Website speed

Does your website not load within 5 seconds? Then you need to take action quickly. After all, it is inconvenient for your visitor: long waits are never fun. But it’s also a no-go for Google.

In this article, we explain the importance of website speed and how to optimize your speed.

What is website speed?

Website speed is determined by the structure of the website and the technology used. In recent years, this speed has become increasingly important. First, this speed is one of the factors based on which search engines determine your website’s ranking.

But much more importantly, more and more Internet users are using mobile devices to visit websites. Those work with slow mobile connections or unstable Wi-Fi networks. As a result, website speed drops. This must be taken into account when building a website. So try to achieve the highest possible website speed.

Examples of website speed

Internet visitors seem to be becoming increasingly impatient. Some visitors already click to another site if a website takes longer than 1 second to load. On average, an Internet visitor wants to wait a maximum of 3 seconds for the website to load.

That means you have to have high website speed. It helps if while loading you suggest that something is happening on the screen. Visitors’ attention is then diverted from waiting.

Optimizing website speed for SEO at a glance

No time for a long article? No problem. Watch the video below for a summary of this article.

Website speed for SEO (video).

The importance of your website speed

As we mentioned above, waiting for something for a long time is never fun. Likewise not for your visitor. The visitor wants the website to load quickly. Google also sees this as an important ranking factor. After all, Google also wants sites to be as user-friendly as possible.

Website speed is highly valued by Google, so it is also very important to keep this time as short as possible. We explain how best to accomplish this.

Website speed directly affects your search engine ranking. A lower ranking will cause you to miss out on visitors. Low website speed also results in an increase in bouncers. Research shows, more than 30 percent of visitors do not wait longer than 3 seconds. So a slow website speed has a major impact on conversion.

The impact of website speed

A slow website is guaranteed to cause you to lose visitors. Even though by no means all visitors to your website make a purchase, lower visitor numbers mean lower sales. Website speed can be influenced by hosting your site with a fast provider and by keeping the website design simple.

Reduce HTTP calls What meta tags are relevant to SEO?

Each file required to render and run a Web page, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images and fonts, requires a separate HTTP request. The more requests are made, the slower it takes for that page to load.

Therefore, shorten the number of HTTP calls. This is easier said than done, but important.

For example, consider uploading a theme with too many CSS files.

There are a number of meta tags that are relevant to SEO. The first meta tag relevant to SEO is the title tag. The title tag is the first element searchers see of your website on the search results page. The purpose of the title tag is to inform the searcher about the content of the web page. In addition, the title tag is often used as anchor text. This includes making sure the title tag is clear and concise. It is important that the title tag be under 56 characters long. Once the number of characters exceeds this limit, Google aborts the title. This leads to ambiguity of the exact content.

Reduce or eliminate plugins that load their own JavaScript and/or CSS filesMetadescription

When you visit a URL without the trailing slash, the Web server will look for a file with that name. If it does not find a file with that name, it will then treat it as a directory and look for the default file in that directory.

In other words, by omitting the trailing slash, you force the server to perform an unnecessary re-direct. While it may seem immediate, it takes a little longer, and as we have already established, every little bit counts.

Therefore, display your URLs this way: https://example .com/ (with slash, that is).

Enable compression

Enabling GZIP compression can significantly reduce the time it takes to download your HTML, CSS, Javascript and CSS files. They are downloaded as much smaller compressed files, which are then decompressed once they arrive in the browser.The canonical tag is the third meta tag that matters for SEO. When the website contains pages that are nearly identical, it is important to indicate which has priority via the canonical tag. The moment you publish duplicate content, you risk a penalty from Google. To avoid this, it is important to use a canonical tag to indicate where any duplicate content is located.

Enable Browser Caching

Browser caching allows a computer or mobile to store data from a site and load it faster when a site is visited multiple times by a visitor. This makes the loading time of a website faster. Or when they visit another page, their browser can load the page in without having to send another HTTP request to the server for any of the cached elements.

This is a common way of many websites to speed up the speed of their websites.

Viewport is the fourth meta tag of great importance to SEO. This tag sets the visible area of a web page. Google uses viewport during the rendering process to display the page in different screen sizes. This means that the website is compatible with a smartphone, tablet or desktop. This tag ensures that the website is mobile-friendly. In other words, it enhances the usability of a website. Google sees this as a plus during ranking results. When the viewport meta tag is optimized, the website’s organic traffic grows. In short, it is important to optimize these tags.

Above the fold priority

Your website can look faster to the visitor if it is coded to give higher priority to content above the fold. In other words, the content that is visible before a visitor scrolls.

