Improving Server Speed for SEO

13 June 2020
speed of websites

There’s still a perception that SEO is all about keywords, keywords, keywords. But, if you find your website a bit slow, and, despite your efforts to optimise it for better performance in search engines you don’t see any improvements, it might be time to focus your attention on some technical solutions to get the changes you want.

WordPress – A Blessing and a Curse

I wouldn’t call myself an out-and-out techie. For instance, I don’t code, I use WordPress to build websites. It’s agile, feature-rich and best of all, free. Lot’s of smaller agencies work like this using WordPress, Drupal and other free CMS solutions as it keeps the website build costs down.

But in my experience, by the time you’ve loaded WordPress, a theme, and various additional plug-ins, you often end up with a bit of a bloated website which can create speed issues. Bad for user experience, and also for search engines like Google which demand fast page load speed as a ranking factor.

With tools out there to help you measure your page speed – such as Google’s own Pagespeed Insights and Pingdom – you can start to fix your performance issues. Although these tools should not be the “be-all-and-end-all”, they will help you mitigate the resources required to deliver your web pages.

Going through this practice alone could end up dramatically improving your website speed, search engine rankings, user interactions and customer enquiries.

Hosting

All too often when it comes to websites, hosting is one of those things “down to the IT guys”. In my experience, this can create a looping conversation and no changes. But, as I recently managed to persuade one of my clients to move their website hosting after ongoing speed issues, I thought I would highlight a snapshot of the immediate impact.

Case Study

The website data below shows the differences that some simple technical changes can make to a website’s performance. On 6th May 2020, this specific site was moved to a new server after six months worth of concern. Note also that the WordPress theme had been updated two weeks previously to the server move – although all content and metadata on the website remained the same – but we were still getting speed issues.

Notes

  • The client is in B2C sector, servicing a local customer base.
  • There is a years worth of data on the graphs, with weekly markers, to see a longer-term snapshot.
  • The dip in March 2020 – May 2020 coincides with the UK lockdown for Covid-19.
  • May 2020 (speech bubble marker) denoted when the server was changed.
  • All year-on-year comparisons made are based on 7th May – 13th June versus the same dates in 2019.

Traffic

As you can see, the traffic to the website improved immediately, ( lock-down restrictions were relaxed for this client on 18th May). Even so, the traffic is up 50.49% on the same period of the previous year.

Website sessions improved with web server speed

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate shows the percentage of website sessions where users viewed only a single page before they left (bounced). Year-on-year this was down by 40.65% with the number of pages that people look at per visit up by 17.65%.

Bounce rate improved with web server speed

Traffic from Organic Search

It’s very early days to ascertain improvements of increased search traffic and there are a lot of factors other than speed involved (including a significant Google update at the beginning of May 2020) but up by 28.65% year-on-year.

improved SEO from web server speed

Enquiries

Probably this most important stat of all –  how many people made an enquiry via the website? Year-on-year this is up 168%.

Improved website enquires improved with web server speed

What Did I Actually Do To Achieve This?

By merely moving web hosts, the actual time involved in making web updates has improved massively. So, it figures that users must be getting the same benefits when they are viewing the website. No hard facts behind this idea, but the server change must be making an impact as the engagement stats are much higher.

Combined with the server move, two weeks previously I had updated the WordPress theme to a faster, lighter-weight theme (Neve), combined with  Elementor page builder – the website now delivers the same information faster, and, on the faster server.

Invest and Change

The catalyst for me doing this project was my own experiences of hosting. Having spent ten years with a respected UK hosting company, I started getting problems that weren’t being addressed. Some of the web hosting accounts I had in place was starting to run older versions of server software, which I kept highlighting to no avail. So, I moved. I haven’t looked back

The thing to remember is that technology changes fast. Recent WordPress changes have been game-changers, especially with the transfer to the Gutenburg editing system. This change in itself forced me to look at new options, which unearthed Elementor.

At the end of the day, I build websites for small businesses with budgets of £1-10k. These budgets are suited to off-the-shelf systems like WordPress.

If you have a website for your business, I’d ask you to think about your website.

  • What does it deliver for you?
  • How much do you invest in it?
  • How often do you review the performance and technical set up?

If you need advice, give me a shout. At the very least, I’d urge you to crunch some numbers.

Time-and-time-again I see examples of ‘under the hood’ technical changes that deliver a huge difference to a websites performance, and, if you rely on your site to deliver you leads, why would you not keep investing in improvements?