How to make sure your website isn’t killing the planet

Five ways that SEO and good web management can help you reduce your carbon emissions

Rob Murgatroyd, Senior SEO Executive at Blue Array, discusses some improvements you can make to your website that will make a significant difference in grammes of CO2 per page…

Sustainability and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are two words you wouldn’t expect to see in the same sentence. You don’t tend to picture trees being cut down each time you Google something or visit a web page; but websites do result in carbon emissions – and the average web page tested produces 1.76 grams of CO2 per page view. For a website with 10,000 monthly page views, that results in 211 kg of CO2 per year.

Websites today have a plethora of bells and whistles, from autoplay videos to animations. If you find those features annoying, you’re not alone; and what’s more they also slow down websites and increase carbon emissions.

So what actions can you take to reduce your website’s carbon emissions? 

1) Understand your current emissions

It’s important to know what needs fixing before you start to make changes. Many businesses don’t see their digital marketing as something that’s polluting the world. It’s encouraging to know, though, that a lot of technical SEO practices are already helping to combat climate change. Focus on reducing the size of websites, increasing load-time efficiency and reducing unnecessary redirects. These areas help to reduce the strain on servers and ultimately reduce the amount of energy sites require. 

To understand your current site performance, you can use tools like the Lighthouse Chrome extension, which provide a breakdown of key technical issues on your site that may be slowing load times. One tool worth a mention is Beacon – it calculates the environmental impact of a web page, shows you a breakdown of page elements that use the most energy, and tells you what measures can be taken to improve your emissions.

2) Make your website load faster

After obtaining a clearer idea of which elements of your site are causing slow load times, your next step should be to follow best practice guidance to improve your site’s performance. Every site is different, but site speed improvements should always be a key consideration for technical SEO. Here are some easy actions to help increase your website’s speed:

  • Use web-safe fonts, rather than custom fonts. Some font files can be as big as 300kb.
  • Include a caching solution on your site. Caching temporarily stores a duplicate of a website’s original content on a user’s device and greatly reduces server energy usage while improving page load times. 
  • Consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs). AMPs are lightweight website pages designed to give mobile users a lightning-fast experience that’s easier to digest. This technology makes mobile content load quicker by removing unnecessary code. 

3) Optimise your website’s multimedia content 

Over the past few years, there’s been a trend towards websites featuring more high-resolution images, videos and animations in web design. While from a design perspective this looks great, from both a user perspective and in the eyes of search engines, this isn’t necessarily a positive trend. The more on-page elements a site has (eg: multiple large images, numerous videos and animations), the more data it requires to load. 

Ultimately, the smaller websites are, the faster they’ll be. Compressing images and reducing file sizes on your site can help considerably. It’s recommended to use lossy compression when compressing images, which equates to a big reduction in size, but with little loss in image quality. Decreasing the amount of video on your site can also help, as well as ensuring that video autoplay settings are disabled too. 

4) Switch to green website hosting

Your website hosting service plays a huge part in your site’s carbon footprint. There are now several options available for green website hosting, all powered by renewable energy; for example, the offerings from Kualo and Green Geeks.

5) Keep users happy with good SEO

A large part of SEO is focused on delivering the best possible search experience for users. That means providing the most relevant results, as quickly as possible. If your content is answering a user’s search intent, this means that they don’t have to click through multiple websites to get an answer, which avoids multiple sites from being loaded. This reduction in actions per user helps to reduce server strain. Make sure to always keep the user's search intent front of mind when creating content. Happier users means a happier planet.