There has been chatter lately about Google making page load speed an important part of their algorithm. For most of you, this shouldn’t be a huge concern. Or is it? After all, it’s nothing new. Usability studies have shown time and again that web users like speed. Not the kind that is a poor lifestyle choice, but the kind that gets information to the brain as quickly as possible.
Is your site slow? Do you even know? If you’re not a 100% sure, now is a good time to check.
Why Is Page Speed Important?
From a usability point-of-view: If your pages take a long time to load, there is a good chance your site visitor will hit the back button on their browser, and click on the next relevant search result. People have a diminishing amount of patience for pages that take a long time to load these days.
From a search engine spider’s point-of-view: There is a whole lotta code for spiders to read on a web page. Reducing unnecessary chunks of code makes search engine spiders’ jobs much easier. For the sake of efficiency, it makes sense for Google to have this factor carry more weight.
Speed Check … 1… 2 …
Now back to the burning question, is your site fast enough?
To help you answer that question check out the following tools. They are all free, so you pretty much have to try at least one of them.
Google Page Speed Tool
The Google Page Speed Tool is one of the reasons there is talk lately about Google factoring page speed more seriously into the algorithm. The Google Page Speed Tool was announced on Google’s Code Blog in June 2009.
The Google Page Speed Tool is an open-source Firefox extension that gives you feedback on what is slowing down your page speed time. For the most part it’s pretty techy, so if you don’t speak fluent tech then hand the list of results to the web dev team you work with. Together you will find ways to implement the results. It’s actually a pretty sweet tool, so I recommend you give it a try.
Google Site Performance
This addition to Google Webmaster Tools is the other reason you’re seeing talk about page speed recently. Like the Google Page Speed Tool, the Google Site Performance Tool provides suggestions on how to make your site faster. According to Google, they are working “Towards the goal of making very webpage load as fast as flipping the pages of a magazine”. It also tells you how your site compares to other sites on the Internet.
When you are logged into Google Webmaster Tools, you will find the Site Performance Tool under the "Labs" tab.
Yahoo’s Firefox plugin, YSlow, was introduced before Google’s Page Speed tool. With the future of Yahoo! being uncertain, you might not want to get too attached. In the meantime, it’s worth your time checking it out. YSlow filters results in logical chunks of information, so it is easy to read and understand.
Web Page Analyzer
This tool is really kickin' it back old school. It’s the first (and only) page speed tool I’ve used until Google and Yahoo! recently introduced their tools. The site doesn’t look like much, but it contains a lot of useful information.
What Else Can You Do?
From a web developer’s point-of-view there are a lot of things that can be done. As an SEO who specializes in marketing (and not writing code) it is up to you to provide your web development team with knowledge and information on how to implement these changes.
It's not all completely technical though. There are things that can be done without having to have an extensive knowledge of code.
Be wary of using embedded media. Limit your use of any types of video, animation, audio or other media displayed within a web page. Say goodbye to that crazy Flash intro that nobody wants to watch anyways.
Install Google Analytics Asynchronous Tracking Code. The Google Analytics Blog announced the release of the beta version of the Asynchronous Tracking Code on December 1, 2009. The code is still in Beta, but claims to reduce webpage load time. You can simply replace your old code with the new code and keep the same Analytics account that you currently have. Make sure you read where to place the code because it goes in a different spot (top of the head section) than it currently resides (the footer).
SMBs consider changing your DNS to a Google Public DNS. Announced by Google on December 3, 2009, Google Public DNS was released as part of Google’s efforts to increase the speed of the internet. This might be a good option for sites that don’t have their own internal company server. This is still a new tactic and people are on both sides of the fencein response to this so far.
Find reliable hosting. This means spending more money for (and finding) a quality hosting provider. This is a sore spot for some people as it potentially means that large companies who can afford to pay for expensive hosting have an unfair advantage.
Lots of technical stuff with your code. I considered listing all of the steps for the technologically advanced, but realized I don’t know even enough to even fake it. Instead here’s an excellent list of articles from people who know what they are talking about:
Google Code Blog: Web Performance (Speed) Best Practices
Page Speed Coming to a Ranking Algorithm Near You
SEO for Google Caffeine
Use Google Page Speed Tool to Speed Up Your Site
Tools to Speed Up Your Site
No matter what, having your site run smoothly, efficiently and quickly is in your best interest if you use your website to increase revenue.
Stephanie Woods is an internet marketer living in Kelowna, BC. You can find her at her internet marketing blog or on Twitter. When she’s not helping clients achieve their online goals, you’ll find her riding her beloved snowboard any time she can.