Sustainability and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are two words you wouldn’t expect to find in the same sentence. No trees seem to be felled every time you google something or visit a website; but websites cause CO2 emissions. The use of the Internet and its supporting technologies are responsible for almost 4% of global emissions. That may not seem like a large number, but it actually equates to the emissions caused by air travel.
The internet uses a lot of electricity. According to the online carbon calculator website Carbon, the internet consumes 416.2 TWh of data per year. To give you perspective, that’s more than what the entire UK uses. From data centers to mobile devices, they all consume electricity, creating carbon emissions. The average website tested produces 1.76 grams of CO2 per page view. For a website with 10,000 monthly page views, that works out at 211 kg of CO2 per year. With over 1.7 billion websites out there, digital content is being released at an exponential rate.
Websites today have a plethora of bells and whistles, from autoplay videos to animations. If you don’t like these features, you’re not alone. Not only are they annoying, they also slow down websites and increase CO2 emissions. The faster a website is, the lower its carbon footprint. Every SEO best practice contributes in some way to reducing carbon emissions.
What actions can you take to reduce your website’s carbon emissions? Rob Murgatroyd, Blue Array’s Senior SEO Executive, outlines some of the improvements you can make to your website that will make a significant difference in grams of CO2 per page.
1.) Understand your current emissions
It’s important to know what needs to be fixed before making any changes. Many companies don’t see their digital marketing practices as something that pollutes the world. As an SEO, I have found that many technical SEO practices are already helping to minimize the impact of climate change. A large part of our focus is on reducing the size of websites, increasing load time efficiency and reducing unnecessary redirects. These areas help reduce the load on the servers and ultimately reduce the energy demands of the sites.
To understand your current website performance, you can use tools like the Lighthouse Chrome extension, which provides a breakdown of some of the top technical issues on your website that can slow down load times. One tool I particularly like is called Beacon. It calculates a website’s environmental impact, shows you a breakdown of the page elements that use the most energy, and tells you what actions can be taken to improve your emissions.
2.) Make your website load faster
Now that you have a clearer idea of which elements of your website are causing slow loading times, the next step is to follow best practices to improve your website’s performance. Every website is different, but improving website speed should always be an important consideration for technical SEO, which is also considered an important focus for practicing sustainable SEO. Here are some simple things you can do to increase your website speed:
• Use web-safe fonts instead of custom fonts. Some font files can be up to 300 KB in size.
• Add a caching solution to your website. Caching temporarily stores a duplicate of a website’s original content on a user’s device, significantly reducing server energy consumption while improving page load times.
• Consider using accelerated mobile pages (AMPs). AMPs are lightweight website pages designed to provide mobile users with a lightning-fast experience that’s easier to digest. This technology speeds up the loading of mobile content by removing unnecessary code.
3.) Optimize the multimedia content of your website
In recent years, trends in website design and function have shifted toward the wider use of high-resolution images, videos, and animations. While this looks great from a design perspective, it’s not necessarily a positive trend from both a user perspective and in the eyes of search engines. The more on-page elements a website has (i.e. multiple large images, numerous videos and animations), the more data needs to be loaded.
Ultimately, the smaller websites are, the faster they get. Compressing images and reducing file size on your website can help significantly. It is recommended to use lossy compression when compressing images, which equates to a large reduction in size but with little loss in image quality. It can also help to reduce the amount of video on your site and ensure that video autoplay settings are turned off as well.
At Blue Array, highlighting the environmental impact your site currently has and providing detailed technical recommendations on how to improve it is part of our standard site assessment process. If you want to take a climate positive step and see how many CO2 emissions are caused by your website hosting, don’t hesitate Contact us here.
Photo credit: Pexels – Sanni Sahil