Why Page Speed Matters!

Recently, Matt Cutts announced at PubCon Vegas that there is a strong possibility a new ranking factor will be added to the Google algorithm. The new ranking factor has to do with how fast a site or page loads. This is part of Google’s steps to make the web faster. As Google shares, studies have repeatedly shown that speeding up your site leads to increased user retention and activity, higher revenue and lower costs. We recommend to take the time before the holiday crunch to optimize your site. Not only will it allow your users to have a better experience, if your site is not impacted by the holiday season it is a quiet time to fix speed issues. To help in this endeavor there are many tools to diagnose the problem. Considering Google is so important to many marketers, the first stop should be Google’s Webmaster tools. Google has now included (in beta) a site performance tool. The performance overview shows a graph of the aggregated speed numbers for the website, based on the pages that were most frequently accessed by visitors who use the Google Toolbar with the PageRank feature activated. Below is an example:

Google notes recently on the Webmaster Tools blog, that the idea is to bring data and statistics specifically applicable to your own site and bring specific and actionable speed information backed by data. Performance charts and tables will only show in your account if there’s enough data to do so.  Google is also providing a new tool for diagnoses called Page Speed, which you can download and use with Firebug in Firefox.

Google is not the only one with tools though. Yslow is a great add-on for Firebug in Mozilla  which also analyzes web pages. Using Yahoo!’s rules for high performance web sites, it can advise you why you page is slow and how to fix it. There are also many  basic speed tools which just tell you page load speed, one we like is Free Speed Test.

We also have some basic tips to get your site to load fast:

1-Beware widgets and Plug-ins.

Sometimes its great to have a cool plug-in, or a widget, but if it slows down your sites load times you have to make a choice. Recently for example, we killed the “Twit This” WordPress plug-in for Tweetmeme and we saved 4 seconds on our load time. Not a lot you think, but its noticeable.  We have spoken about this before, but it might be worth a refresher.

2- Stats but not every stat

Sure it’s important to have Analytics, but choose one or two and forget the rest. Do you really need a dozen different stat tools? Make a choice on your favourite and forget the rest.

3- Watch Your Image Size

Images are great to add to a story, but not if they hog precious load time. There are many free online image optimizers so don’t be shy to try something like this  Online Image Optimizer. It will  reduce the file size of your gif, jpg, or pngs and done right neither you or your visitors will be able to see the difference.

4- Keep you code clean

This is important. Put your CSS at the top, and put your Javascript at the bottom (if you can). Remove useless scripts. Avoid unneeded calls to a MYSQL database that you can embed right into your code. For WordPress, check out three quick tips to make it happen.

5- It’s not the website, but what runs it!

If you have a cheap host, or you get the wrong package/setup, you can cause loading problems. In short, you can get what you pay for if you don’t do the right research.

6- Always create a backup.

No matter what you do, make sure to backup your work, so you can go back. I know the advice is simple, but you’d be amazed at the horror stories.

7- Keep Learning

We don’t have all the answers. No one ever can. The real goal is to know where to look. With a quick Google search you can find other fine tips. Heck in a couple of seconds alone we found some other great tips here and here that we were not aware of . In short don’t assume you have all the answers either.

Adrian Speyer

About The Author: Adrian has over 12 years experience in Digital Marketing and Analytics. He currently works as a Marketing Manager at Vanilla Forums, a modern forum software platform that allows clients to connect and engage their communities and customers. He lives and works in Montreal.

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