In this episode, Michael and Chris talk about the page loading speed: why is it so important for B2B sales? What changes has Google implemented regarding page speed that could affect how your business site performs? There are things you can do to test and improve pagespeed, starting right now.
In this episode, we answer some important questions:
What is Pagespeed? Why is it so important for B2B companies like painting and flooring contractors?
What changes has Google made that could impact your site visibility?
How can you identify page speed problems?
What can you do to improve page speed and load times?
For more information on the tools and services referenced in this podcast, please visit:
Google Page Speed Tester: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
Michael Epps Utley: We were talking about the difference between something taking 20 seconds to load, getting it down to 10, and then 10 down to 5. Well now we’re talking about, “Wow, we’re over a second on this page.” That’s a problem.
Chris Raines: Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades, and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from SearchPrimer.com., the experts in digital marketing for the trades.
All right. Welcome to episode seven of Grow Your Painting Business. My name is Chris Raines with Bullhorn Media. I’m joined by Michael Epps Utley, President of GoEpps, headquartered on Main Street in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael, how you doing?
Michael Epps Utley: Good.
Chris Raines: We’re talking about …
Michael Epps Utley: Actually, it’s been kind of hard.
Chris Raines: A little insight into this episode. It actually took us about 45 minutes to even hit record because of solar flares?
Michael Epps Utley: We’re not sure. It’s either …
Chris Raines: Crazy …
Michael Epps Utley: We don’t think it’s a bad cable. We think we’ve isolated all the problems, but if-
Chris Raines: If I seem a little … I’m the more tech oriented guy here, so I had to deal with the brunt of this, so if I seem a little aggressive on this episode, that’s why.
Michael Epps Utley: We’ve got Chris off the ledge, but we’re still talking him down.
Chris Raines: Still talking him down, so I feel a little on edge, but what will get me off the ledge is talking about page speed. That’s the topic of this episode. Michael, page speed is something … Obviously, we’re talking about how fast a page loads in a given browser. If you have a painting business, you have a website, it matters more than ever how fast it loads.
Google … Or Michael. I called you Google. Michael, give us a little bit of context on what page speed is and why it matters for Google historically, and what’s happening today with page speed.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. I think if you went back 30 years and found somebody who was running a commercial painting business and you told them, “In the future, people are going to talk about some system where they have a billboard of their business and how fast it loads is going to matter,” it would seem insane.
Some of this stuff is a little bit tedious, feels a little bit crazy to even be talking about, but websites are a major hub for any business that’s generating leads on the Internet. Even B2B customers, people who are buying things like industrial cleaning services, commercial painting, concrete repair, epoxy flooring.
A lot of these industrial applications, it’s not just sort of an old school network of people who all know each other. It’s somebody or an administrative assistant getting online and doing some searches and putting together a spreadsheet of who to get pricing from and then asking for bids and getting those bids in and reporting them.
If somebody’s trying to go to your website and it’s not loading, or if your website runs a little bit slow and Google has made changes, and that’s what we’re going to dig into, it can keep you out of that consideration set.
Chris Raines: Lost money.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. The reality here is, we’re talking about a major, major concern for anyone who is actively generating leads from the Internet.
Chris Raines: It would have been a concern eight years ago. We’ve always known that if your site takes 20 seconds to load, that’s a bad thing, but it’s even more and more important. Talk about just historically, Michael, like why it’s in today, in 2019, like why it’s so important to make sure your page loads just as fast as possible.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. I’ve been doing digital marketing for 20 years and for all of that time, page load speed has mattered, but we were talking about the difference between something taking 20 seconds to load, getting it down to 10, and then 10 down to 5. Well now, we’re talking about, “Wow, we’re over a second on this page.” That’s a problem.
A good case study of this is Walmart. A colleague in the SEO business here did a presentation, shared Walmart as an example. They found that for every bit that they were able to reduce page load time, transactions went up. Conversion rate and revenue per cart both trended positively just based on page speed, and I mean down below one second. If you check out Walmart.com, you’ll see that, right now, it loads really fast.
In terms of a few years ago versus today, there have been some big changes at Google in the last year that have sort of shifted the landscape around this topic. For a couple of years, it’s been important to have something that works really well on mobile devices. Websites that were not mobile ready, using the most current design principles of using CSS to serve one set of code, to show on all size screens, we call it responsive design. Websites that didn’t have, that were suffering.
