Get Your Website Faster with Free Site Speed Tools

Your website speed is highly important. It doesn’t usually get much thought what a second or two can make, but recently an article in the New York Times reinforced it’s importance. I highly recommend you read the full article, because I feel there is tons of great info (especially about mobile sites). For me, it was a real eye-opener that now researchers are talking about milli-seconds when it come to site speed. Some of the other key nuggets I found worth consideration include the following:

People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second).

“Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web,” said Harry Shum, a computer scientist and speed specialist at Microsoft.

In 2009, a study by Forrester Research found that online shoppers expected pages to load in two seconds or fewer — and at three seconds, a large share abandon the site. Only three years earlier a similar Forrester study found the average expectations for page load times were four seconds or fewer.

The two-second rule is still often cited as a standard for Web commerce sites. Yet experts in human-computer interaction say that rule is outdated.

I know, its not a surprise that website speed is  important. In the past I covered how Google now looks at Page Speed as part of their algorithm, but now I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the tools and ways to measure how you are doing. One of the best tools for this is right in Google Analytics with their own Site Speed analytics. At the end of last year, Google announced enhancements to Google Site Speed analytics that make it really useful. The best part of using Google Analytics is that you can segment the information, by country or time and get a real feel for the issues on your site. The only downside of Google’s implementation is that it’s based on averages and not by median, so a couple of slow connections can skew your numbers. That’s why it’s great to have other tools for analysis. For this reason, I will focus on those.

Personally, I have found the three below tools best for checking on how you are doing, not only because they analyze your performance, but they also give you each something special:

Free Speed Test (by Internet Supervision): The best part of this tool is you can quickly see how you are doing in various countries.

Web Page Test: This tools allows you to test different browsers in different locations. It allows for testing tour site mobile perfomance and compare yourself to your competitors (visually). Other features in the advanced setting include multi-step transactions, video capture, content blocking and much more. Best of all it runs diagnostic information against your web page to output recommendations and suggestions for improvements from  Google Page Speed.

gtmetrix: This is a tool that I can hardly believe is free, but it is. Not only do you get a detailed report, you can export it to PDF for presentation purposes. Also if you sign-up for a free account you can graph performance of your site, save your reports, get historical overviews and analyze sites with HTTP authentication. You also get recommendations to improve your performance from Yahoo YSlow.

As you can see, some of the tools above leverage Google Page Speed and Yahoo YSlow for recommendations. If you want to have constant access to the recommendations, you can use  Google Page Speed and Yahoo YSlow  by downloading their respective browser  add-ons or widgets.  Combining these insights with user location testing can really help you figure out the most efficient ways to increase your site speed. If you are not comfortable in making changes to your sites, all of the above websites offer services to help you in making changes to your site.  Another option, if you have money and are looking for an end to end solution, you may want to consider Aptimize. It’s a great add-on to any site which can help with speed up your site without the need to get your hands dirty with deep code.

So there you have it, some tools to help speed up your site. What tools do you use? What have your found to be your websites worst speed enemy? Let me know in the comments.

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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