Page Speed as a Google Ranking Factor and its Impact on SEO

by Outranking
Updated On: October 23, 2023
Page Speed as a Google Ranking Factor

Did you know the first five seconds of your page load time have the highest impact on your conversion rates? Simply put, the faster your website loads, the more people will buy your products from your website. So boosting your page speed is key to getting higher Google rankings, better website visibility, and more leads. In this guide, you’ll learn all the basics for optimizing your website’s load time while identifying the factors that will help you boost your rankings through page speed.

What Is Page Speed?

Imagine you visit a webpage that has multiple forms of content: blogs, images, and videos. The web page’s speed is the time it takes for all this content to load and appear on your device. This speed is also known as the page’s load time. 

Page speed is all about providing the best user experience, so users spend more time on your page. It’s important to note that page speed isn’t the same as site speed, which is the time it takes for a sample of pages on a website to load completely. 

You can evaluate your web page’s speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tells you whether your page load-time is within the acceptable range, and it diagnoses the problems contributing to higher page speed. 

Enter your page's URL, and let Google do all the analysis.

What Affects Your Page Speed? 

The page speed Google ranking factor is also affected by other factors (factor-caption!). If you don’t know what drives up your load times, you can’t make an impact to boost your ranking. Here are some of the key factors that can affect your page speed.

1. File Sizes

To understand how file sizes affect your page speed, we need to see how web pages are served to browsers. 

Every element that makes up a webpage is stored on a server: HTML files, CSS files, Javascript files, images, videos, style files, etc. When you navigate to a webpage through a browser, the server serves all these stored elements to your browser. Your browser will then build the webpage using the received elements and display the webpage to the user.

If these elements are large, i.e., have bigger file sizes, it’ll take longer for the browser to properly build your page. It’s almost like trying to build a tower out of massive, 200lb Lego bricks. Instead, opt for smaller file sizes for your web pages — and this will evidently improve your load speed. 

Pro Tips

  • Avoid overusing Javascript. Although it can be great to display animations and transitions, it’s a heavy file that can slow down your page speed
  • Optimize your webpage for mobile. Mobiles have weaker processing powers than computers, so this plays a role in your load-speeds
  • Keep your overall page size small. This will mean the browser has fewer elements to load on your webpage, keeping your page speed fast

2. Hosting Service

Hosting services affect your website’s performance because they help businesses in creating websites for the Internet. A web hosting provider has the technology for building and storing a website and choosing a reliable hosting provider can significantly improve the page speed.

Although hosting services themselves don’t impact page speed, the features of hosting service do.

Pro Tips

  • Avoid using free hosting services. Free services have a lot of traffic, and the providers generally don’t have sufficient bandwidth to handle all the demand. Opting for a paid hosting service will provide faster load speeds, lifting you above the pages that rely on free hosting providers
  • Choose a hosting provider that can load your page regardless of the number of visitors on your website. An incompatible provider will have a limit on the number of users your page can handle, meaning your load times will suffer if your webpage has a surge in visitors 
  • Conduct thorough research before investing in a hosting provider. Hosting providers can make or break your page speed, so look for one that’s reliable and compatible to boost your website’s visibility 

3. Themes and Plugins

Themes and plugins add more aesthetics and features to your website, but they also add to your page’s file size. The same goes for plugins. Overusing themes and plugins will add a lot of unnecessary load to your pages, resulting in slower page speeds. So in this case, always remember, less is more

Pro Tips

  • Use themes that are more optimized for page speeds 
  • Avoid themes that have many designs, colors, and animations
  • Add only SEO- and page-speed-friendly plugins
  • Don’t add in a lot of plugins for no reason

4. Image Size and Compression

Large images that aren’t optimized for SEO will surely slow down your website. Again, that’s because larger file sizes lead to slower file loading. Unoptimized images also contribute to a poor user experience. 

Pro Tips

  • Aim for smaller image file sizes. Compressing images can be a good choice, especially for images that don’t need ultra-crisp quality
  • Use SEO-friendly image formats. We recommend using WebP, but you can use the table below to compare the common image formats and what they’re best for
Image Format Best For
PNG (Portable Network Graphics) Largely used for logos and icons. Can handle well-detailed and high-contrast images. PNG compressions are lossless, and their quality remains the same when zoomed in. Can’t be expanded infinitely
JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) Widely used for digital images. Maintain reasonable image quality when compressed. Can be displayed on any device and can show millions of colors
WebP (Web Picture Format) Developed by Google to replace JPEG, PNG, or GIF files. Supports lossy and lossless compressions as well as transparency. WebP image formats are the smallest in size. Works very well for faster page speeds
SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) Web-friendly vector file format used for logos, icons, illustrations, and any image created using solid colors and shapes. Best for images without color blending or real-life photographs. Highly scalable without quality loss

5. HTML, CSS, and Javascript Files

HTML, CSS, and Javascript files make your website particularly heavy, thereby reducing the page speed. That’s especially true for large, complex, over-coded HTML, CSS, and Javascript files. If you’re not careful, these helpful assets can turn into a heavy load that slows your page speed to a crawl. 

