Sustainability in SEO: Creating a Sustainable SEO Strategy

7 Minute Read | Content Marketing

The internet is responsible for 3.7% of global carbon emissions. Google Search alone has a carbon footprint equivalent to 7 trips to the moon and back.

This was the opener of SEO Director at iCrossing, Ellie Connor’s talk on sustainability in SEO at BrightonSEO, which Kwasi founder, Woj, and SEO Strategist, Jojo, recently attended.

Let’s uncover some of our key learnings.


The environmental impact of industries like mining, oil and gas, for example, is visible and understood. The link between the internet – Googling something you want to buy or find out more about – and the climate crisis is harder to see.

The aviation industry is responsible for 3.5% of the world's carbon emissions

The internet & communications industry is responsible for 3.7% of the world's carbon emissions

(source: Ellie Connor)

Many people don’t think about how the internet works or the energy resources that support its function—we tend to take it for granted.


The internet runs on servers that consume large amounts of, often fossil fuel-sourced, energy. The global data centre infrastructure market size was USD 94.56 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 142.31 billion by 2027.

Google is leading the way in terms of sustainability and carbon footprint reduction in its data centres, however searching and returning results uses a lot of energy.

A 2.5-second page load speed reduction at 10K visits a month can save the equivalent of lighting up the Eiffel Tower for 20 hours and wasting 20 bathtubs of water.

(Water is used to keep the servers cool.)

So, what can businesses do to reduce the environmental impact of their presence in search? There are three key strategies.

How to reduce your SEO carbon footprint


how to reduce how much energy is spent on search

reducing energy usage reduces water waste and carbon emissions

(source: Ellie Connor)

1. Improve your page load speed


sustainability in SEO: metrics for faster page loads

(source: Ellie Connor)

One of the most important ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your website is to focus on improving page load speed. This is something we can measure and improve at Kwasi.

Tips for improving page load speed

  • Optimise your images: Images are often the largest files on a web page, so optimising them can make a big difference in page load speed. There are a number of ways to optimise your images, such as compressing them, resizing them, and using the right image format.
  • Reduce the number of HTTP requests: HTTP requests are the requests that your browser makes to the server to download the files that make up your web page. The more HTTP requests your browser has to make, the longer it will take for your page to load. You can reduce the number of HTTP requests by combining CSS and JavaScript files, and by using CSS sprites.
  • Use a content delivery network (CDN): A CDN is a network of servers that are located around the world. When a user visits your website, the CDN will serve the files to them from the server that is closest to them. This can reduce page load times for users who are located far away from your hosting server.
  • Use a caching plugin: A caching plugin stores copies of your website’s files on the user’s browser. This means that the next time the user visits your website, the files will be loaded from their browser rather than from the server. This can significantly reduce page load times for returning visitors.

2. Improve on-site navigation


sustainability in SEO: metrics for less page loads

(source: Ellie Connor)

Another way to reduce your environmental impact is to reduce the number of page loads. This can be done by making sure that your website is well-structured and easy to navigate. You can also use tools like Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to create faster loading versions of your pages for mobile users.

Tips for reducing page loads

  • Improve your website’s navigation: Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and that users can find the information they need quickly and easily. This will reduce the number of pages that they need to visit to find the information they are looking for.
  • Use internal linking: Internal linking is the process of linking from one page on your website to another. This helps users to navigate your website more easily and also helps search engines to understand the structure of your website.
  • Use ajax: Ajax is a web development technique that allows you to update parts of a web page without having to reload the entire page. This can be used to reduce the number of page loads that users need to make to interact with your website.
  • Use infinite scrolling: Infinite scrolling is a technique that automatically loads more content as the user scrolls down the page. This can be used to reduce the number of page loads that users need to make to view all of the content on a page.

Use a progressive web app (PWA): PWAs are web applications that can be installed on a user’s device and used like a native app. PWAs can be used to reduce the number of page loads that users need to make to interact with your website.

3. Make your site easy to crawl


sustainability in SEO: metrics for easier crawls

(source: Ellie Connor)

Finally, you can also reduce your environmental impact by making it easier for search engine bots to crawl your website.

Tips for making your website easy to crawl

  • Create a sitemap: A sitemap is a file that lists all of the pages on your website. Your SEO partner can submit your sitemap to Google Search Console to help Google crawl your website more efficiently.
  • Use robots.txt: Robots.txt is a file that tells search engine bots which pages on your website they are allowed to crawl and which pages they are not allowed to crawl. Robots.txt can prevent search engine bots from crawling pages on your website that you do not want them to index, such as login pages or private pages.
  • Use canonical tags: Canonical tags tell search engine bots which version of a page is the preferred version. This can be useful if there are multiple versions of the same page, such as a desktop version and a mobile version.
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly: Mobile-friendly websites are easier for search engine bots to crawl and index. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check if your website is mobile-friendly.

The connection between an effective SEO strategy and environmental sustainability

A good tech SEO strategy is, by extension, a sustainable SEO strategy.


sustainability in SEO: good seo is good sustainability

(source: Ellie Connor)

A well-optimised website has fast page load speeds, is easy to crawl and easy to navigate. It’s more likely to rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs), receive organic traffic and revenue, and it reduces the environmental impact of those searches.

It’s in Google’s interest to improve the sustainability of search. Google has ambitious sustainability goals, such as operating on carbon-free energy 24/7 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2030.

While ‘sustainability of search’ isn’t a confirmed ranking factor yet, crawlability, page load speed and helpful content allows users to achieve their goals.

As Google continues to focus on sustainability, it is possible that sustainability will become an increasingly important ranking factor. Partnering with experts in SEO, like the Kwasi team, can help you to reduce your website’s environmental impact and prepare for a more sustainable future.

You might also like:

You might also like...

Get Your Free Digital Transformation Guide

Digital Transformation is no longer something that will happen in the future. Your customers have already placed digital at the centres of their lives. Businesses that don’t adapt to this new digital world will be left behind.

Don’t get left behind.

Get the guide here