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Responsive Themes and Google Speed Algorithms

It’s a common belief that responsive WordPress themes are what’s going to make your site more valuable and authoritative by improving the user experience people get when they pay you a visit. But along with all this enthusiasm, there’s a new question that raises some eyebrows: What’s the load impact of all this responsiveness?

The problem is particularly visible on mobile. Many people still access the web through a 3G network that’s clearly not optimized to handle the websites of today. So, the common sense would dictate that the slower a site is on mobile, the lower it’ll rank, but is that really true?

Raw Data

There was an interesting study conducted by a week or so ago. The researchers wanted to check how much site speed really matters as a ranking factor, and what type of site speed has the most significance (page load time, time to first byte, document complete).

And the results were surprising, to say the least. As it turns out, there’s no correlation between ranking and site speed as most people understand it.

The only actual metric that has some impact on ranking is time to first byte. In short, this is a backend metric, which means that its results are not even visible to users. The guys at saw a direct correlation between this metric and ranking. To be precise, the lower the time to first byte the site has, the higher it ranks.

Even though the metric itself sounds strange and very technical, it’s actually one that’s the easiest to measure for Google. Every bot can easily register the moment when the first byte of data is received. Measuring the complete page load time, on the other hand, would be highly dependent on too many factors and might falsely represent the site’s actual speed.

But even if site speed has no effect at all on our rankings, we still have to treat it seriously from a user-experience point of view. Mobile is great for some form of promotions, but if our sites load slowly, we’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

One of the best ways to deliver your website to everybody as quickly as possible is to connect it to a CDN. It’s a network of servers which checks the geographic location of a visitor and then delivers your website from the nearest server within the network.

You can try MaxCDN and get started for $9 a month.

Only Updated Themes

Responsive themes shouldn’t have a negative impact on your load times on their own. But responsive and badly designed themes will. That’s why you should never attempt to save money on your theme and always get the highest quality products available.

Then, once you have the theme, make sure to update it immediately after a new update is released. You will see an icon indicating a new update in your WP admin (section Dashboard > Updates):

No Flashy Designs

The best site-speed-optimization advice out there hasn’t changed in years. Always avoid flashy designs or anything that could have trouble displaying on older devices or weak internet connections.

The fact is that you rarely need animations to get a conversion on an affiliate site. Copy is still king.