Pro Tips

  • Optimize your CSS and Javascript file code. Minify them properly and use as little code as possible 
  • Avoid over-coding. Ensure your file sizes stay appropriate for faster load times
  • Ensure the DOM or Document Object Model tree size is appropriate for HTML files. Otherwise, large DOM tree sizes reduce the page speed

6. Use of CDN (Content Delivery Network)

If your website is operating in New York City, users in Leeds can interact with your website faster than those interacting from South Africa — because of latency.  Latency is the time it takes for a server to respond to a browser request. The longer the distance between a server and a browser, the longer the server will take to get and process the browser request.

One way around this is CDN, a network of servers working together in different geographical regions. This network ensures your website or webpage loads faster in those geographical regions. 

A CDN saves the HTML, CSS, Javascript, and image files and loads this content quickly for users living close to that server. 

Pro Tips

  • Use CDN if you have an international audience
  • Know where you have the most visitors. Set up a CDN in that geographical location to improve your page speeds and user experience

8. Server Response Time

Server response time is the time it takes for a server to respond to a browser’s request. Server response time depends upon a number of things, like the amount of data it receives, its software and hardware, and its distance to the browser. 

Server response time is directly related to your page speeds. So you should choose your servers properly to avoid having issues with slow response times.

Pro Tips

  • Ensure your server has advanced hardware and software. Old, slow, or incompatible servers will destroy your page speeds
  • Check that your server receives traffic in its optimal capacity range. If it’s very far from the browser, server response times will be slow
  • Ensure your server has sufficient bandwidth to handle your requests 

9. Redirects

Redirects make a browser go from one URL to another automatically. Redirects may affect your page speed if you don’t manage them properly. 

The greater the number of URLs in a single redirect, the greater time it will take for the user to land on the actual webpage. This will also lead to slower web pages. For example: ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ will take more page load-time as compared to ⇒

Pro Tip

  • Ensure you use as few URLs in redirecting as possible
  • Remove temporary redirects. Don’t leave a redirect you used when doing page maintenance after it served its purpose

Is Page Speed Really a Google On-Page Ranking Factor? 

Page speed has been a Google on-page ranking factor since 2010. That year, Google announced that page speed, and consequently, site speed will be a ranking factor in SERPs. Google also said, “We encourage you to start looking at your site’s speed — not only to improve your ranking in search engines but also to improve everyone’s experience on the internet”.

At that time, most internet users were on desktops, so the page speed update was for desktop searches only. But in 2018, Google declared page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches too. Google confirmed this by saying, “Today we’re announcing that, starting from July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.”

Then in 2021, Google announced the page experience signal replaced the page speed ranking signal. The page experience signal contains the elements necessary for a good page experience and affects the rankings of a webpage. One of the elements of a page experience signal is the Core Web Vitals

Now, the Core Web Vitals measures a website’s page speed, responsiveness, and visual stability. If your page speed is fast, your Core Web Vitals will improve — which will in turn affect the page experience signal, consequently improving your page’s rankings.

Benefits of Having Fast Page Speeds

Besides Google officially announcing that page speed will affect rankings, improving your load speed can give you many SEO B2B benefits. Here are the top 4 benefits of having good page speed. 

1. User Experience

Research shows that slow mobile search results lead to a 38% heart rate increase and introduce stress levels comparable to watching a horror movie. We’re not joking! 

Entering into cardiac arrest because of slow loading speeds isn’t exactly a sign of a good user experience on your website. Google also favors pages that offer a good user experience. That’s why you should focus on improving your site and page speed.

If your site visitors leave the page before it even loads, they won’t know what you offer, and they’re less likely to become customers. But if you have high page speeds, users will be happy, which means they may stay on your site longer, and eventually become long-term customers.  

