Page load speed measures how quickly on-page content takes to load. It can be described in two ways:
- Page load time, which refers to the length of time it takes for all content to be fully displayed
- Time to first byte, which measures the length of time it takes for the first piece of information to be delivered to a browser by the webserver.
Search engine algorithms look at page load speed when determining rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). As such, page load speed should be viewed as a key metric for evaluating user experience (UX) but also act as an onsite ranking signal to search engines. This is because search engines want to consistently provide their users with efficient access to the information being sought and they don’t want to make users wait longer than is absolutely necessary.
Webpages that haven’t been optimised to load efficiently are likely to have lower time spent on page and higher bounce rate metrics. Page load speed can also have a negative impact on conversions and sales.
It is also worth noting that page load speed will impact the number of pages search engine crawlers can visit and index, which has the potential to impact a site’s rankings.
There are many reasons a website might experience slow page load speeds, ranging from poor hosting services, unoptimised images, unclean code (often caused by add-ons), excessive HTTP requests, too many ads on page and not using browser and server-side caching. All of these can be remedied in different ways, pushing up page speed and improving UX and potentially rankings as a result.