Google has recently made a clear communication to webmasters in its latest revision of the Google Webmaster Guidelines that site speed is an important factor of their Technical Guidelines and one part of their algorithm which will become more important in the future for ranking highly in their search results.
A quote from Google’s Technical Guidelines says, “Monitor your site’s performance and optimize load times. Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience. Fast sites increase user satisfaction and improve the overall quality of the web (especially for those users with slow Internet connections), and we hope that as webmasters improve their sites, the overall speed of the web will improve.”
What Google are effectively saying is, we want to make a faster web…if your site is faster; it is better…
How they actually reward this in terms of your websites placement in the search engine results pages (SERPs) is a question for another time, but given the fact they list a number of resources to test and improve your site speed, including their very own site speed for developers page you better listen up. Here are some hints and tips to help you along the way.
Set up a regular site speed monitoring tool
Software such as Pingdom.com monitor changes in your site speed. Pingdom can check uptime and downtime, page load speeds and also send you a text message when your site is not resolving for whatever reason. It works by “pinging” your website from various servers around the world and recording how long each resource/asset takes to respond. The tool then tells you how quick your page was to load and how you can improve on the time.
Clean up your website
Review your code, assets, resources and other technical aspects of your server and web hosting to improve load speeds. Some important issues to consider:
- Leverage browser caching
- Combine external CSS
- Specify a Vary: Accept-Encoding header
- Minimize DNS lookups
- Serve static content from a cookieless domain
- Remove query strings from static resources
- Specify a cache validator
- Minimize redirects
- Avoid bad requests
- Parallelize downloads across hostnames
- Minimize request size
Ensuring your web hosting is right for your bandwidth requirements.
Many websites suffer because their web hosting provider has not got the most effective technology to cope with bandwidth requirement or the server settings are not correct for your requirements. If you are a UK based website we would recommend using a UK based web hosting company such as Siteopia.com who have their servers in the heart of the London’s global data exchange, Telehouse. In many cases, for cost saving purposes websites are hosting on a shared hosting package where tens, if not hundreds of sites could be hosted on the same server. In instances where this gets to a critical mass, the server has experience problems and even downtime, slowing your average load speed right down. Having a slow site speed, means poor user experience and increased “bounce” rates for your visitors (A bounce is someone who begins to load a webpage, may or may not land on the page and one view one page before exiting the site.) Google sees high bounce rates as an indicator for a site being irrelevant to its users. An irrelevant site has no place in Google search engine and so a worst case scenario is that your website ranking may suffer.
What is a good site speed?
A site that loads in under 2 seconds is considered quick. If it loads in under 1.5 seconds it is considered very quick. This should be your ultimate aim. A test on Pingdom reveals that Amazon.com loads in just 1.4 seconds. If a site of that size can load so quickly, they are doing something right.
To finish, here are some interesting facts about page speed and revenue:
- For Google an increase in page load time from 0.4 second to 0.9 seconds decreased traffic and ad revenues by 20%.
- For Amazon every 100ms increase in load times decreased sales with 1%.
Can you afford to miss out on sales due to slow site speed or poor uptime? No? Then we suggest you get to work on improving your site speed.
This Article Was Written by Gary Taylor
Gary’s experience in the domain name industry reaches back to 2002. He won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2008 at the Midlands Business Awards and is Digital Director at media buying agency TMW. Gary has been a guest speaker at some of the top online marketing conferences in the UK and Europe including SMX, SAScon and Think Visibility.
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