop-ups and other such annoyances can also cause infuriating redirects and hamper the performance of your articles.

There's no way to make your site perfectly speedy. Especially when you use a content management or blog system, they tend to come with lots of features which slow your site down. Good news is, you can improve the speed of your blog post pages in many ways. By improving the speed, you will make your readers happier, and get better rating in search engines.

Blog post SEO series

  1. Targeting long tail keywords
  2. External and internal links
  3. Optimising images
  4. Page speed
  5. Content matters
  6. Meta tags

See all the articles in Blog post SEO.

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