As our Technical SEO Developer, Matt has become all too familiar with site speed improvements over the last 12 months. Here he discusses how important speed is and how Google has started to incorporate it seriously as a ranking factor.
In our latest post we discuss how much of a contributor speed is on the mind-set of internet browsers and how it has changed the way we surf the internet forever, with an even greater number of websites competing amongst one another to be at the top of the pile.
Speed matters – Why? Because most people simply aren’t keen on awaiting, whether it’s waiting in line, for their food or a loading web page. In this fast paced world people simply don’t have the time to spare and when forced to wait, they are likely to give up and look elsewhere, causing you to lose a visitor.
But there are many different ways in which a faster site can benefit site owners, as well as visitors, and all it takes is a few quick changes to start reaping the benefits.
All about Visitors
In the world of the web – seconds count. With the popularity of Twitter and Facebook people are beginning to come accustomed to having the world at their fingertips, instantly. As a result they are becoming more and more impatient with the internet.
A study conducted for Akamai found that 47% of shoppers said they expected a web page to load in no more than 2 seconds. This is less than found in their previous study, where shoppers expected no more than 4 seconds. The same study also found that 40% of consumers wouldn’t wait more than 3 seconds for a page to load before leaving the site.
The Rise of the Mobile Devices
With the explosion in smart phones and tablets, mobile devices are becoming an increasingly important factor in the web industry. With a lot of the mobile browsing being done on cell networks, loading speed becomes a real concern. So a smaller faster site will be beneficial on a slow mobile connection. With many of the speed improvements involving shrinking the transfer size of your site, this can go a long way to keeping mobile users and their data limits happy.
The Akamai study mentioned earlier found that consumers are interested in using their mobile devices for online shopping and researching. Though only 16% had shopped online with the smart phones, a third reported they wanted to use their mobile phones to shop in the future.
The Google Connection
From releasing their own browser to improving the underlining technologies, Google has never been shy about their intentions to speed up the World Wide Web. So it should come as no surprise they’re encouraging webmasters to do their bit in improving the speed of their websites.
For a few years now Google has been using page speed as a ranking factor in their search results. While it is only 1 of 200 signals and not as important as relevancy, it does show Google’s commitment to improving the user experience for everyone on the web.
So Where Do I Start?
There are plenty of tools out there to help evaluate the speed of your site and recommend areas that need improvement, such as Google’s own Insights web tool, as well as Yahoo’s free YSlow tool. Running these analysis tools will give you a hint on the area of your site in need of improvements, as well as offering recommendations on how to correct these issues.
Here are some of the quick changes you can do to start improving your sites speed:
Enable Compression – If your server supports it, then enabling GZip compression could save you up to 90% in the transferred response. It can result in bandwidth savings. This can be easily done with the popular webservers including Apache, Nginx and IIS.
Optimised Images –Optimising your images for the web can have a big impact on your site speed and could be as simple as using Photoshop’s ‘Save for the Web’ feature. Factors to take into account include image format, quality settings and resolution.
Compacting CSS – You should be using Minified versions of your CSS files to help improve the speed of your site. Minifying removes the unnecessary data such as comments and formatting, as well as using shorter variables. There are tools available to automate the process for you, allowing you to keep an easily readable copy to continue work on.