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The Trap of Improving Page Speed

If you don’t have quality content, increasing your page speed scores isn’t going to help your search engine rankings. Focusing on improving your page speed scores might not be a good use of your time and money in general.
improving page speed

How important is page speed to Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ranking? While page speed is a factor in SERP rankings, it is not the most critical factor and there is no clear cut-off as to the ideal page speed required to rank well for a keyword. Clearly, a page has to have content on it that is associated with specific keywords to be able to rank for those keywords at all, so a fast page with bad content is as good as no page at all. There is a reason for the saying, “Content Is King.” Content is the single most important factor you can add to your website to rank well in SERP. 

A common trend we’ve observed is various agencies suggesting to our clients to improve their page speeds. In a vacuum, speeding up your pages is good, but in reality, the question is always at what price, to what gain, and at what opportunity cost?

Increasing page speed scores is a very popular suggestion by agencies to the owners of websites because page speed can be easily calculated and tracked over time and it can always be improved. The better a site’s page speed is, the more work it is to improve the scores, so suggesting page speed improvements is an evergreen, if low-value, suggestion. Page speed is a low-effort go-to for agencies to suggest as a metric to track.

improving page speed

Now, don’t get us wrong, you should be aware of page speed and improve it as possible, but you are going to get diminishing returns as you improve your speed. So if you need to spend a week or more of work to barely bump your page speed, it would generally be time better spent creating more high-quality content. The problem is that many agencies that want you to pay them to improve your site can easily track your page speed scores, but it is much more difficult to improve the quality of your content or to give specific feedback on the keyword optimization of specific pages. Furthermore, it is hard to quantify content quality and track this quality over time, so some agencies tend to shy away from it.

You’ll notice that Website Loading Speed is listed as the fourth most important Google ranking factor according to Monster Insights, coming in after good content, backlinks, and correctly matching search intent.

Page Speed and Rank

Let’s look at 5 competitive and not-so-competitive keywords and see what the top five Google Page Speeds are for each. 

First, let’s look at a few results that jump out from the numbers. Note that the page speed scores of the site vary widely for both competitive and less competitive keywords. The only 100 score got 5th place, and Attorney’s number one ranked site has a decidedly mediocre page speed score.

If page speed is of paramount importance, we would expect some sort of correlation between page speed and SERP rank. The correlation might be weak since we know page speed isn’t the number one most important factor. Surprisingly, for the 5 keywords below, the trendline implies a negative correlation. This just points to how much more important other factors are than page speed score. Please remember this, the next time one of your agencies suggests you spend tens of thousands of dollars on slightly increasing your page speed. How much does page speed matter for SEO? An improved page speed might not improve your SEO rankings at all!

improving page speed
improving page speed
improving page speed
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