You probably already know that Search Engine Optimization is the #1 most important practice to make sure your local business ranks as highly as possible in Google search results. What you may not know is that website performance metrics play a vital role in SEO.
In general, SEO is used for optimizing the online presence of a business and promoting its products or services by ranking it as high as possible when a generic search is made (such as, for example, “shoe repair shop”).
For local businesses (companies that serve customers in their nearby geographic area), the focus is on Local SEO. This is used for linking local businesses to local customers (for example, “shoe repair shop in Philadelphia” or “shoe repair shop near me”). The goal for a business utilizing good Local SEO is to be among the first results that come up when someone performs a location-specific search.
One tool every small business owner should use is Google My Business (GMB), which is a business’ profile on Google. It includes vital information about the business such as its name, phone number, address, schedule, the products and services offered, etc. Keeping this profile complete and updated will guarantee a greater chance of higher ranking search engine results.
While local ranking results are based primarily on factors such as relevance, distance, and prominence, another vital and often-underestimated aspect is website performance. This refers to how long a website takes to load and it’s a crucial component for both SEO and Local SEO.
The Critical Role Web Testing and Performance Play in SEO
A slow-loading website has two principal consequences for your business:
- It will have an impact on SEO, resulting in poor ranking for your business’s website.
- The user experience will be a negative one, driving customers away and ultimately leading to even lower rankings.
Let’s first address the impact site speed has on SEO.
Google “promotes” speed and values getting information to the users as fast as possible. As a result, site performance is a very important factor for local SEO, in the search ranking process. In essence, a fast website will rank higher in the search results than a slow one will.
While there are many ways that you can measure site speed, there are three that are particularly important:
- Fully-loaded page – the time it takes for ALL the elements on your website to load.
- Time to First Byte (TTFB) – the amount of time it takes a page to commence the loading process.
- First Meaningful Paint – how long it takes for the page to load enough of its elements for the user to be able to start interacting with the website.
Small business owners should focus on improving these website performance metrics, as optimizing for speed is crucial for SEO. Subsequently, the website will become more visible, traffic to website will improve, and more customers will come.
Why Website Performance is Key to User Experience and SEO
In contrast, websites that do not load properly create a negative user experience, which impacts both SEO and your business. A slow-loading website will irritate the user, which will most likely cause them to spend less time on the website and in turn visit fewer of its pages.
Three additional metrics SEO uses for ranking results are directly related to the time users spend on a website and the number of pages they visit. They are:
- Dwell time – this measures the amount of time between the moment the user clicks a search result to enter the website and the moment they return to the search.
- Time on page – the amount of time a user spends on the website before going anywhere else (back to the search results / another website etc.).
- Bounce rate – the percentage of users that only visit a single page on the website before closing it (Note that it does not make a difference if the user spent 10 seconds or one hour on this page, it is still considered a bounce).
To sum up, a user will generally spend less time on a slow-loading website and will visit fewer of its pages. Because both of these facts impact SEO, the website will rank lower in local search results. In contrast, a fast website not only makes existing clients happy with the services you provide– it also helps you gain more new clients.
In conclusion – on top of basic SEO techniques, such as creating the GMB profile, using keywords, creating great content, and gaining backlinks – measuring website performance and optimizing for speed are extremely important for your local business success. By making sure that you understand how to strategically utilize all of the tools available, you will be able to make your website rank as high as possible in local search results.