After Google began using site speed as a factor in their ranking algorithms every webmaster has good reason to keep an eye on the page load speed of their websites. Googles bending over backwards to spread the word about this new speed penalty is evidence in itself, as big G is usually quite secretive about algorithm changes.
According to the announcement, the speed penalty was introduced following various experiments done by Google on the impact of site speed on internet users.
The results are no surprise to someone that started using the Internet recently – surfers prefer fast websites and tend to spend more time on a site that loads quickly.
However, the search engine giant has been careful to state that even though website speed is now a factor it is not the primary parameter for determining results. The quality and relevance of information is still the determining factor but if your website speed is slow you will receive a Google penalty.
This implies that it is important for you as a webmaster to start to assess the speed of your website to establish whether you could be moving further down the search engine results pages (SERPs) because your website is slower than your direct competitors.
Is Google Timing My Website?
But first, it is vital that one understand the basics of how Google’s algorithm determines your website speed and thus your SERP ranking. The search engine uses two main factors when it comes to speed assessment.
Your website get more speed points if it responds fast to Googlebot. Google uses a software called Googlebot to find and index websites.
Second, your website will also receive a good speed ranking if it records a faster loading time on Google Toolbar than your competition. Google wan’t to help you check your website speed and has kindly added a page speed report to webmaster tools, it can be found inthe ‘lab’ section.
You can use the tool and its report to see you how fast your website loads as compared to other websites. Once you are armed with the information of where you page ranks in the speed hierarchy, you can start to make the necessary code and structure changes to make it respond faster.
You first priority should be to make sure you have no SLOW pages on your site. Page that take two seconds or more to load and pages that are marked as SLOW in the Google Webmaster Tools need to be improved to avoid a Google penalty for your website speed.
When you have no slow pages left just go on and make all your pages load in less than a second. Read on to see why this is important.
Having a websites that loads fast has more benefits than just higher search engine ranking and avoiding a Google penalty.
A website optimized for speed reduces the bandwidth required on your hosting service thus reducing your overall hosting costs.
Faster websites also give a better browsing experience as users are able to get information faster as they can navigate through your website easily.
Further, websites optimized for speed work better when accessed on a mobile phones, PDAs and other devices that do not have the same level of processing memory as your standard laptop or desktop computer.
Even though you can have a mobile version of your website, usually this comes with trimmed down graphics and other aspects of your site. Some users will want to view your site in full HTML on their phone or PDA and a faster loading website will have better chances of successfully loading on such devices.
As a webmaster, there are a number of free tools that you can use to increase the loading speed of your website. I have listed two of the more popular ones below:
Page Speed is an open-source add-on for Mozilla Firefox browser. It evaluates the speed of your website and gives you suggestions on how to improve your website speed.
Page Speed runs tests on the architectural configuration of both your web server your website’s front end code. After running these tests, it gives you a report on your website speed and suggestions on how to improve the speed of your website.
Yslow is a free software by Yahoo. It analyzes the performance of your website and gives you suggestions on how to improve the speed of your website.
Yslow is a Firefox add-on and is integrated with the Firebug software for website development. It displays statistics and an evaluation report. It also gives you suggestions on how best to improve the speeds of your website using best practices.
Yslow comes integrated with other tools for performance evaluation including Smush.This and JSLint can be used to improve website speed. Even though it is a Yahoo product, Yslow can help you avoid the Google penalty on website speed.
SSEL Speed Tools
The website speed tool at Secret Search Engine Labs will analyze how fast a page on your site is loading and give some tips on how to improve it.
The Website Speed Quick Fix
There are several factors that affects page load speeds on your website, many of them technical and best solved by your webmaster or developer.
There’s still some changes you can do yourself to improve page load speeds as long as you have some experience with HTML and making web pages.
And make sure to keep an eye on the Google Webmaster Tools to see how your site compares to your competition.