Sustainability and search engine optimization (SEO) are two words you wouldn’t expect to see in the same sentence. No tree is seemingly felled every time you Google something or visit a webpage; but websites lead to carbon emissions. The use of the Internet and its supporting technologies are responsible for almost 4% of global emissions. That might not seem like a big number, but it’s actually the equivalent of the emissions caused by air travel.
Internet consumes a lot of electricity. According to the online carbon calculator Carbon Website, the Internet consumes 416.2 TWh of data per year. To give you some perspective, that’s more than the whole of the UK uses. From data centers to mobile devices, they all consume electricity, which creates carbon emissions. The average web page tested produces 1.76 grams of CO2 per page view. For a website with 10,000 page views per month, this translates to 211 kg of CO2 per year. With over 1.7 billion websitesdigital content is being released at an exponential rate.
Websites today have a plethora of bells and whistles, from auto-playing videos to animations. If you don’t like these features, you’re not alone. Not only are they annoying, but they also slow down websites and increase carbon emissions. The faster a website is, the better its carbon footprint will be. Every SEO best practice helps reduce carbon emissions in some way.
What actions can you take to reduce your website’s carbon emissions? Rob Murgatroyd, Senior SEO Manager at blue boardoutlines some improvements you can make to your website that will make a significant difference in grams of CO2 per page.
1.) Understand your current shows
It is important to know what needs to be fixed before you start making changes. Many companies don’t view their digital marketing practices as something that pollutes the world. While working as an SEO, I realized that many technical SEO practices are already helping to minimize the impacts of climate change. Much of our focus is on reducing website size, increasing load time efficiency, and reducing unnecessary redirects. These zones help reduce pressure on servers and ultimately reduce the amount of power required by sites.
To understand the current performance of your site, you can use tools such as Lighthouse Chrome extension, which provides a breakdown of some of the major technical issues with your site that could be causing slow load times. A tool that I particularly like is called Tag. It calculates the environmental impact of a web page, shows you a breakdown of the page elements that consume the most energy, and tells you what steps can be taken to reduce your emissions.
2.) Make your website load faster
After getting a clearer picture of what elements of your site are slowing down load times, your next step should be to follow best practices to improve your site’s performance. Every site is different, but improving site speed should always be a key consideration for technical SEO, which is also considered a key goal for practicing sustainable SEO. Here are some simple actions to help boost your website speed:
• Use web-safe fonts rather than custom fonts. Some font files can be up to 300 KB.
• Include a caching solution on your site. Caching temporarily stores a copy of a website’s original content on a user’s device and dramatically reduces server power consumption while improving page load times.
• Consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMPs are lightweight web pages designed to give mobile users a lightning-fast, more digestible experience. This technology makes mobile content load faster by removing unnecessary code.
3.) Optimize Your Website’s Multimedia Content
Over the past few years, trends in website design and operation have shifted towards a wider use of high-resolution images, videos, and animations. While from a design perspective it looks great, both from a user’s perspective and in the eyes of search engines, it’s not necessarily a positive trend. The more elements a site has on the page (i.e. multiple large images, multiple videos and animations), the more data it requires to load.
Ultimately, the smaller the websites, the faster they will be. Compressing images and reducing file sizes on your site can help a lot. 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. Decreasing the amount of videos on your site can also help, while ensuring that video autoplay settings are disabled as well.
At Blue Array, highlighting the environmental impacts your site currently has and providing detailed technical recommendations on how you can improve is part of our standard site audit process. If you want to take a positive step on the climate and want to see how much carbon emissions are produced by hosting your site, feel free to contact us here.
Image credit: Pexels – Sanni Sahil