Importance of Site Speed
Site speed takes in to account the amount of time all elements of a web page take to load. This includes images, video, content, etc. Anyone that’s spent time on the Internet knows how frustrating it can be to wait… and wait… for a website to load. In fact, Google added site speed as a ranking factor in 2010 because – as we all know – Google’s search aims to return the most valuable and useful results for search queries and a slow site is, well, just not that useful. Who has time to wait for a site to load when there are nine other organic search results to choose from? I’ll have to agree with Jay-Z and say, “On to the next one.”
In addition to user experience, site speed can also affect how many pages are crawled. According to an article on visiblefactors.com there is a direct correlation between site speed and the number of pages crawled. Simply put, the faster pages load, the more pages that can be crawled. A faster site can also reduce bounce rate and increase the number of pages visited which can lead to more conversions.
Tools for Testing Site Speed
There are tools available for testing and monitoring your site’s load time. Not surprisingly, Google Webmaster Tools and the newest version of Google Analytics have sections specifically targeted to analyze site speed and performance. The Site Speed report was added to all Google Analytics accounts earlier this month, no longer requiring site owners to add an extra tracking code.
Got Firebug? With this plugin you are able to download Google’s Page Speed tool and Yahoo’s YSlow, which analyze individual pages of your site and provide a report of performance issues. Not only do these tools show you areas of concern, but also give you tips on how to improve these issues. The Page Speed tool gives pages a grade on a scale of 100, and while it may be possible to get a score of 100/100 (yet unlikely – Google’s home page has a score of 98/100), this grade is not the end all/be all and your page speed time itself should remain the real focus.
Improving Site Speed
Some of the most common issues affecting site speed and page load time involve website compression, image optimization, and the amount of HTTP requests and DNS lookups. Compressing a web page with a program like gzip can significantly decrease the size of the page that the browser loads without changing the page’s content (this does not include images and media). Optimize images and video by ensuring they are in a web-friendly format like GIF, JPEG, PNG and FLV for video.