Recently, there was a change and Google just … We’re going to call this episode Google Page Speed Tools, because they just put out a new set of tools. If you do a Google search for “page speed test, Google,” it’ll take you right to it and you can put in your URL and see what your mobile score is and see what your desktop score is.
They changed these tools recently to heavily penalize mobile page scores. The other big changes, they’re moving to an index. Basically, when someone does a search on the Internet using Google, Google is not going and looking at all the websites in that moment. They have an index, they have their own card catalog system and it says, “Hey, when this search happens, show these websites.”
They’re updating it every second because of all the different things that are coming and going out of that index at any given moment, but there are two indexes. One is a desktop user’s index and the other’s a mobile index. What Google has decided is something in the industry we just call Mobile First.
They’re saying that, “Page load speed for mobile users is so important that we’re going to use that as the standard, not just for mobile device searches, but also for desktop searches.”
Chris Raines: This is a huge change.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, yeah. I even kind of will joke around with clients when we’re talking about it that, gosh, Google’s almost opening themselves up to a class action lawsuit here. What if somebody doesn’t want to be optimized for mobile, but they want to be optimized for desktop?
Chris Raines: Right.
Michael Epps Utley: Well, guess what? You need to be optimized for mobile.
Chris Raines: Yeah. We’re talking about B2B companies, for example. It’s hard to imagine someone searching for a high ticket B2B sale with a lot of research on their phone, but this is Google’s world. We live in a Google world.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, and Google, and if you’ve been looking at your Google Analytics and you’ve seen your mobile traffic going up every year, then you understand that Google’s on to something here. They’re actually right. Mobile … Here’s the thing. At the end of the day, right now, the Internet is a cellphone.
Chris Raines: Yep.
Michael Epps Utley: Yup. We used to think the Internet is that computer on that desk over there. Well, it isn’t. The Internet’s a cellphone and eventually, it’ll be something else. “The Internet’s that smart strip on the front of my refrigerator,” but for right now, the Internet’s a cellphone.
Google has, they’re in, I don’t know, not necessarily a war, but it’s very important to them to be the number one platform for mobile searches. They’re essentially lurching us forward into the challenge of getting mobile page delivery as fast as possible.
Whether the page is being served, the website’s being served through some broadband Internet connection to a desktop device or a cellphone tower to a smartphone in a car going 70 miles an hour down the Interstate, they want that mobile page delivery to be the standard for who shows up higher in search results. Again, not just for mobile users, but for all users of the Internet, desktop and mobile, so desktop searches are being affected by how well a website works on mobile devices.
Chris Raines: Yeah, okay. We’ve established that mobile page load speed is eminently important. We live in Google’s … This is Google’s universe, we’re just living in it. What I want to do now is just for the next 10 minutes, let’s talk about some really practical things we can do to make sure our pages load as fast as humanly possible to give Google what they want.
The first thing, Michael, I want to talk about, image sizes. It’s an image, picture and video driven Internet in 2019. You’re going to have images, you’re going to have video. Let’s talk about image sizes. What can we do to make sure image sizes are Google friendly and don’t bog down our page load speed?
Michael Epps Utley: Yep. You’ve been to do a Google search for Google page score, Google page speed score. You’re looking at the results. It’s a lot of technical information, but one of the things you’re going to see almost for any website is, “Hey, optimize your images.” This could, your improvements here could come from a number of things.
Number one, serve the image size into your page that you need, and no bigger. There are a lot of times when there’s a thousand pixel by 6,000 pixel image loaded for some background element of a hero area of a website. Well, guess what? Now that extra memory that was so cheap and free and easy on broadband, now it’s penalizing you, so go ahead and trim that thing down and design for you your best users.
There may be some graphic designers out there who are served something that’s not 100% width on your background, but don’t worry about them. Just sort of design with sort of a better fit for the page size in mind. You can work with a developer or an SEO agency to go through and optimize all the existing website’s images.
We just, in working through this with our clients, we’ve been doing things like taking 2,000 images on a website, optimizing them and loading them all back up in the backend all in one batch, and getting significant improvements in these new scores.
