TLDR: Don’t listen to the SEO ‘experts’ excuse that your site is ranking low because of speed, get them to work intelligently on the content of your site, the frequency of new content, and ensure you are seen as the ‘expert’ in your specific industry. Generate ‘authority’.
Have you ever heard the saying ‘Good, fast, cheap. Choose two’? The very same choice comes into building websites, except it’s more like ‘Speed, Functionality, Design. Choose two’ Ask any web developer and they will paraphrase the requirements from 99% of their clients along these lines:
“Build me a site that looks great, has loads of cool pictures and animations and design stuff. I also want it to be able to do everything these sites do, and have all their functionality. Oh, and my SEO person tells me it’s useless if it doesn’t load in 2 seconds”
At this point, the developer realises that there is little to no chance of meeting these requirements and has to go through the motions of trying to explain why that’s pretty much impossible to do, for lots of technical reasons. With the current CWV (Core web vitals) push from Google, it’s becoming even more important and can put developers into a very awkward position. Let me explain using a simple analogy from the motoring world.
Let’s start with design. Design can be analogous to our car interior. The leather seats, the wood trim, the glossy metals and other materials that give that luxury feel.
In regards to functionality, think of all the extras and ‘toys’ the modern car has. The satnav, heated seats, 15inch touch screen dash, in-built fridge, airbags, etc.
And the speed (or in a Jeremy Clarkson voice, ‘power!!!’). 0 to 60 times, BHP, drag coefficient, and so on.
Does the combination of all three exist in the motoring world? Yes, but we will get to that.
Going back to our three areas, let us this time start with speed and look at the F1 car. Around 750kg, a power to weight ratio of 1400 HP per ton, 2.3 second 0 to 60, and a top speed of 230mph. But no air con, no sat nav, no luxury leather seats, no exotic wood interior. If you ever get to see an F1 car up close, you will see bare metal welds, naked carbon fibre, and a seat that would give you the worst backache after a short trip to the local supermarket and back! And although F1 fans like myself would say they are beautiful machines, that’s not exactly because the engineers want them to be. Things like paint, advertising sponsor logos, even seatbelts and the HANS (Head and Neck System), all add weight to the car and, if engineers had their way, they would throw all of them out the window in the pursuit of speed.
‘Formula 1 Ferrari race car’
But bringing it more down to acceptable prices (An F1 car engine is in the region of £13 Million, with the rest of the car adding on another £3-5 Million depending on the team). Want an amazingly fast car you can actually afford and use on the road? Let’s look at the Caterham 7.
Acceleration that will beat most Ferraris away from the lights, grip like a slot car on a track and all the feeling of being inches from the ground, racing along at a (limited) top speed of 155mph. Not bad for a car you can pick up starting at £30,000. As long as you are happy without doors, windows, back seats, radio, aircon, and most other basic necessities.
Ok, now let’s look at functionality. The latest Toyotas and Fords off the production line have as many features and functions as a Mercedes S class of 10 years ago. Here is the current list of equipment on a Ford Fiesta:
Body coloured bumpers
Front electric windows
Leather seat trim
Rear electric windows
Steering wheel rake adjustment
Steering wheel reach adjustment
Space saver spare wheel
Folding rear seats
Front fog lights
Height adjustable drivers seat
Isofix child seat anchor points
Not bad for a car you can pick up brand new for as little as £13,500 – but you won’t be entering it in the next Monaco Grand Prix by any means. And as to design, well, if you’re a lover of plastics, then it may be right up your street, but I don’t think it would end up in a design museum.
When it comes to design and luxury, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Some people even liked and bought the Fiat Multipla (my vote for the ugliest car ever built). But a few manufacturers come to mind. Excluding the Rolls Royces of the world, for us mere mortals, look at any of the cars produced by the Italian company of Alfa Romeo.
Refered to by the Top Gear boys (original, not the new ones) as ‘achingly beautiful’, no one can consider themselves a true car aficionado unless they have owned one. Looking out of your window to the prettiest car on the street, its sleek lines, radiant colour, its accents and curves, is a fantastic feeling. Its also fantastic to drive…for the 2 or 3 days a year ot won’t be undergoing repairs in the garage. Notoriously fault prone, the Alfa owner can enjoy their car…sometimes…on the right day…when its working…and all in one peice.
How does this all correlate to websites though? Every extra function you add to your website, from custom pricing functions for your trade clients, to that Q&A flow system that narrows your 20,000 product catalogue down to the one you want to sell them, or even the login system where your clients can see all the documents you ever sent them, all add ‘weight’ (in terms of Megabytes) to your website, meaning more data has to be sent across the internet to the user’s computer, meaning the load time is going to take longer.
With design, of course you can add the subtle animations, the sweeping curves and high res images, but the LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) is going to take a lot longer as you have 100 ‘frames’ of the animation to load, the CSS for that ‘subtle curve’ which needs to calculate how to make it look good on both a 400px wide mobile and a 3000px wide desktop, inline videos and sliding images in 12 MegaPixels, all add time and processing to the computer receiving the website.
All of this translates to speed and these ‘magical’ numbers you hear from SEO companies, like ‘any site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load will lose clients’. Yes, speed is important, and with Google’s CWV (Core Web Vitals), it’s more important than ever… but it is not the be-all and end-all of your website – at least, not from the end user’s point of view. Let’s look at some industry-leading websites and see how Google scores them (taken directly from the Google Lightspeed tool).
All of these sites are held up as excellent sites in their specific areas… but as you can see above, Google would give them a less than favourable score based on their metrics.
So what conclusions can we draw? I think three major points come out of this.
1.Everything is a balance. Back to our motoring analogy, how about the speed being pretty good, the interior being ‘nice’, and having enough ‘toys’ for what you need without all the extras that you use once and then never again?
2. Blaming your ranking position on the speed of a website is the laziest approach of all, used by SEO ‘experts’ who do nothing but use automated tools to produce a report, then charge your £1000s a month to ‘rectify’ the ‘issues’. SEO is and always will be more important than mere speed. Anyone can run an ‘SEO Report’ from a tool, send it to a client and explain how they can ‘fix things’ and improve your rankings. Believe us, we have seen all the variations possible of these reports, from the good (rarely) to the common (same 3 or 4 tools producing the same reports) to the ridiculous (but all too common, promises of ‘we will get you to 1st position on Google… we promise!’). Good rankings in Google rely on much more than that.
3. What you don’t know WILL hurt you (which goes hand in hand with, there are NO shortcuts). But let me clarify, what you need to know is what YOUR customers (or potential customers) know and want, and NOT what you THINK they know or want. Let me give you a couple of points on this.
All of the above take work and time, but the payoff over time will give you a much more stable position in your industry than shaving 0.5 seconds off your load time.
Oh, and back at the beginning, I mentioned a car that could give you all three points. Enter the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport
‘Bugatti Veyron Super Sport’
Do you have £1.6 million to spend?