In this article we will discuss how to speed up websites, improve page load time and impress Google.
Google recently announced that site speed would play a role in rankings. Faster load times mean better rankings. Users want websites that load instantly so Google is taking that into account in their algorithm.
Matt Cutts, Google’s chief engineer, said that slow load times will not hurt your rankings. That is good news if you have a really slow site. However, if they reward everyone else in your niche that has a fast site and they end up outranking you, the outcome is the same. You get bumped down in the rankings to make space for the faster sites.
In its bid to make the web faster, Google has created a nifty Firefox plugin called Page Speed to walk you through speeding up your site. It is packed full of features and instructions on improving website speed. But before we dive into the plugin, take a look at how your site compares to the rest of the internet by logging into Google Webmaster Tools ->Labs->Site Performance.
A nice graphic with a message about your site will appear and give you a synopsis of performance:
The message related to this website is not good news. An average speed load of 19.9 seconds is probably not a good thing. Slower than 99% of other sites is not encouraging either. However, Google says the chart has low accuracy due to the lack of data points. You can see the spike in load times which occurred when the server could not handle a sudden influx of visitors which is skewing this data.
In the bottom of the page you will find an install button for the Firefox extension. Simply install it and get ready to speed optimize your site (you will need to have firbug installed as well). Open firebug and you will see two new buttons:
Page Speed analyzes many different factors on the current page and provides a synopsis with tips on improving speed. The Page Speed Activity button shows page activity in real time.
Let’s examine how well Wikipedia does on the test. Wikipedia has fast load times because of super fast servers, but there is certainly room for improvement.
78 out of 100 is not to great of a score. Google orders the list based on three different levels.
- Red: Critical
- Yellow: Urgent
- Green: Ok but it may be able to be improved
Under each issue Google provides a definition and a quick solution for the problem. Simply click on the square and a drop down will appear.
Wikipedia uses multiple spreadsheets in this page. Google’s recommendation is to combine all of the spreadsheets so only one HTTP request has to be sent.Another useful feature packed into this plugin is the ability to optimize images for the web:
Wikipedia could reduce the size of its images by 10% if all of the images were optimized. That kind of reduction can make a big impact on load times, especially for slower connections.And google will obviously love fast websites.
The above article was written by Jason Capshaw, founder of MyWebTronics, an Atlanta Web Design Company that builds great websites. He resides in Atlanta with his wife and two kids.