The Internet Is Dirty
There are over 4.3 billion active Internet users in the world with that number growing every minute. Although not typically thought about, the Internet accounts for 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption. US researchers expect power consumption to triple in the next five years as one billion more people are able to access the Internet in developing countries. This number may grow even more considering the recent pandemic with more people than ever working from home and increasingly relying on email and video communication. With this increased reliance on energy, humans are exposed to additional pollutants which are negatively impacting our health and wellbeing.
An average website produces 4.61 grams of CO2 for every page view. For websites that have an average of 10,000 page views per month, that is 553 kilograms of CO2 per year. Between data transfer energy, server farms and data centers, the impact quickly adds up. So, what can you do to lower your website’s emissions? Website traffic and average page views are important metrics for any business, but with a few small changes you can improve your website’s carbon footprint and even positively impact your bottom line.
Sustainable (Website) Development
Easy changes can be made to promote sustainability.
Choose a Green Web Host: The bad news—a significant portion of energy is used in data centers where information is stored and transferred. The good news—green web hosts have become much more common over the years. You can find a solid list of green hosting providers here. Look for a host that has their own renewable energy generation, has a high Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) and has a public sustainability or environmental policy. Many hosts that are committed to sustainability are very upfront about this information. Choosing a data center close to your users is another important factor when choosing a host. The further away your data center is, the further the information must travel. This leads to not only more energy generated, but also slower website speeds which can impact everything from your user experience to your organic search rankings.
Clean and Simple Web Design: A clean website design does not just help with user experience; it also supports a lower carbon footprint—and bottom line. When users are quickly able to find what they need and can have an easy time navigating the site, this typically leads to improved conversion rates in a shorter window of time. Some easy steps you can take to simplify your web design include:
• Reducing Image Size: Images are almost always one of the largest contributors to page weight and slower speeds. Designers and SEO teams should recommend compressing images and implementing as minimal as possible without compromising user experience before uploading to a website. Using an efficient file format for each image, such as WebP, will also help.
• Reducing Video: Like images, reducing video size while also removing auto-play features and keeping videos short can help improve page load times and lower a website’s carbon footprint. When creating a video, quality over quantity should be the goal and video content should be relevant to your user. If your video content is not adding value, removing it can lower the weight of your site.
• Font Selection: Fonts can be sneaky and add additional weight to your webpage. System fonts should be used such as Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial since they can be used without loading any font files at all as they are already on a user’s device. Limit font variations as well. •
Organic Search Considerations
Improving site speed and user experience is always the end goal for any SEO team. A few SEO considerations to keep in mind that will improve website sustainability include:
• Creating Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Accelerated landing pages allow your site to load quickly on mobile devices. This is accomplished by stripping out any unnecessary code and delivering a minimalist version of the original website. Google recently announced that AMP is no longer required to gain carousel results in the news, but the improvement in load time and site efficiency should not be ignored and fast load times are a ranking factor for SEO. Since mobile usage continues to grow this is a key area of opportunity for marketers.
• ‘Lazy Loading’ Content: With lazy loading, your website will load only as someone engages with your site. Without lazy loading, the entire page of content is downloaded and rendered when someone visits your website, leading to more energy usage and slower load times. There are a few SEO best practices to keep in mind with lazy loading, as you run the risk of content not being crawlable and discoverable within search if implemented incorrectly. To ensure that Googlebot sees all content on your page, make sure that your lazy loading implementation loads all relevant content whenever it is visible in the viewport. You can find Google’s full guide on lazy-loaded content here.
Eco-friendly Websites Benefit Your Entire Marketing Ecosystem
These eco-friendly website tweaks directly correlate to faster load times which will directly benefit not only organic search but also paid promotional efforts as well. Paid channels such as paid search charge on a Cost per Click basis. If a searcher clicks an ad and the website loads slowly, they may get impatient and click the back button, leading to wasted promotional spend. The same goes for other channels such as social and programmatic. Google rewards fast and mobile-friendly websites, which neatly ladders up to the eco-friendly initiatives highlighted and ultimately leads to a positive user experience.
Plant the Seed
If you’re curious to see how your website is impacting the planet, www.websitecarbon.com does a great job of breaking down the amount of CO2 it produces while also recommending updates that can be made to reduce your impact. Following your analysis, work with your designers, developers and SEO team to create a plan of action for website updates. Once implemented, generate some positive PR and linking opportunities by letting your audience know about recent website changes via your email list and directly on the website.
The Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profit)
Sustainability and environmental impact have become key areas of focus in recent years. With energy use from computers, smartphones, tablets, smart home devices and data centers expanding, electricity usage from the Internet is on track to heavily increase in the future. Fortunately, businesses can do their part to help reduce this growth while also improving website user experience. For more information on how you can make your website eco-friendly, reach out to your CMI SEO lead.