The Impact of Plugins and Page-Loading Time on Site Traffic and Website Ranking

Is SEO dead in 2016? The various signals of 2004 and 2016 of Google algorithm have vastly changed. Using a cache plugin, a case-study is presented on how page-loading time affects the site traffic and ranking. This particular example shows the importance of how SEO changes can be quick in decreasing or increasing traffic.

If you are keen on doing on-site SEO optimization on a regular basis, you are bound to make some mistakes! It is a difficult task of keeping note of the various changes you make to grow your website traffic. At the same time, Google makes various changes to its algorithm and we are not sure, whether the site has been affected by these changes or by the SEO changes we make.

effect of page loading time on site traffic and rankings

Recently in Jan 2016, Zineb from Google has posted in French on Twitter that there has been a core-related algorithm change, but not related to Penguin. This looks mostly like the stable Panda update being introduced into the algorithm.

Jan 26th – Feb 9th  – This was a period in which I lost significant amount of traffic on one of my main sites. The other major site did not have any changes. First I did not observe this trend, due to lack of time. This was also the period in which I was making little tit-bit changes to the layout of my site. I was trying to remove the pagination scheme introduced into the posts some time back. That feature was applied throughout the site, using a plugin. Also, one of the other changes, was the introduction of the “Paypal’ donation button on all the posts. In addition to these, there were several other plugins for creation of pop-ups and selling of ebooks.

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I felt these were unnecessary and deleted most of them.

But I also made a fatal mistake, which I think might have affected my site traffic.

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The Main Cause of Losing Traffic

I deleted the W3 Total Cache plugin, as I thought this was slowing my site down, instead of improving the page-loading time of the post. At the same time, I published a sponsored post with a do-follow link, which I thought might have flagged black in the eyes of Google. I also had other issues to face like my WordPress Dashboard was becoming very slow while doing operations and this irritated me very much.

In such scenario, I was not thinking of the impact that would have on the organic traffic and my keyword rankings and just applied, what I thought was intuitive.

After Jan 26th, I could see that my rankings dropped for the main keywords and also for the traffic generating posts. The most important article which was getting around 50% of the traffic and had rankings No.1 on Google search engine had almost become negligible in traffic and rankings dropped to No. 6 and onto the second page for other major keywords.

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My Major Hunch

Initially, I was suspecting the major algorithm update might have had an impact and also the likely hit of Penguin 4.0 which was expected. I waited a few days and thought the algorithm ups-and-down would become constant and my traffic will regain the old trend. But that’s not to be!

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I discussed with my other partner, who was also on the guess that it might be an algorithm update. Then when I checked my site on GTmetrix for page loading speed, I found some trivial issues like some “font” libraries of Genesis taking a toll on my site. In order to reduce this over-load, I planned to re-activate the W3 Total Cache plugin again. The benefits were instantaneous. Almost all the traffic came back to normal, with a little reduction from 1600+ users to 1200+ users. This might be due to he fact of “sponsored post” and the new algorithm update.

Though most of the settings were still intact, even after the deletion, I did not do anything major except activating the plugin. The speed of the site also improved little better and on GTmetrix, the page loading time reduced by 1 sec for the same memory bandwidth. So if I can still activate the “Minify JS and HTML” settings, that can have more benefit, which is to be explored further.

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This “by-chance” experiment which happened, just by luck gave me new insights in getting back the old traffic, sometimes we lose due to on-site SEO changes.

The first major lesson learnt was that, the page loading time and speed of the site has a major impact on the site rankings. Though this point was envisaged long time back by Google, I didn’t expect that this is going to play a major key role in search engine domination.

The second major lesson was that of plugins. If you are steadily getting traffic without any drops, it is better you keep the existent set of plugin, without making lot of changes. Adding one or two plugins and then observing the traffic is a better idea, instead of removing all of them at once or adding them in whole.

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The thirst major lesson was the influence of SEO on Google organic traffic. If we can get back the lost traffic, which is purely accidently and unintentional due to de-activating a plugin, it is necessary to observe the changes you are making to the site. The trend in getting back was very quick and almost to the same level.

Finally, this shows the importance of white-hat SEO, even in 2016 and it’s still possible to improve traffic with the right set of SEO tools and strategies.

1 Comment
  1. I too had so many plugins in the initial days. But later I found that they are slowing my site. So I had to remove many of them. Finding a good theme like Genesis or Thesis, should be more useful. Lesser the plugins, more the faster page loading speed. Thanks for the comparison.

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