Yeah, and another thing on images is sliders, left, to right sliders as background elements. It was a nice design touch for a few years, but now the penalty for loading in all those extra images is so high, that when it’s just a textural design element, it’s not really worth it. There’s not a lot of information that was being conveyed by those sliders anyway. Even just backing off on having a slider or no slider can cut down your number of images.
Chris Raines: Perfect, perfect. Let’s talk about another thing that might bog down a load time for a page, and that’s third party files and plugins. A lot of websites are built on things like WordPress or other CMS that have a large plugin environment and you can, there’s probably tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of plugins available for WordPress.
You need those to a certain extent to add functionality. Michael, what can websites do to minimize the impact that those plugins have on page load time?
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. We had an interesting case of this just in the last 60 days. We had a website that was scoring badly once it was moved over to the mobile first index and it was hurting our rankings. We were troubled by it. We had changed hosting at the same time, and so we were concerned that the hosting was a problem, but we identified what it was. It was a plugin, it was a self-scheduling application.
We help companies grow their painting businesses. It was a tool for booking a painter immediately. Just going ahead and setting a date and time and scheduling the meeting. It was a really cool application. I really liked our implementation design-wise, but this plugin was serving in so slowly that it was getting identified in the page speed test as the major scoring change.
We had to pull that out off of the homepage to a secondary page. Because so much the traffic on the website was to the home page, we could fix a lot of our problem but still keep the functionality, so thinking about which pages have the most traffic, making sure that those pages are optimized first. That’s a good kind of practical tip.
If you have any of these third party tools … I’m an e-commerce guy. I came out of the world of bare knuckle e-commerce where if you could remove a click, you’re removing a click.
Chris Raines: Yep.
Michael Epps Utley: If you could shorten the user path to a conversion by one click or even scrolling …
Chris Raines: Huge revenue differences between-
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, you’re doing it. Well, in this case, we had to go the other direction. We had to add a click to isolate the negative mobile speed score of this third party plugin. We contacted the company and it was kind of an interesting conversation. We showed them the numbers and told them they had a real problem on their hands and, “What are you going to do about it?” They sort of ghosted us.
I don’t think every one has a plugin or tool or anything. Even successful ones that have a lot of good installations out there working in the field, I don’t think they’ve necessarily got a solution for what Google’s done yet. This is kind of a big deal, kind of a problem and we’re all getting swept up in mobile.
Chris Raines: Well, let’s talk about tools to use to locate any problems we have with page load speed. If we’re bought into the fact that we need to have our pages load as quickly as possible, we need to be able to find the offending elements on the page. Are there any tools there that, if you’re a painting, contracting business or any business, to use to identify those problems?
Michael Epps Utley: Yep. Number one here is going to be the tool that Google has provided. When they made these changes, it corresponded with them using a new source of data for their testing. Again, do a Google search for “Google page speed test.” It’s at Developers.Google.com, but you can just do that Google search for “page speed test” or, yeah, “page speed test,” and it will get you to where you need to go.
What you’re going to see on that page is a number of different little insights into what’s happening. It’s going to show you the opportunities and the estimated savings and give you a set of diagnostics.
Now, those problems are still in there, but everything’s a lot more helpful because it’s showing actually the way the page looks when it’s loading and how it’s actually being impacted by each of these factors. There’s a good tool set in there from Google.
The only caveat I would have is that … In talking with some other SEO agencies and people who do what GoEpps does and what SearchPrimer is, a lot of us agree that Google would be happier if your website had zero images. They want you to get those images down to zero kilobytes. Well, guess what? We’ve got to have some images. It’s a visual business, a visual industry.
If we’re good marketers, we’re using visuals at every turn, so I think you have to take some of this with a grain of salt. Really, what it’s about and what this tool set will show is how the paint of the screen is being impacted by these resources.
They really, really want to get everything painting the page fast because then the person’s not … The searcher or the user of the search is not waiting for something to load. They’re going ahead and absorbing content. Yeah, that’s the answer.
We use some other tools, we use a handful of things but right now, we’re still just trying to dig in and understand what each of these offers, and get used to living in this tool set more than we ever have in the past.
I’d recommend that if you’re out there, you’ve got a business, you’re thinking about how to grow your business, ask your website person, “Hey, have you looked at our page speed with Google’s tools? What is it saying we could do? What do you need in order to help us act on that?” That’d be kind of the way that conversation could go.
