How to Improve your SEO: Site Speed

Google has made it clear that site speed is important to them. In 2010, they even announced that site speed would be a ranking factor in their algorithm, and in recent years, they’ve been strongly focusing on mobile speed as well.

There are a lot of benefits of having a quick site. Many people have found that faster pages both rank and convert better. Also, having fast pages means that search engines can crawl more pages faster which can help more pages get indexed.

Page speed is also important to user experience. Slower pages tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. There was a study done that showed that 40% of consumers will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load.

While doing research on this topic, I found an article from Search Engine Land that was interesting, because it stated that even though Google says that site speed is a ranking factor, there are a few articles that say otherwise. This article from Search Engine Land for example suggests that, “increasing page speed for mobile searches shouldn’t be a top priority for SEO at the moment.”

They don’t deny that a quick site can help your bottom line- which in turn can increase the quality of SEO traffic, but they say that there is no evidence that mobile page speed is a significant ranking factor at this time.

Either way, site speed is important for facilitating quality traffic. Here are seven helpful suggestions that Moz provides on how to improve your site speed:

1. Enable compression

Use Gzip, a software application for file compression, to reduce the size of your CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files that are larger than 150 bytes.

2. Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML

By optimizing your code (including removing spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters), you can dramatically increase your page speed. Also remove code comments, formatting, and unused code. Google recommends using YUI Compressor for both CSS and JavaScript.

3. Reduce redirects

Each time a page redirects to another page, your visitor faces additional time waiting for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete.

4. Leverage browser caching

Browsers cache a lot of information (stylesheets, images, JavaScript files, and more) so that when a visitor comes back to your site, the browser doesn’t have to reload the entire page. Use a tool like YSlow to see if you already have an expiration date set for your cache. Then set your “expires” header for how long you want that information to be cached. In many cases, unless your site design changes frequently, a year is a reasonable time period. Google has more information about leveraging caching here.

5. Improve server response time

Your server response time is affected by the amount of traffic you receive, the resources each page uses, the software your server uses, and the hosting solution you use. To improve your server response time, look for performance bottlenecks like slow database queries, slow routing, or a lack of adequate memory and fix them. The optimal server response time is under 200ms. Learn more about optimizing your time to first byte.

6. Use a content distribution network

Content distribution networks (CDNs), also called content delivery networks, are networks of servers that are used to distribute the load of delivering content. Essentially, copies of your site are stored at multiple, geographically diverse data centers so that users have faster and more reliable access to your site.

7. Optimize images

Be sure that your images are no larger than they need to be, that they are in the right file format (PNGs are generally better for graphics with fewer than 16 colors while JPEGs are generally better for photographs) and that they are compressed for the web.

Use CSS sprites to create a template for images that you use frequently on your site like buttons and icons. CSS sprites combine your images into one large image that loads all at once (which means fewer HTTP requests) and then display only the sections that you want to show. This means that you are saving load time by not making users wait for multiple images to load.

Tools

If you want to see how fast your site is, here are two tools that I recommend:

They will help you to see what files are slowing down your site, and if they are of low priority, you can remove them for an improved site load time.

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