Google made it clear some time ago that it wanted to take into account the ‘usability’ of a website when determining where it ranks its pages.
To do this, Google decided to take into account the speed at which web pages load. In other words, a slow site is less usable and a quick site is more usable. Obviously, this doesn’t take into account the extent to which a site’s layout and functionality aid usability, but for Google, the site’s speed is a good place to start.
It’s worth saying upfront that a website’s load speed will not be a critical factor that decides whether your site appears on page 1 or, say, page 10. There are other factors that are much more influential (including your domain’s age, your site’s content/coding, and the number and quality of other sites that link to your site). But, if you are already on top of those aspects of SEO, you should consider its speed as well.
Even ignoring the impact on Google’s rankings for a moment, a slow site could simply mean your website visitors may desert you if they can’t get to the content quickly enough. There is plenty of research to suggest that even 3 seconds is too long for many to wait for a page to load – especially if the visitor is new to your site.
So, there are at least two things you can do to help your site’s speed:
The human test (often forgotten, but most important)
Before your developer starts running automated tests, try a more human approach. Firstly, open up Internet Explorer (the most-used browser for the majority of websites), clear your browser’s cache and visit your site as a normal visitor would… i.e. go to the home page, maybe visit your About Us page, then the products/services sections, then the blog if you have one, then the Contact page etc etc.
Try this on a few different connections – at work, at home, at friends’ houses (on their PCs) even on the PCs in electrical retailers! The more places the better. Do the same for several other sites too (perhaps your competitors’ websites) so you can get a feel for which sites load more quickly than others. As an aside, this exercise alone may also show other usability/functional issues on your site you may not have identified when using your usual PC/laptop/Mac.
Now, while you are at it, look at all the sites on a few mobile devices – again, it’s possible you will learn some good, bad and possibly ugly truths about how your site looks and performs on mobile devices.
This simple and very low-tech approach to reviewing your website will have given you chance to view your site through your visitors’ eyes. Make a note of the issues, then go on to step number 2…
The speed test
There are a range of website coding factors that will affect the speed at which a page loads. Thankfully, Google can do the job of testing your site’s code and pointing out where improvements can be made.
Visit: http://pagespeed.googlelabs.com and enter your web address.
Once you enter your web address, Google will give you a score out of 100 and on the left side of the results page will give you a list of changes you can make to your website’s code – ranging from high to low priority. If you aren’t a developer, then these changes might not make much sense, but you can simply give them to your developer and ask them to work down the list and implement the changes.
Once done, re-run the test (or ask your developer to) and you should see a much higher score out of 100. If your score is now much higher, then you now know your website functions more effectively. If however, you feel that your website still runs too slowly, do look into your web hosting. Not all hosting is created equally and it would be worth considering moving your site if it still loads slowly.
As mentioned previously, your site’s speed isn’t a major influence on your site’s ranking on Google when compared to other factors, but it does still play a part. Plus, it’s good practice to keep an eye on how your site is seen by your visitors. After all, if you were running a retail shop you would be walking the aisles regularly to make sure everything was presented as it should be for your customers – it’s worth taking the same approach for your website.
If you are concerned about your website or its load speed, let us know.Google, Page Speed Test, Websites