Chris Raines: Yep. We don’t have a lot of time. Let’s talk about a couple more things. One of them is hosting speed. Most people don’t host their own website. They’re paying some other company like HostGator or GoDaddy or some other company to actually host the content of the website. There is a factor in page load speed in terms of hosting speed. Talk about what that is and how your hosting company can impact that.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. I’m not going to come down on the side for or against any particular hosting company. We’re not promoting anybody or compensated to do so in any way, but one of the factors could be the hosting company that is in place.
There are a lot of companies that have built websites over the last 20 years. We all got into this business at different times and had some good encounter with some hosting company and kind of stuck with it. A lot of these companies are not evolving as quickly as they need to and they’re not serving content up fast enough. A lot of businesses are not on some big hosting application like AWS with Amazon. A lot of them are on smaller, single website type hosting packages from GoDaddy, others.
Yeah, it’s going to be important to have someone walk through with you and help you identify if you have a problem. If you do, go ahead and bite the bullet. If it’s somebody’s box sitting in their garage, you need to get away from that situation. If it’s a hosting company that maybe has you on an older machine or some older configuration, we’ve, at times, shifted hosting from one company to another just to kind of get on a fresh setup.
There are a lot of little funky things that can happen because of all these changes year after year. Hosting just tends to hold a lot of legacy side effects, and so it’s not bad to switch. Migrating an existing website over to a different hosting platform, it’s not really that bad of a project. You just want to have kind of a testing protocol set up. Be ready for your email to break or something like that after you make some changes.
Any kind of changes to the DNS system with your website, it can tend to sort of reveal things that were previously undocumented. Like email addresses you didn’t know were in use or had some business application like being the on-file email address for a payment gateway.
There can be all sorts of crazy little things that can happen, but this is such a big factor that if you think that you can get some improvements in your page speed by moving to say WP Engine or even GoDaddy, we’re right now, we’re recommending doing that and we’re actively migrating websites to better hosting.
Chris Raines: Yeah, that’s great. Before we leave, we talked about several different things here, probably six or seven different things that impact page load speed. A lot of people might be listening and think, “Gosh, Michael, Chris, I don’t have 40 hours next week to just devote to page speed. I’m a working, painting business,” or, “Painting contracting business.”
What should people do first? Like what has the biggest impact of all the things we talked about? If you could only tackle, in the next month you can only focus on one thing that we talked about, what should it be?
Michael Epps Utley: Yep. Number one is run your site through the new page speed insights. Look at your score, look at … It’s kind of tricky, but you’re going to see a score at first and then there’s another tab there for mobile or desktop, depending on which one displays first. Look at both of those. Don’t freak out. Then scroll down and see what it says are your memory hogs and then kill them. If it’s something that-
Chris Raines: Take the top memory hog-
Michael Epps Utley: Figure out what the number one is and do something about it. If you have to prioritize from there, if it’s something that sort of affects everything site-wide, if possible, start with your homepage and just get your homepage serving faster. Even getting your homepage faster is going to make a big impact because for most websites, that’s the number one page on the site.
Chris Raines: Yep. Great, great advice. All right. That’s all the time we have for right now. Hopefully, that was helpful for you guys listening. If you own a painting contracting business, this is a major, major part of showing up for organic results. Just go top to bottom, most effective to least effective to tackle that page load speed.
Michael, why don’t you tell the audience, this is a kind of, a small sliver of what SearchPrimer.com does. Tell the audience about how we can learn more about SearchPrimer.com and what they do to help painting contractors.
Michael Epps Utley: Yep. Feel free to check in with us if you want to talk further. I am, by heart, an educator and love talking to people even if they’re not paying us to do that. I love hearing about how people built their businesses and why they do what they do.
We have clients all across the country. We’re generally focused with SearchPrimer in growing local and regional SEO presence, so that’s showing up in organic search results. Yeah, but we’re part of an agency that does it all, so any other needs that come up, we’re able to kind of wrap those into what we’re doing.
Yeah, we’d love to talk to you. You can connect with us at SearchPrimer.com, and there’s plenty of information there to reach out to us.
Chris Raines: Awesome, all right. Thanks for joining, Michael. We’ll see you next time. Thank you.
Michael Epps Utley: The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free service of SearchPrimer.com. Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools and digital marketing. SearchPrimer.com.