James Carr

Sustainability is an ever-growing topic across multiple industries, with thousands of businesses working hard to reduce their carbon footprint over the next few years. There are obvious improvements to be made, such as reducing emissions from transport, reducing the amount of plastic used and embracing low-energy technologies, but there are huge sustainability opportunities within the digital landscape too.

So, how can SEO help businesses to reduce their carbon footprint? The answer (much like many of my articles) lies within site speed…

An important announcement from Google

Google recently announced that the optimisations that have taken place since the launch of Core Web Vitals have saved Chrome users more than 10,000 years in page load time in 2023, which is a staggering number.

Given that Core Web Vitals focuses entirely on three metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures how long the largest resource on the page takes to load;
  • First Input Delay (FID), which measures the time from user click to browser response;
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which measures visual stability and any layout shifts caused by image loading.

Saving 10,000 years of load time has a huge impact on reducing the carbon footprint of the web, as well as improving user experience.

How does Core Web Vitals improve sustainability?

It’s estimated that the internet consumes as much electricity as the whole of the UK, with huge server banks running constantly worldwide to allow data to be served up 24/7 no matter where you are.

With such a high demand for electricity supply comes huge emissions: It’s estimated that the average website produces around 0.8 grams of carbon dioxide per page view. If your site gets 1,000 views a day, that’s 800 grams of carbon dioxide produced, adding up to 292 kilograms a year. That’s just over a quarter of a tonne.

Making websites load faster therefore goes hand in hand with reducing carbon emissions, as we’re able to deliver the same content with less processing power and less data transfer. This means we get the same data, with less electricity usage and less carbon dioxide produced.

That’s how Core Web Vitals improves sustainability. Reducing the size of the largest resource on a page, how quickly pages respond and fixing layout shifts all contribute to reducing load times, which has a direct impact on sustainability.

How else can SEO help?

Despite Core Web Vitals being introduced back in 2020, only around 40% of websites meet the thresholds in 2023, so there is clearly more work to be done in that area.

However, even for the sites which pass the metrics, there are some fairly standard SEO optimisations which should be made to sites to further improve performance:

  • Cache web pages – Caching web pages refers to serving up a static version of a page that requires minimal processing power to serve up to users.
  • Compress files – The dimensions and file size of images and video have a huge impact on load speed. Making sure images are uploaded in a compressed format means less data transfer from the server.
  • Serve files in modern formats – Particularly where images are concerned, serving resources in formats such as WebP offers up a much smaller file size than traditional formats such as jpg and png.
  • Remove unused code – Serving up a web page with code that it doesn’t need to function puts more load on the server, meaning a slightly slower loading speed.

By making sure we embrace site speed as a priority, not only do we create a better experience for users, but we also reduce our carbon footprint and give ourselves the best chance of ranking well, all of which are good for business!

How to test your site

If you’re curious about the impact your website might be having on your carbon footprint, we recommend using any number of website carbon footprint calculators available online to get an idea.

And just to prove that we practice what we preach, the Coast Digital website has been built in a way that results in it being “cleaner” than 79% of web pages, with only 0.20g of carbon dioxide produced every time someone visits a page.

Need to make improvements?

Uh oh. If you’re reading this bit, I’m assuming your site was deemed to be “dirtier” than other websites. Not to worry! Our SEO specialists and developers are well-versed in detecting and communicating opportunities for improving site speed, so can easily help you to reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, that’s exactly what we did for Dezeen.

Read the Dezeen case study >

Ready to boost your site’s sustainability?

Don’t leave it too late to embrace sustainability. It matters! If you want to reduce the carbon footprint of your website, improve user experience and improve site rank all at the same time, we’re here to help. Speak to our SEO experts today to find out more.

Talk to us today >

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