DOES PAGESPEED MATTER FOR E-COMMERCE?

**This week we’re doing something a little different here on Smokehouse SEO…that’s right, we’ve got our first GUEST POST!

Written by Joe Shoop (@joeyshoop) from the SEO Department of ChannelAdvisor,  this week’s post is for all the Technical SEOs out there, about Pagespeed and eCommerce SEO.**

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DOES PAGESPEED MATTER FOR E-COMMERCE?

We’ve known for years that Google rewards the relative load speed and performance of sites with more impressions and higher rank, but how much has always been the question.

Historically, we’ve seen many different aspects of site development, performance, and impact weighing heavily on search results, but speed has never been one of those coveted virtues.

That is, until recently.

Many search engines have indicated that the speed of sites will now have a greater impact on how sites rank than ever before.

E-commerce has always gotten a bit of pass in this regard.  It has been generally understood that large sites with expansive product offerings would always take more time to load and require more resources for performance. However, with improved server response time, enhanced JavaScript resources, and faster content management systems, the time has come for e-commerce sites to step up their game.

This is especially true for mobile search.

The Mobile Impact

As mobile search continues to dominate the SEO landscape, those of us working in e-commerce have mostly been exempt from concerns in this arena. Customers have largely used desktop computers to search for and complete their purchases, for reasons ranging from an increase in perceived security to better navigation through the conversion process.

Well, the times have finally caught up to our industry, and mobile is now becoming an increasingly important factor for online businesses and the speed with which we can guide our customers through the conversion funnel matters.  Additionally, mobile is taking a larger share of all search traffic in general.  More and more searchers are turning to their mobile devices when searching online, and this trend is unlikely to change in the future.

What Can You Do?

 

So then, where do we start to establish a baseline for our sites’ speed and identify the problems that are bogging our site down?  Luckily, Google offers a free resource to see our speed and uncover our problems: PageSpeed Insights.

Simply type in your landing page and click “Analyze”, and Google does the work from there.  This will deliver a speed score for both mobile and desktop versions of your site on a 100-point scale.  In addition, the report will tell you the issues that you ‘Should Fix’, ‘Consider Fixing’, and areas where you ‘Passed Rules,’ so you’ll have a good idea of what you need to work on, what you should consider for repairs in the future, and places on your site that pass Google’s standards. Many of the suggestions you’re likely to see will be fairly easy to fix, while some may be completely impossible.

Below is a quick review of many of the common issues we see in these results:

  • Optimize your images. This is one issue that we see on nearly every site we review, and the great news is that it’s something that most site administrators can fix over time. This indicates that the images used on your site have either not been sized correctly or are lacking lossless compression. To add lossless compression to your images, you may use one of many free online tools like Tinypng or Compressor.io to compress the images without losing image quality. In addition, you may need to manually resize your images instead of relying on dynamic resizing. Making a very large image fit in a very small box can drastically slow the page rendering!
  • Leverage browser caching. Your site is probably using a lot of the same resources on every page, such as JavaScript, CSS, logos and images.  Instead of asking the browser to retrieve these resources on every page that a customer navigates to, why not instruct their browser to save these resources on their computer and reduce the amount of requests going to the server?  This is what browser caching is, and it can have a dramatic effect on your PageSpeed scores.
  • Minify JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. These are the usual files that any web page uses, and quite often they’re full of whitespace, comments, and unnecessary keystrokes that make it easier for developers to see and understand their layout.  However, the files that the end user needs to load don’t need these things, so we can eliminate these items to make the files as small as possible.  This process is called minifying, and there are free online tools like JSCompress and Minify that can do the hard work for you.  Simply copy the source code and submit, and they’ll return the minified code.
  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content. This is a very common issue, and it often provides the best opportunity for improvements to your page speed.  However, it’s often a very resource- and time-heavy process, as these types of files usually come baked in with your CMS, and it requires a lot of time and patience to unravel the code and restructure or eliminate the problems.  Quick answer: you’re probably just going to have to let this one go and live with the slower speed.
  • Reduce server response time. Google recommends that the server that hosts your site respond in less than 200ms.  If your server is taking too long, you should ask them why.  Typically, the host will make a few adjustments on their end, and you’re all set.  Easy!

 

In our experience, an average e-commerce homepage ranks somewhere between a 50 to 65, but many of the best sites have improved their scores into the 80s and beyond.  Take a few minutes today and test your homepage, a category page, and a product page and see how you stack up. You may be surprised to find that your score is much lower, and a few simple changes could give you a leg up on the competition.

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