This means that all elements that appear above the fold should also be as close as possible to the beginning of the HTML code so that the browser can download and display them first.

It is also critical to include CSS and JavaScript needed to display that area online rather than in an external CSS file.

Optimizing media files

Mobile devices today take high-quality photos. Many people just take a picture and upload it without realizing that the picture is often at least four times larger than necessary.

This slows down your website considerably. Especially for mobile users. Optimizing these media files on your website greatly improves the speed of your pages.

Optimizing Images

Choose the ideal format. JPG is perfect for photographic images, while GIF or PNG are best for images with large areas of solid color.

8-bit PNG files are for images without an alpha channel (transparent background) and 24-bit PNG files are for images with an alpha channel. Make sure the images are the correct size. If an image on your website is displayed at 800 pixels wide, using a 1600 pixel wide image has no advantage.

In addition, compress the image file.

Optimize video

Choose the ideal size. MP4 is best in most cases because it produces the smallest file size. Serve the optimal size (dimensions) based on the screen size of the visitors. Eliminate the audio track if background video is used as a design element.

In addition, reduce the length of the video.

Using caching & CDNs

Caching allows your Web server to store a static copy of your Web pages so that they are delivered faster to a visitor’s browser.

A CDN allows these copies to be distributed to servers around the world so that a visitor’s browser can download them from the server closest to the location. This dramatically improves page speed.

How does a CMS impact website speed?

A CMS (Content Management System) can affect the speed of a Web site. A CMS such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla offers many advantages(1, 2,3), such as easy installation and configuration, ease of use and flexibility in creating and managing content. However, there are also a number of factors that can affect the speed of a CMS, including:

  • The number and quality of plugins installed: the use of plugins can extend the functionality of a CMS, but can also affect the performance and speed of the website. It is important to use only the plugins that are needed and make sure they are of good quality.
  • The theme being used: the theme being used can also affect the speed of a Web site. It is important to use a lightweight and well-optimized theme that does not send too many requests to the server.
  • The caching mechanism used: the use of caching can reduce the loading time of a website, but the caching mechanism used can also affect website performance. It is important to use a good caching mechanism suitable for the website and server.
  • The server configuration: the server configuration can also affect the website speed. It is important to use a server with sufficient resources and that is properly configured for the CMS.
  • The size and number of images on the website: the use of images on the website can affect the speed of the website. It is important to optimize and compress images before placing them on the website.

It is important to note that the impact of CMS on website speed can vary depending on various factors and circumstances. It is therefore advisable to regularly test and monitor website performance to ensure that the website continues to load quickly and the user experience remains optimal.

General issues for website speed

ComponentImportance (1-100)Difficulty level (1-100)
1. Hosting Provider9070
2. Website Code Optimization8580
3. Image Optimization8560
4. Use of Caching8070
5. Content Delivery Network (CDN).8075
6. Minimizing HTTP Requests.7570
7. Use of Compressed Files7560
8. Limiting Redirects.7060
9. Browser Caching7070
10. Disable or Minimize CSS and JS Animations.6570

Speeding up a WordPress website

Speeding up a WordPress website is important for both user experience and SEO. Here are some suggestions to speed up your WordPress website for SEO:

  • Choose a good hosting provider: choose a reliable and fast hosting provider. Good hosting can make all the difference in the load time of your website.
  • Use a fast WordPress theme: choose a fast and optimized WordPress theme. Avoid themes with lots of built-in functionality and choose a lightweight theme that loads quickly.
  • Compress images: compress images before uploading them to your website. This makes the image files smaller and your website loads faster.
  • Use caching: use caching to speed up the loading time of your website. Caching holds a copy of the website so that visitors can load it faster(4).
  • Remove unnecessary plugins: remove unnecessary plugins to improve the speed of your website. Some plugins can slow down the loading time of your website.
  • Minimize the number of HTTP requests: limit the number of HTTP requests required to load your Web site. You can do this, for example, by consolidating your website and using fewer external scripts.
  • Optimize CSS and JavaScript: Optimize CSS and JavaScript to reduce the loading time of your website. You can do this by reducing the size of the files and removing unused code.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): use a CDN to speed up the loading time of your website. A CDN is a network of servers that are geographically distributed and store static content, such as images and videos.

By following these steps, you can improve your WordPress website’s load time and improve your website’s user experience and SEO. It is important to regularly test and monitor the speed of your website to ensure that your website continues to load quickly.

What website speed plugins are there for WordPress?

