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How a Few Seconds Can Ruin Your Site's Search Rankings

How a Few Seconds Can Ruin Your Site’s Search Rankings

by | Feb 10, 2022

We all know you want your online business to grow and to do that you need to get more traffic to your website. To bring in more traffic you need to improve that all-important Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) score. Following SEO best practices means your site is more likely to appear in a loftier position in search rankings. There are many ways to improve your SEO, but a major factor that can drag your SEO down is how long it takes your web pages to load. Seconds matter and many business owners don’t realize how a few seconds can ruin your site’s search rankings.

Page Speed is the amount of time it takes to fully display all the content on a particular web page. This is not to be confused with Site Speed, which refers to the average loading time. According to SEO experts, studies of the highest-ranked sites on Google were the ones with the highest page speed. This is also confirmed by Google’s own industrial benchmarks. Pages that took only a few seconds to load had much higher bounce rates, 32% for 1 to 3 seconds. At 5 seconds bounce rate increases to 90%, at 6 it’s 106%, at 10 seconds bounce rate is 123%.

site speed affects bounce rate graph image

How does loading a page work?

Faster pages improve user experience, we all know how frustrating it is when the page you’re trying to get to just…won’t…load!

Here is an overview of the process your browser goes through when trying to load a page and where things can get bogged down.


  1. When a user enters a browser and enters a website URL, the browser makes a DNS request. DNS is short for Domain Name System; it is sort of the address book for the internet. It translates the easy-for-humans to remember domain name (such as https://xushosting.com/) into the long numbers that are the IP address (
  2. The DNS request points your browser to your domain name provider (such as DreamHost) which points to your web host (that’s us) where your files are located.
  3. The web host files start loading. All of your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. It is usually too much stuff for it to pull all the scripts in one go. Typically it will need to request additional resources from the server to make everything happen. This is where things start to really slow down your site.


How Page Speed is Measured

  • Time to First Byte: how long until the page starts loading. (The average speed index is under 1.3 seconds.)
  • First Content Paint: When the first content appears on the screen.
  • First Meaningful Paint: When most of the primary content is loaded, but certain elements may not be fully interactable. Buttons or links not yet loaded in.
  • Time to Interact: This is when the page is 100% loaded and every element is present and fully intractable.

Improving Page Speed

Dealing with issues of Page Speed is very technical and can be challenging to address. Here are a few methods to address it ranging from simple to advanced:

Great aesthetics are important for making your site look as attractive as can be but too much of a good thing can slow down your site.

The webpage theme you use, too many elements like plugins, apps, widgets, and any third-party scripts pile on the list of things that needs to be loaded. Since Google prioritizes speed you are better off with a simpler design. Your visitors may never see your beautiful masterpiece of a homepage if they get bored staring at a blank page for fifteen seconds and hit the back button.

Leaner pages are better.

According to Google’s studies, 79% of pages were over 1MB, 53% over 2MB, and 23% over 4MB. The optimal request count or the number of individual pieces of content needed to be displayed for an entire mobile page is less than 50.

Crisp, high detail pictures are great, but images are the biggest offenders for slowing down pages.

Luckily they are also one of the simpler things to remedy. Optimize all the images on your site. The smaller the file size the better. PNGs are generally better for graphics and JPEG & WEBP are better for photographs. Crop your images down to the right size. Use image compression to reduce the file size.

Redirects are the number of hops needed to get to a destination webpage.

Sometimes redirects are necessary but each hop adds load time. Cut down the number of steps by changing all internal links to the destination URL.

Make sure your website code is compact.

Remove spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters, remove code comments, formatting, and unused code. If you’re not a savvy coder, there are many addons that can be used to clean up your code.

Enable Browser Caching.

Browsers can cache or save a lot of information so when you return to a site it will load quicker. This works best when you have a site that doesn’t change too often. There are also Content Delivery Networks (CDN) that store multiple copies of your site in geographically diverse data centers so users have faster and more reliable access to your site.

There are plenty of great tools on the web you can use to help diagnose Page Speed issues on your site.

Don’t let all your hard work on your website go to waste with slow speeds. Better speeds mean better SEO scores, better user experience, and more sales for you. Simply optimizing your images and text, keeping your pages lean, and using optimization plugins can go a long way. And it might be enough for most small sites to get your loading times under three seconds.

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