2. Higher Conversion Rates

An increase in page load time makes visitors leave the website, dramatically decreasing conversion rates. Slow page speeds = higher bounce rates. To better understand this, you should first understand Jakob Nielsen’s 3-response time limits. According to Nielsen, users have 3-time limits when interacting with a website, as follows: 

  1. 0.1 second: The user feels the website has loaded instantly
  2. 1 second: The user notices a page load delay, but they’re okay with the output
  3. 10 seconds: The user wants to focus their attention on something else — they leave the webpage and open another

The highest conversion rates occur for websites with load times between 0 and 2 seconds. So, improving your page speeds will result in more leads, ergo yielding more profit for your company. 

3. Reduced Website Load Time

As your page speed becomes faster, your website load time is also reduced, resulting in an increased site speed. This will also improve your website’s visibility, improve your session time, and reduce bounce rates. 

Faster websites are Google’s favorites. Why? Because they use less of Google’s time and resources, and they’re easy to crawl. This means improving your page speed will give Google the most value from your website — which will also be beneficial for you. 

4. Better Search Rankings

As we’ve said before, Google values page speed as a ranking factor. So prioritizing page speed may be a good way to get a higher ranking. 

But it’s important to note that page speed isn’t the only ranking factor. For example, if page A has more relevant content but is slower than page B, page A will still rank higher. In this case, relevancy mattered more than speed. To ensure your page is the fastest, while also offering the most relevant content for readers.

Additionally, page speed rankings only affect websites with abysmal, unacceptable speeds. So if your website is already fast and within optimal range, making it faster won’t make a significant difference. 

Understanding Google Page Speed Insights to Find Loading Issues

Google PageSpeed Insights is a web tool that evaluates and identifies web performance issues. Simply enter your site’s URL, and Google will evaluate your performance on mobile and desktop.

You’ll also get an overall score, and you can learn why your performance is struggling. Take a look at this example: 

This site has passed!
This site has failed, but why?

In these images, you can see six different terminologies:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  2. First Input Delay (FID)
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
  4. First Colorful Paint (FCP)
  5. Interaction to Next Paint (INP)
  6. Time to First Byte (TTFB)

You’ll also notice two tabs, one for mobile and another for desktop. So in this next section, we’ll start by analyzing these two tabs, then see each of the six terminologies in detail. 

You can learn more about PageSpeed Insights by watching the below video:

1. Desktop Vs Mobile

Google PageSpeed Insights offer two different analytics for mobile and desktop. Why? Because the results for your page speed differ between mobile and desktop. 

PageSpeed insight scores are lower on mobile than desktop, simply because mobile connections are slower than desktop connections. 

Google cares about accessibility for all, and not all internet users have access to ultra-fast 4G. So it uses a slow 4G connection to analyze your website for mobile users — or a fast 3G connection at best. As a result, your website loads slowly and affects the performance score. The main culprit for your website’s poor mobile scores isn’t your website speed, but the slow internet connection Google uses.

Another reason for poor mobile scores is that many websites aren’t properly optimized for mobile. Though 64% of SEO marketers consider mobile optimization an effective investment, many website owners ignore some aspects of mobile optimization, resulting in poor scores.

So, focus on optimizing your page for mobile, and if you still get a low-performance score on mobile, don’t fret — even the top 100 e-commerce websites had a median score of 27 on Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

2. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is the first Core Web Vital that appears in PageSpeed Insights’ assessment. It’s the time a website takes to show the largest or main content to users. It’s not the largest content on the whole webpage, but the largest content that appears on a page without scrolling. Here is an example of LCP:

This is the largest element on this page that appears without scrolling.
  • A good LCP score is in the range of 0 to 2.5 seconds 
  • An LCP score needs improvement if it ranges from 2.5 to 4 seconds 
  • A poor LCP score is greater than 4 seconds
Target the Good range of LCP!
Source: Google dev

Here’s what you can do to improve your LCP scores: 

  • Optimize LCP images to the right size, format, and resolution. Follow Google guidelines or your hosting service provider’s guidelines for images
  • guidelines for images or your hosting service provider’s guidelines for images.
  • Use a compatible web hosting provider that can handle your traffic and data properly
  • Start using an image CDN on top of your regular CDN to ensure people far away from your operator can see the LCP quickly
  • Don’t use Javascript on loading or opening LCP images because Javascript files are typically heavy and cause loading delays

3. First Input Delay (FID)

You open a webpage and you see a nice, enticing CTA. You click it, and… The time it takes for the browser to respond to your click is the FID. FID basically captures a user’s first impression of your page’s interactivity and responsiveness.

FID measures the time it takes for a browser to respond to users’ interactions, like clicking, typing, tapping, or key pressing. Interactions like zooming or scrolling don’t count in FID. 

