There is a saying among SEO experts that content is king. This means you should focus on content first when building a website. Content determines what kind of audience you get and which search queries you rank for. Without relevant content, you have no hope of getting your website discovered by search engines and users alike.
However, the quality of your content is not the only ranking factor. When you do a Google search, both the first and the second result probably have relevant content. So what determines who’s first and who’s second?
The answer is not simple. Nobody knows the exact parameters of Google’s ranking system, but we know the important factors. Website speed is one.
According to research, user experience and customer satisfaction correlate with speed. 3 seconds of load time result in 53% of visitors leaving and each second of delay reduces customer satisfaction by 16%. These are numbers that affect user experience and Google doesn’t want such pages in search results; that’s why speed is one of the biggest determiners of SERP rankings.
We’ll break down how speed affects rankings.
Speed and Mobile
The direct effect is first. Slow speeds lower your website’s rankings. Google has announced this back in 2010 and research has been consistent with their claims. Slower websites get worse ranking results.
Since 2018, speed has been a ranking factor for mobile websites too. This is a big deal as mobile websites are generally slower than desktop ones. The average mobile website takes 15.3 seconds to load. Compare this with what Google recommends—mobile pages should load in 3 seconds.
Mobile speed matters a lot because Google indexes mobile websites first. Mobile-first indexing means that Google looks at mobile versions of websites first when determining rankings. Even if you prioritize your desktop website, in Google’s eyes, the mobile website is the version with greater importance.
In other words, a badly optimized mobile site hurts your overall search rankings. If your website performs poorly on mobile devices or doesn’t even have a version optimized for mobile, you might end up with worse rankings for desktop searches.
Speed and Bounce Rate
Another thing to consider is the bounce rate. Bouncing means a visitor finds your website in search results, looks at one page, and immediately leaves. For the search engines, if this happens too much it indicates that your page isn’t relevant to the search query. If your bounce rate is too high, your search rankings suffer.
Unfortunately, website speed makes your bounce rate skyrocket. If your website takes 3 seconds to load, you get a 32% higher bounce rate. This percentage rises to 90%, 106%, and 123% for 5, 6, and 10 seconds of load time, respectively.
Google can’t tell if visitors bounce because of lack of relevant content or because of slow speeds. All Google sees are dissatisfied users. Too many of those are bad news for your rankings.
As you see, speed has a significant impact on rankings. Still, this shouldn’t scare you. Just make sure your website is fast both on desktop and mobile devices. It will only make you stand out among the competition and your visitors will love it.
You should learn how website speed works so you can improve it. The infographic below is a good place to start.