Part 1 – Test Website Load Time
Google has been using site speed as a ranking factor in its algorithm for some time now. Luckily, there are some quick, simple things you can do to decrease your page load time and leverage the benefits for your site. Here we will share some free tools to check site speed, as well as give you tips on what you can do to optimize site load times.
The Two-second Goal
To achieve a higher ranking and not keep potential customers waiting, a good goal is to have your page load in 2 seconds or less. On every search, you are competing with at least 9 other organic results. When a searcher clicks on the link to your site and your page takes longer than 2 seconds—sometimes even 1 second—to load, you run the risk that they might click the back button and move on to a competitor’s link.
One of our favorite tools to test your website load time is the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool. With this tool, you can see how your page holds up in both mobile and desktop browsers. In addition, Google gives you a summary of suggestions for things you can do to improve your site’s speed.
When we put our homepage in the Google tool, here are the results we got:
This is what Google told us would have the most impact on our performance—in both download time and organic results:
So, we know WHAT to do, here are our tips on HOW to fix the items that will increase our speed.
Today, in part 1, we are going to go over the 3 RED exclamation marks we received from Google.
- Leverage Browser Caching –
Setting an expiry date or a maximum age in the HTTP headers for static resources instructs the browser to load previously downloaded resources from local disk rather than over the network.
Controlling how and when your site content is CACHED by the search engines can help speed up your site considerably.
- For an Apache server, you can physically adjust the “Expires” or “Cache Control” header attributes for any requested on-page resources.
- For a Windows server, the process is similar and involves manipulation of the HTTP “Client Cache” element.
- For WordPress, download and install the WP Super Cache plug-in, which dramatically speeds up your blog by serving static HTML files to most of your site audience.
None of the above-the-fold content on your page could be rendered without waiting for resources to load. Try to defer or asynchronously load blocking resources or inline the critical portions of those resources directly in the HTML.
These tasks will need to assessed and adjusted by the webmaster or others who regularly work on the website.
- Render-Blocking CSS
- Similarly, if the external CSS resources are small, they too can be inlined in the HTML. However, if the CSS is large, it should remain as an external file. For full details on this, click here.
3. Enable Compression
Compressing resources with gzip or deflate can reduce the number of bytes sent over the network.
Most Web servers can compress files in gzip format by either calling a third party module or using built in routines, greatly reducing the time it takes to download the resources needed to render your website. Here are resources to enable compression on the most used Web servers:
- Apache: mod_deflate
- Nginx: HttpGzipModule
- IIS: Configure HTTP Compression
By taking time to correct these very important page speed issues, you may see your site’s position improve in Google, as well as retain more visitors on your site.
In Part 2, of “SEO: Site Speed – It Does Matter,” we will go over the items that can and should be fixed if they do not require a large amount of time.