How Performance Factors Affect SEO and Usability

Poor site performance and slow individual page load times can cause significant issues for your users and negatively affect your SEO strategy. Google has indicated that site speed and individual page speed are both contributing factors to search index rankings.  

Pages with long load times create a poor user experience and can lead to higher bounce rates and a drop in conversions. Slow page speeds also affect a search engine’s ability to crawl your site for information quickly, leading to lower search rankings. 

There are many ways to identify and improve poor site performance. Here are some of the common web performance bottlenecks that we’ve encountered, as well as a list of tools that you can use to test your website’s performance and page load times. 

Common Causes of Web Performance Bottlenecks

We fix performance bottlenecks for client websites almost daily, and there are some common issues that we encounter often that are easily avoidable.

Image Dimensions and Image Optimization

Improper image dimensions and image quality are some of the most common issues we find when we’re checking a site’s performance. This issue can easily be resolved by resizing your images and optimizing them for the web. 

Typically website graphics are 72-100 dots per inch, or dpi. Images that have been created by a designer are usually created at around 300dpi and need to be resized to avoid massive image file sizes and resizing the images with CSS. 

If you work in Drupal, you can handle this sort of image resizing with Image Styles. Drupal 8 can also handle responsive images at different breakpoints.

Mobile Optimization

The size of the page you are serving, the number of requests on the page, render-blocking resources, loading third party code, and JavaScript execution time can all affect mobile optimization and page load times. Reducing all these factors will help improve your site’s mobile optimization.

CSS and JavaScript Minification

Another common issue that we find, even on Drupal sites, is the lack of CSS and JS minification. Minification refers to the process of removing redundant data, and referencing many CSS and JS files on your site slows down the page load time. Minifying CSS and JS files into as few files as possible are best for site performance. 

There are several open-source tools available that help minify your CSS and JS such as Gulp, and Drupal is able to compress both the CSS and JS output out of the box.

Server Configuration

We also see quite a few bad server configurations that cause performance bottlenecks in our clients’ websites. We have tweaked our managed hosting configuration for our clients, and recommend high-performance Drupal hosting with our preferred hosting partners where applicable.

However, sometimes it’s just not possible to make these changes, so in some cases, we will recommend new hosting or make improvements where we can by adding additional caching or other performance enhancements to the server configuration. 

Some common ways to improve server performance include adding caching mechanisms such as Redis or Varnish. Other situations might include setting up a Content Delivery Network, otherwise known as a CDN. A CDN allows website content to be replicated across multiple servers in multiple physical locations to avoid the latency that web servers typically have serving content from a single location.

Website Performance Testing Tools

Many of these tools are available online for free and provide a report with recommendations on where to make improvements. We use these tools regularly to test site performance for our clients. Each tool provides similar performance reports for a given URL, and you’ll have to try them out for yourself to see which tools you like best. It’s a good idea to use a few of them at once and compare the reports to draw out the most important results.

Commonly Used Tools

Honorable Mentions

The performance of your website is just one of many factors that search engines like Google take into account when ranking their results. Testing your site’s performance and making improvements is an easy way to improve both the SEO and usability of your site. 

Don’t let your site’s performance negatively affect your SEO strategy and user experience. Contact us today to set up a website performance audit to ensure your site is running at top speed.