FID is measured in milliseconds. Your webpage’s FID value should be very low, meaning it should take the least amount of time in milliseconds for the browser to respond to the user’s request. 

  • A good FID time ranges from 1 to 100 ms
  • An FID score needs improvement if it ranges between 100 and 300 ms
  • A poor FID is greater than 300 ms
Anticipate your user's interactions!
Source: Google dev

Here’s how you can improve your FID scores: 

  • Reduce Javascript files because they make your code heavy and it takes browsers longer to process them.
  • Break down long tasks into smaller tasks by breaking down long-running code. Long tasks block the main thread for 50 ms or more
  • Reduce Javascript execution time by deferring unused Javascript and code-splitting

4. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

You decide not to wait for a webpage to load fully, and you start scrolling. Suddenly, one of the unloaded images loads and appears instead of the content you’re reading, dragging the content down with it and ruining your experience. 

This is cumulative layout shift (CLS) — the shift in content’s position due to the unexpected loading of other elements. 

This is like moving an image in a Word file —  annoying.
Source: Google dev
  • A CLS value of 0 means the content and other elements do not change positions
  • A good CLS value is in the range of 0 to 0.1
  • A CLS value needs improvement if it’s in the range of 0.1 to 0.25
  • A poor CLS value is greater than 0.25
Cumulative Layout Shift

To improve your CLS value, consider the following tips:

  • Include width and height size attributes to image and video elements on your webpage
  • Reserve space for ads, embeds, and other late-loading content in the initial layout
  • Strive to display the late-loading content at the end of web pages to reduce CLS

5. First Contentful Paint (FCP)

FCP is the time it takes for the first content to appear on a webpage. This content may be either written, an image, a video, <svg>, or colorful <canvas> elements. FCP is measured in seconds. The less time it takes for the first content to appear on a webpage, the better the UX.

This is like the evolution of a page, from blank to content-full!
Source: Google dev
  • A good FCP value ranges from f 0 to 1.8 seconds
  • An FCP vale needs improvement if it’s in the range of 1.8 to 3 seconds
  • A poor FCP value is greater than 3 seconds
Make sure your users can start seeing your content within a reasonable time.
Source: Google dev

To improve your FCP scores, consider the following things:

  • Minify your CSS codes
  • Remove unused CSS and Javascript files
  • Avoid multiple-page redirects

6. Interaction to Next Paint (INP)

Interaction to Next Paint assesses the responsiveness of a webpage. To do that, it measures all the interactions made on that page, like clicking, tapping, or keyboard movements. The INP is measured in milliseconds — the less time it takes for a browser to respond to a user’s interaction, the better the user experience. 

  • A good INP ranges from 0 to 200 ms
  • An INP value needs improvement if it’s between 200 and 500 ms.
  • A poor INP value is greater than 500 ms
Now the browser should anticipate your users' moves.
Source: Google dev

To improve your page’s INP, consider doing the following:

  • Break up long tasks into smaller ones
  • Fix long input delays using this guide.

7. Time to First Byte (TTFB)

Time to First Byte is the time it takes for a server to generate the first byte to respond to the browser’s request. TTFB is a collection of the following elements:

  • Redirect time
  • Connection
  • TLS negotiation
  • DNS lookup

TTFB is measured in milliseconds — the server should respond to the browser’s request quickly. That’s the basis for good FCP and LCP scores. Think of it this way: when the server quickly responds to the browser, the content will be displayed quickly, leading to better FCP and LCP. 

  • A good TTFB value ranges from 0 to 800 ms
  • A TTFB value needs improvement if it’s in the range of 800 ms to 1800 ms
  • A poor TTFB value is greater than 1800 ms
Make sure the server responds fast!
Source: Google dev

In order to improve your web page’s INP value, consider the following steps:

  • Choose a hosting service that can work on your bandwidth since server response is mostly related to server compatibility 
  • Use a Content Delivery Network(CDN) so the distance doesn’t impact the communication between the browser and server
  • Avoid multiple redirects 

How to Interpret the PageSpeed Insights Report?

When looking at Google’s PageSpeed Insights report, you’ll notice a “Diagnose Performance Issues” tab after the overview of the Core Web Vitals assessment. This diagnosis tab has four different scores for performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO. All the scores are calculated differently.

  • The webpage aspects that are performing well are color-coded in green
  • The areas that need improvement are marked in yellow
  • The areas that are underperforming are color-coded in red
It's easy to see what you need to work on!