There are several website speed plugins available for WordPress. Below are some of the most popular website speed plugins:

  1. WP Rocket: this is a premium caching plugin that is easy to use and offers a wide range of features, including caching, file minification, image optimization and database cleanup.
  1. W3 Total Cache: this is a popular caching plugin that is free. It offers caching for pages and messages, file compression, and integration with CDNs(5).
  1. WP Fastest Cache: this is a free caching plugin that is easy to use and offers features such as page caching, browser caching and file compression.
  1. Autoptimize: this is a free plugin that focuses on website optimization and load time. It offers features such as minification and combination of CSS and JavaScript files, image optimization and integration with caching plugins.
  1. Smush: this is a plugin for optimizing images. It can automatically compress and optimize images, which can improve website load times.
  1. Lazy Load: this is a free plugin that loads images and videos on the website as they are displayed. This can improve page load times.

It is important to note that using too many plugins can affect website performance. Therefore, it is recommended to use only the plugins that are necessary for the website. It is also important to test and monitor website performance regularly to ensure that the website continues to load quickly and the user experience remains optimal.

Accelerating a Magento webshop

Speeding up a Magento webshop is critical to the user experience and success of the webshop. Below are some suggestions to speed up your Magento webshop:

  • Upgrade to the latest version: make sure you are using the latest version of Magento and that all patches and security updates are installed. This can help improve website speed.
  • Use caching: use caching to speed up the loading time of your web shop. Magento has a built-in caching feature called Full Page Cache, which can be configured and optimized for better performance.
  • Compress images: compress images before uploading them to your webshop. This makes the image files smaller and your shop loads faster.
  • Minimize HTTP requests: minimize the number of HTTP requests required to load your shop. You can do this, for example, by merging CSS and JavaScript files, minimizing the use of images, and removing unused extensions and modules.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): use a CDN to speed up the loading time of your web shop. A CDN is a network of servers that are geographically distributed and store static content, such as images and videos.
  • Remove unnecessary extensions and modules: remove unnecessary extensions and modules to improve the speed of your shop. Some extensions and modules can slow down the loading time of your shop.
  • Optimize the database: optimize your shop’s database to speed up loading time. This can be done, for example, by removing unused tables and limiting the use of database queries.

By following these steps, you can improve the load time of your Magento shop and improve the user experience and SEO of your shop. It is important to regularly test and monitor the speed of your shop to ensure that your shop continues to load quickly.

What website speed extensions are there for Magento?

There are several extensions available for Magento that can help improve the speed and performance of the web shop. Below are some of the most popular website speed extensions for Magento:

  1. Full Page Cache: this is a built-in caching feature in Magento that can be configured and optimized to speed up the load time of your webshop.
  1. Varnish Cache: this is a free, open-source caching solution that can be used with Magento to speed up the loading time of the webshop.
  1. Fooman Speedster: this is a paid extension that can help minimize HTTP requests and merge JavaScript and CSS files to speed up the load time of your web shop.
  1. Yireo WebP2: this is a paid extension that allows you to load images in WebP format, which can speed up the loading time of your webshop.
  1. GTmetrix for Magento: this is a free extension that allows you to test and analyze the performance and speed of your webshop.
  1. Cloudflare for Magento: this is a paid extension that allows you to use Cloudflare’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up the loading time of your webshop.

It is important to remember that using too many extensions can affect the performance of your shop. Therefore, it is advisable to use only the extensions that are necessary for the shop and to regularly test and monitor the performance of the shop to ensure that the shop continues to load quickly and the user experience remains optimal.

Speeding up a Drupal website

Speeding up a Drupal website is critical to the user experience and success of the website. Below are some suggestions to speed up your Drupal website:

  1. Use caching: use caching to speed up the loading time of your website. Drupal has a built-in caching feature that can be configured and optimized for better performance.
  1. Compress images: compress images before uploading them to your website. This makes the image files smaller and your website loads faster.
  1. Minimize HTTP requests: minimize the number of HTTP requests required to load your Web site. You can do this, for example, by merging CSS and JavaScript files, minimizing the use of images, and removing unused modules.
  1. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): use a CDN to speed up the loading time of your website. A CDN is a network of servers that are geographically distributed and store static content, such as images and videos.
  1. Remove unnecessary modules: remove unnecessary modules to improve the speed of your website. Some modules can slow down the loading time of your website.
  1. Optimize the database: optimize your website’s database to speed up load time. This can be done, for example, by removing unused tables and limiting the use of database queries.
  1. Use a fast hosting provider: make sure your website is hosted at a provider with fast servers and plenty of resources.

By following these steps, you can improve your Drupal website’s load time and improve your website’s user experience and SEO. It is important to regularly test and monitor the speed of your website to ensure that your website continues to load quickly.

What website speed extensions are there for Drupal?

