Site Speed and Improving Your Page Load Time

By Andre van Wyk. Although there are a number of options you can implement to increase your site speed or optimize the performance of your site in general – this post has been motivated by the release from beta of the mod_pagespeed Apache module.

Google has long since spoken about the fact that the “Web should be fast”; this is reiterated throughout on site factors of page loading time that may directly affect a visitor’s experience and ultimately (and arguably) seen as one of the possible ranking factors implemented by Google. The YouMoz blog, from SEOMoz provides a view on how and where the data for page speed is collected and ‘calculated’ in 13 Questions (and Answers) About Google, Site Speed, and SEO. And to quote directly from this source, two specific points that stood out to me were:

I’ve read arguments that making pages faster did little to nothing to improve search ranking, and I’ve read case studies from companies that say they’ve made their pages faster and grown organic traffic anywhere between 20 and 40 percent.

In my world, if you really care about SEO, you need to care about how fast your pages load. Speed may not be the most important ranking factor, but it’s a factor nonetheless. As long as Google’s search algorithm remains a mystery, you’ll never know what type of optimization tipped your site from page 3 to page 1. For some sites, faster pages could be that tipping point.

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/ugc/13-questions-and-answers-about-google-site-speed-and-seo

Site SpeedTaking the above into account, as well as the end user experience into account, lets consider it from a perspective of a prospective client visiting your site for the first time. Will they be satisified with a slow loading website, will that affect the perceived professional look of the firm or organization – or will the prospect rather deal with a site that loads quickly and presents the right information when and how they need it in as a quick a time as possible. Even consider it from your own perspective, do slow websites impress you? Chances are no, and the speed at which information is thrown at us, more so on the net, speed is of the essence!

Want to Test Your site

Go ahead and enter your web page url here, you will get a grading of 0 to 100 as well as a series of suggestions in the overview, which can guide you, or your web staff to implement some of the suggestions to increase page speed and loading time. (Some of these are pretty technical though, but not entirely undo-able ) What is great about this resource is that the resources pertaining to the suggestions are provided via links on the list of suggestions.

[Click to Enlarge]

There are other resources available too, which include the likes of >GTMetrix, Pingdom, Yslow and a number of others.

The ‘New’ mod_pagespeed

According to the Google Webmaster blog, the mod_pagespeed has been taken out of beta and as per their post: “Since then the development team has been working to improve the functionality, quality and performance of this open-source Apache module that automatically optimizes web pages and their resources. Now, after almost two years and eighteen releases, we are announcing that we are taking off the Beta label.” That process began two years ago, and I am sure a lot of work has gone into the development of this open source module. The full video regarding this can be viewed here.

This is a ‘new’ module available to be installed on your Apache server, unfortunately not all hosts provide this option as yet, but will surely be incorporated within the very near future.

The mod_pagespeed option is one of many proactive steps you can take in managing your page speed and loading times, some additional options are provided below:

  • Leveraging Browser Caching.
  • Mimimizing round trip times, which incorporates a range of optimizing, minimizing and avoiding unnecessary requests and look-ups.
  • Enabling Compression, image optimization and minifying.
  • Browser rendering optimization
  • Optimization for Mobile – an increasingly important part of the equation as mobile usage increases.

If you are using Apache to power your website, it is well worth checking whether or not you have implemented some of these page speed and site loading optimization options.

Sources and Additional Resources:

Timer Image credit: Aleksandra Wolksa

Update: We will be adding specific tutorials within these area of focus – and would like some suggestions as to what our readers may prefer – please use the contact form!

Another Update: Rand Fishkin imparts his wisdom – as per usual, and although this does not have to do specifically with page speed, have a listen:

Posts by Andre van Wyk

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