1. Performance

In the performance tab,  PageSpeed Insights evaluates a website’s performance using metrics like FCP, LCP, CLS, Speed Index, and Total Blocking Time (TBT). 

The report will give a detailed assessment of Core Web Vitals, Lighthouse Lab Data, Opportunities, Diagnostics, and Passed Audits. By following Lighthouse’s guidelines for your performance tab, you can improve your page’s performance. 

Here’s how you can improve your website’s performance: 

Want to get a grip on SEO website cost, the SaaS SEO roadmap , or get a lowdown on SEO calculations? Dive in!

  • Avoid large layout shifts
  • Use proper width and height elements for the images
  • Keep transfer sizes small and request count low

2. Accessibility

Accessibility evaluates your website’s usability for different people. The accessibility tab gives results for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA), Names and Labels, Best Practices, Contrast, Navigation, and Passes Audits. You can also manually test some website aspects for accessibility that can’t be tested using any automated testing tool.

Here’s how you can improve your website’s accessibility: 

  • Use high-contrast colors for background and foreground texts
  • Allow zooming and screen magnification for people with poor eyesight
  • Add Alt text to your images

3. Best Practices

Best Practices measures how much your page uses best practices to improve its performance. It analyzes the user experience, trust, and safety, general, and passed audits. Following the tips below can help you improve your best practices score: 

  • Use HTTPS
  • Ensure your website has a strong Content Security Policy (CSP) against cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks
  • Ensure images are displayed with a proper aspect ratio

4. SEO

SEO score ensure your webpage follows the basic Search Engine optimization techniques. It assesses Content Best Practices, Crawling and Indexing, and Passes Audits. You can follow a few tips to improve your SEO scores: 

  • Use descriptive text in images
  • Don’t block page indexing
  • Use a valid robots.txt

WordPress Page Speed Improvement Plugins

If you use WordPress, you can use some plugins to improve your page speed. Here are our top 3 picks. 

1. Yoast

Yoast Plugin is a good option to improve your WordPress website’s page speed. This is because the Yoast plugin is developed by SEO experts who know how to design and manage a website with the best SEO practices in mind. It also comes with a free and premium version and has the following features:

  • Loads websites and webpages faster due to managing data in innovative ways
  • Translates your content to structured data so crawlers crawl your website faster
  • Automatically creates advanced redirects when URLs are changed or deleted

2. Nitropack

The Nitopack plugin for your WordPress site is a great tool for optimizing and improving your page speed. Containing a free and a paid version, NItropack offers the following features:

  • Automatically optimizes all images
  • Minifies CSS, HTML, and Javascript files
  • Automatically serves static data using a Cloudflare CDN

3. Hummingbird

Hummingbird is a great plugin to optimize your WordPress site’s speed. It comes with several functionalities and features, and it has both free and pro versions. Here’s what Hummingbird does to improve your page speed:

  • Enables text compression
  • Uses an efficient cache and fixes the Javascript execution time
  • Defers unused CSS

Enterprise Tools to Track and Improve Page Speed

Even if you’re using plugins for WordPress, you need a way to track your performance and get an action plan to improve it. Here are 3 more tools that can help.

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1. GTmetrix

GTmetrix helps test and identify the factors for slow page speed. It comes with a free and paid version and generates a performance report with the following elements:

  • Core Web Vitals Scores
  • Time to First Byte (TTFB)
  • Time to Interactive
  • Onload Time
  • Fully Loaded Time
  • Performance Improvement Suggestions
  • Page Size
  • Requests
  • Server Response Time

2. Pingdom

Pingdom is a tool for website speed testing. It also suggests the changes necessary for faster load times. It comes with a free trial and a paid version. Pingdom generates a report for your website with the following results:

  • Load Time
  • Page Size
  • Performance Improvement Suggestions
  • Requests 
  • Response Code.

3. Outranking

Outranking is software that helps troubleshoot on-page content optimization factors with real-time SEO scoring. By using Outranking, you’re focusing on the on-page SEO aspects that help improve speeds and boost rankings. Outranking provides the following features:


What are the browser cache settings for page speed?

Browser cache is the local webpage’s resources or data stored in a browser. Browser cache minimizes bandwidth consumption, improves page load time, and increases performance levels. The browser automatically saves the caches of a previously opened webpage and the next time you use that webpage, it loads more efficiently unless you clear the cache from the browser settings.

Can I find a Google Chrome extension for page speed?

Google PageSpeed Insights API Extension and PageSpeed Insights (MV3) are two extensions of Google Chrome for Page speed.