You know that SEO is all about the user experience, and that website speed is one of the technical SEO factors that Google looks at closely. The fact Google have a whole portion of Google Webmaster Tools dedicated to site speed (this was added in 2012 and was not an initial part of the platform) tells you all you need to know: Google are telling you to look at it, so you have to look at it!
However, knowing that your website is slow is only worthwhile if you can take actions that will speed it up.
As well as consolidating external CSS scripts and files, you can also carry out the following optimisation tips to speed your load times up further:
Reduce white space and remove any gaps in your coding.
Do not duplicate parameters.
Check for errors yourself.
Be efficient when coding; do not use code for the sake of it.
You can use http://validator.w3.org/ to carry out this task and then check the coding afterwards.
Gzip compression shrinks files and data when moving from server to web browser. Note that this technique does not compress images, so it will have no effect on pages that are 100% image based. It is much easier to enable Gzip compression if your website is hosted on a Linux server.
If you are using Linux hosting, add the following code to your .htaccess file:
# compress the files
# removes browser specific bugs
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 gzip-only-text/html
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4\.0 no-gzip
BrowserMatch \bMSIE !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html
Header append Vary User-Agent
Using “/” after links tells your server that this is a directory page, which then speeds up loading times. For example:
If you have an excellent web host, you should have no problems with uptime nor with site speed.
In addition to the checks you would have already completed, do a final check that your server provider actually has servers in your country, or in the country where your target audience is. This might sound like a small matter given the speed of the internet in most places today, but the difference it can make when you have hundreds or thousands of people trying to access your site at once could be the difference between happy customers and sales or unhappy customers and missed opportunities.
This is another point that might seem small but can make a huge difference to your site speed. Having to look up two domain name servers instead of one adds unnecessary loading time to your pages, and it ultimately doesn’t make your site look impressive or aesthetically better in any way.
For example, instead of using:
If you currently use the first method across many pages, then you will need to think carefully about carrying out a full site restructure, which can take time and cost money. If you have a new site currently in development, ensure you go for the latter at all times.
Images are what typically takes up the majority of page loading times, and as such are often the easiest win to capitalize on. Look at doing the following:
Compressing images; if you use WordPress or another CMS these can usually be set to do this automatically.
Reducing the quality of images, although you should be wary of this if your site is reliant on images as an attraction or sales tool.
Saving files as .jpeg.
Calling images from CSS.
Save images in programs like Paint. This strips out excess data and big files created by programs like Photoshop. You can still create premium images, but then transfer them over to save them as smaller files.
Reduce image resolution and colour clarity and focus.
Image Author: Flickr / Blog.theninjabay.dk
Use Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to track which 301-redirected pages can be removed from your website. This is something to check periodically rather than a “look at every day” type of task, as your redirected pages might still be bringing in traffic, especially if you have only recently restructured your site. Remember that when you do remove redirected pages to remove them from your XML Sitemap, too.
Note that if you have inbound links from a variety of different websites, it is best to keep the redirects in place.
If you need help with any of these technical SEO aspects, Bough Digital can carry out an audit and deliver an action plan that will help you achieve better loading times and create an all-round better user experience that will deliver SEO success, too.