There are several extensions available for Drupal that can help improve website speed and performance. Below are some of the most popular website speed extensions for Drupal:

  1. Boost: this is a free, open-source caching extension for Drupal that can be configured and optimized to speed up the load time of your website.
  1. Varnish: this is a free, open-source caching solution that can be used in conjunction with Drupal to speed up website load times.
  1. ImageAPI Optimize: this is a free extension that allows you to optimize and compress images before uploading them to your website.
  1. AdvAgg: this is a free extension that can help minimize HTTP requests and merge JavaScript and CSS files to speed up your website load time.
  1. CDN: This is a free extension that allows you to take advantage of the Content Delivery Network (CDN) of various providers to speed up the loading time of your website.
  1. Database Maintenance: this is a free extension that allows you to optimize and clean up your website’s database to speed up load time.

It is important to remember that using too many extensions can affect the performance of your website. Therefore, it is advisable to use only the extensions that are necessary for the website and to regularly test and monitor website performance to ensure that the website continues to load quickly and the user experience remains optimal.

Be vigilant about this when optimizing

There are a few things that affect Web site speed even more than other components. Among other things, note the following.

The impact of JavaScript on SEO

JavaScript can affect the speed of a Web site(6). Here are a few ways JavaScript can affect the speed of a Web site:

Page loading: when loading a page with a lot of JavaScript, it may take a while for the page to fully load. This can have a negative impact on website load time, which can affect the user experience and possibly lead to a higher bounce rate.

Rendering delay: when JavaScript is implemented in the wrong way, it can slow down the rendering of a page. This can affect the user experience and reduce website performance.

Blocking JavaScript: When JavaScript blocks the content of the page, it can also negatively affect the speed of the website. This can happen, for example, when JavaScript takes precedence over page content.

Too much JavaScript: When too much JavaScript is loaded on a page, it can slow down the page load time and negatively affect the user experience. This can happen, for example, when too many plugins are used or when too much custom JavaScript code is implemented on the website.

However, it is important to note that JavaScript can also offer many advantages. For example, JavaScript can enable interactive features and animations on the website, enhancing the user experience.

It is therefore important to implement JavaScript in the right way, for example by using only the essential scripts and loading them in an optimal way to improve website speed. It is also advisable to regularly test and monitor website performance to ensure that the website continues to load quickly and the user experience remains optimal.

The impact of CSS on website speed

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) generally has no direct impact on a website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization). In fact, CSS is only responsible for the presentation of a website’s content and does not affect the content itself, such as text and images.

However, there are indirect ways CSS can affect a website’s SEO:

  • Loading time: poorly written or unnecessarily complex CSS can slow down the loading time of a Web site. This can have a negative impact on a website’s SEO, because Google and other search engines factor a website’s load time into their ranking algorithms.
  • Mobile user experience: CSS affects the mobile user experience of a website, and this can indirectly affect SEO. For example, Google favors mobile-friendly websites and rewards them with a higher ranking in search results.
  • Accessibility: well-structured and accessible CSS can contribute to the accessibility of a Web site. This can have a positive impact on the SEO of the website, as search engines strive to promote accessible and user-friendly websites.

In short, while CSS by itself has no direct impact on a website’s SEO, it can indirectly affect a website’s performance and user experience, leading to higher rankings in search results. Therefore, it is important to properly structure and optimize CSS to improve a website’s performance to support SEO.

The impact of images on website speed

Images can have a significant impact on a website’s load time. Below are some ways in which images can affect the speed of a Web site:

File size: images with a large file size can slow down the loading time of a Web page. Therefore, it is important to optimize images, such as by compressing them and reducing the file size.

Resolution: high-resolution images can slow down the loading time of a Web page. It is therefore important to optimize the resolution of images for the web pages on which they are used.

Number of images: the number of images on a web page can also affect page load time. Therefore, it is important to minimize the use of images on a Web page and use only images that are relevant to the content of the page.

Caching: by caching images, Web page load times can be accelerated. Once the browser downloads the images, they are stored in the browser’s cache so that they do not have to be downloaded again with each new page the user visits.

Lazy loading: by using lazy loading, images are loaded only when they are needed, such as when the user scrolls down the page. This can improve Web page load time(7).

In short, images can have a significant impact on the speed of a Web site. Therefore, it is important to properly optimize and minimize images in order to improve website load times and maintain an optimal user experience(8).

The most complete book on website speed

I’ve written so much about speeding up websites and everything involved that I like to divide it into different sections; general, tools, speed improvement points and tips. Feel free to see and consult all the links below to learn more about tools and tips for speeding up your website.

General

Tools

Verbter points for speed

General tips

What programs do I use to measure website speed?

