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Page Speed in SEO: How To Make a Business Case
At the Benchmark Search Conference, I presented my talk about page speed improvements that can be made to boost overall site performance.
When working in a large business, I pointed out the processes that need to be followed in order to get all teams on board for the project to be approved and financed. During the presentation I provided insights into measuring page speed, the metrics that really matter, the considerations when building a business case and how to ensure accurate governance and reporting over page speed continues.
Why is page speed important?
Page speed has been important ever since Google first introduced page speed as a ranking factor in 2010. In the presentation, I discussed two major updates that occurred in 2018:
- The first was the mobile first index which is the way Google now indexes and crawls websites based on the mobile content
- The second was the speed update which revealed that mobile page speed would be a key factor for mobile rankings
Despite these updates having a huge impact on visibility, not all departments within the organisation were aware of page speed or its importance. There was no team directly responsible for measuring or tracking page speed, and I knew that I would need to build a business case in order for the SEO team to get the go ahead for the project.
How to measure PageSpeed using an API
Prior to the Google PageSpeed Tool, PageSpeed had to be measured manually which was a frustrating process at the time.
Not having tested page speed before, I presumed that there was an app or program that could be used to do this automatically. The objective was to measure 200 pages per week, for my employer’s top 20 performing pages vs the top 20 pages of their nine main competitors.
I started using GTmetrix to achieve this, but quickly realised there was no option to bulk upload or download, making the weekly process time-consuming and not feasible for the long term.
As any good SEO consultant does, I turned to Google for a solution to measuring page speed, only to find the recurring answer ‘you can use the API’. However, this would only work with an understanding of code. Whilst researching API, I learnt that:
-Google sheets can be used to connect to an API
-Ready-made scripts on Reddit might not work, and if they do, larger organisations’ secure working environments have proxies that prevent obtaining the data
-Without the proxy permissions, a 3rd party infrastructure is needed. This all becomes difficult without the correct technical knowledge.
-Mobile page speed
-Desktop page speed
Once I had collected the data, in order to make it available to the wider organisation, I used the data visualisation platform, Tableau:
However, I quickly encountered an issue, when building a business case to the manager, I would need to be able to answer three questions:
1. How much is the metric (indexes) in seconds?
2. What is the commercial benefit of the project?
3. What do we need to make it happen?
The first question was important, because it prompted the bigger question of ‘what actually needs to be measured?’.
Previously I had measured what I could find on the Google Page Speed API. Now she needed to get serious about the important metrics required for both technical and non-technical stakeholders. With hundreds of metrics that could be measured, this was initially a process of trial and error. Eventually I ended up speaking to Google directly, who told me that I needed to measure:
A free Google app that measures page speed from 0 to 100
Which measures how fast a page becomes visible
First contentful paint
Measures how quickly the first element in a page takes to load
How to measure PageSpeed using Google Search Insights
When I started this PageSpeed project, Google was yet to release its PageSpeed Tool.
The PageSpeed Tool, which can be accessed via Google Search Console, provides insights into improvements that need to be made for both Desktop and Mobile versions of a website.
The process is much simpler and does not always require the use of an API. Nonetheless, an API can still be useful for getting a better bulk understanding of a website’s page speed within a spreadsheet.
Featured snippets do just this, and generate opportunities for pages with less authority to appear at the top of the SERP. You do not have to sit in position 1 of Google’s search to earn the featured snippet, but after achieving the snippet your website’s organic visibility is boosted.
Making ‘page speed great again’
With this information, I had a developed a clearer idea about what needed to specifically be measured when writing up the business case. The business case was necessary because within big organisations, there are staekholders that need to be convinced in order to get projects financed:
Not coming from a background of SEO, the stakeholders, project owners and boss primarily care about metrics that bring money to the organisation. The main metrics being:
I was able to find the measurements that would show what the organisation should be aiming for based on a mobile 3G connection:
For the purpose of the presentation, I used anonymous URLS instead of the competitor’s names in order to keep the data confidential.
In this case, I used brand names with Donald Trump’s enemies as the pseudonym for the competitors.
As the table shows, the quickest page speed was 4.960ms:
I now had the metrics to complete question 2:
What is the commercial benefit of upgrading from 10 seconds to 4 seconds?
I prepared two scenarios to answer this question:
Scenario 1: Improve page speed for mobile only which would result in 30% organic mobile traffic.
Scenario 2: Improve both mobile and desktop page speed which would result in 30% of the total organic share.
The monetary difference between scenario 1 and 2 was 5x, so it made financial sense to choose scenario 2.
I titled the business case presentation, ‘Improving page speed: $XX million opportunity’
BUT, management wanted to know how much it would cost…
So I turned to the development team for help with the following points in order to answer management’s questions regarding time and cost. Together they would need to:
-Define the necessary resources and materials
-Determine which people were necessary for the project
-Assign measurable values to the recommendations
-Build a roadmap and provide timelines
The work with the development team began with a generic list of items for recommendations, but in order to turn it into a fundamental part of the business case they needed to define the issues, explain why each part was important, provide details of the steps and create a priority list. As shown below:
Creating a roadmap to execute page speed improvements
After determining the recommendations, they created a roadmap and divided each recommendation into sprints. This roadmap is essentially an action plan, and forms an important part of getting approval from the stakeholders and the boss.
Governance & reporting for page speed insights
The most important thing I learnt from this project was that page speed is never finished. When working in a large company, it’s important to assign a performance team within the organisation. This team should work alongside the SEO team to keep track of and produce monthly reports to senior management to ensure transparency.
The recommendations from the initial spreadsheet should be upheld for future website pages that get created. Specifications, such as ‘image files should not be heavier than 50 kilobytes’, should be applied to new pages before getting signed off in order to maintain standardisation and uphold page speed performance across the website.
Key takeaways on page speed performance in big organisations:
-All metrics need to be agreed on at the start, making sense for both commercial and non-commercial stakeholders
-Ensure that page speed has a $ sign assigned to it
-The page speed performance team should report to senior management periodically
-Governance standard should be signed off for any new pages created moving forward
Other PageSpeed Successes
I have also had more recent successes with PageSpeed for other clients.
Recently, I finished working with a DeFi client who’s website was incredibly slower than it should of been.
By working with the tech team, we were able to improve Mobile PageSpeed performance by 105% from 34 to 70 out of 100. Furthermore, we improved the Desktop PageSpeed from 89 – 97 out of 100, which was a 9% increase.
This helped contribute to the DeFi client ranking above their major competitors and seeing a 538% uplift in website traffic within less than a year.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Page speed is a measurement that shows how fast the content on your web page loads. Under the umbrella term ‘page speed’, there are a series of metrics that can be used. Page speed is a technical part of SEO that forms an important part of Google’s rankings when determining where to feature your page in the search engine page results.
Google’s algorithm takes into consideration a website’s overall speed as well as individual page speed as important ranking factors when positioning the site in the SERP. Page speed is a crucial element when it comes to user experience (UX). Sites with longer loading times typically experience higher bounce rates and less amount of time spent on page (lower dwell time).
As Victoria has demonstrated in her case study, improving your site speed will not only bring a number of commercial benefits, but will also improve the overall performance of a site. As well as increasing organic visibility and traffic, improving page speed:
– Boosts user experience
– Increase the pages Google crawls
– Rank higher in the SERP
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