There are several programs available that allow you to measure and analyze the speed and performance of a Web site. Below are some of the most popular programs for measuring Web site speed:

  1. Google PageSpeed Insights: this is a free tool from Google that analyzes a website’s performance and provides suggestions for improvements. PageSpeed Insights provides scores for the speed and performance of both mobile and desktop versions of a website(9).
  1. GTmetrix: this is another popular free tool that measures and analyzes a website’s load time and performance. GTmetrix provides detailed reports and suggestions for improvements, including optimization of images, CSS and JavaScript(10).
  1. Pingdom: this is a paid tool that allows you to measure the speed and performance of a website from different locations around the world. Pingdom provides detailed reports and analysis of a website’s load time and suggests improvements.
  1. WebPageTest: this is a free tool that provides detailed analysis of a Web site’s performance, including load times, rendering performance, and water temple graphs. WebPageTest also offers the ability to measure performance from different locations and on different devices.

It is important to regularly measure and monitor the speed and performance of your website to ensure that the user experience remains optimal. By using these tools, you can improve the performance of your website and ensure that it remains fast and reliable for your visitors.

GTMetrix or Google Page Speed?

Both GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights are powerful tools for measuring and analyzing a website’s speed and performance. Both tools offer detailed reports and suggestions for improving Web site performance.

However, there are some differences between the two tools:

Measurements: Google PageSpeed Insights focuses on measuring website performance on mobile devices and desktops, while GTmetrix also measures website performance from various locations worldwide.

Scores: the scores given by the two tools are based on different measurement criteria and calculation methods. Therefore, the score for the same Web site may differ between the two tools.

Suggestions: both tools offer suggestions for improving website performance, but these suggestions may differ between the two tools.

In general, both tools can be useful for measuring and improving a Web site’s performance. Therefore, it may be advisable to use both tools to get a fuller picture of website performance and to compare suggestions for improvement.

The difference between Google Page Speed and Lighthouse

Google PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse are both tools from Google designed to measure and analyze a website’s performance and speed. Below are some of the differences between the two tools:

  1. Measurements: Google PageSpeed Insights measures a Web site’s performance based on several factors, including load times, file sizes and image optimization. Lighthouse, on the other hand, measures a website’s performance based on several aspects, including web page performance, accessibility, SEO friendliness and best practices.
  1. Purpose: Google PageSpeed Insights is designed to improve the speed and performance of a Web site, while Lighthouse is designed to assist in the development of a Web site by helping to identify potential problems and errors.
  1. Use: Google PageSpeed Insights is an online tool that can be used in any Web browser, while Lighthouse is available as an extension for Google Chrome or as a command-line tool that can be installed on a computer.
  1. Implementation: Google PageSpeed Insights uses various technologies to measure and analyze a website’s performance, while Lighthouse is a built-in tool in Google Chrome and uses the Chrome DevTools to measure and analyze a website’s performance.

In short, although both tools are from Google and are intended to measure and improve the performance of a Web site, there are some differences in how they work and the results they deliver. Depending on the user’s needs and goals, one tool may be more appropriate than another.

Pingdom Tools or Google Page Speed?

Both Pingdom and Google PageSpeed Insights are powerful tools for measuring and analyzing a website’s speed and performance. Both tools offer detailed reports and suggestions for improving Web site performance.

There are some differences between the two tools:

  1. Measurements: Google PageSpeed Insights focuses on measuring website performance on mobile devices and desktops, while Pingdom also measures website performance from various locations worldwide.
  1. Scores: the scores given by the two tools are based on different measurement criteria and calculation methods. Therefore, the score for the same Web site may differ between the two tools.
  1. Suggestions: both tools offer suggestions for improving website performance, but these suggestions may differ between the two tools.
  1. Ease of use: Pingdom is easy to use and requires no technical knowledge. However, Google PageSpeed Insights requires some technical knowledge to interpret the results and take appropriate actions.

In general, both tools can be useful for measuring and improving a Web site’s performance. Therefore, it may be advisable to use both tools to get a fuller picture of website performance and to compare suggestions for improvement.

Conclusion

There are several ways to improve your website speed. Precisely because it is an important ranking factor of Google, it is also important to find a solid solution/optimization for this.

For visitors to a website, it is annoying if the website takes a long time to load. When website speed is low, that is, when a web page takes longer than a few seconds to load, many visitors are already clicking away. Website speed is not an absolute concept. But your website should load faster than your competitors’. Because otherwise you are guaranteed to lose customers.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
Five stars
My clients give me a 5.0 on Google out of 75 reviews

I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 22 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 10 July 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.