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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Website Speed and Search Rankings

Google is constantly modifying its
algorithm to sort sites based on keyword relevancy and while keywords
and backlinks always have the lion's share in terms of weight, more
and more seemingly minor factors are taken into account. For
instance, take website speed. You might wonder what at all it has to
do with search rankings but actually it is also a factor (though with
minor importance, to be precise) that influences your position with

How Website Speed Affects Rankings

First, if you expected that website speed influences your rankings
big time, we need to clarify that this isn't so. While the two are
related, you won't find a direct correlation – i.e. low ranking
sites might load fast and vice versa.

The results depend on which metric you use to measure website
speed. For instance, if you take into account the time needed to load
the first byte of the page, then it turns out this is a huge factor
because sites that are fast to load the first byte of a page
typically rank higher in Google.

If you take other metrics into account – i.e. the time necessary
to load the main content or the time it takes to load the complete
page (with images and ads), then things change because it seems these
two factors are not of that importance to Google.

Overall, it's believed that website speed has less than 1% effect
on rankings. Google themselves have stated that they take website
speed into account but they didn't disclose details about exactly
what matters.

Nevertheless, many sites report increase in traffic (from search
engines or otherwise) after they optimize their site for speed. This
is a pretty good reason to do the same, if your site is slow – you
are not doing it for Google, you are doing it for your users, your
traffic, and your conversions. Website speed is key to user
experience, so if your site is slow, there is no reason to keep it
that way. What's the use of getting traffic from search engines, when
your visitors have to hang for 10+ seconds before they can see your
content – they will have left much before the page has loaded.

What to Do to Improve Website Speed

If you want to improve website speed, there are a couple of steps
to be taken. First, you need to measure your website speed –
otherwise how do you know it's slow?

1. Measure Load Times

In order to measure load times, you need a good tool. The choice
here is quite rich. Pingdom
Page Load Time
tool and Google
Analytics Site Speed
reports give a good idea of your site's
general performance. WebPageTest
is a more advanced tool because it allows to test your site in
different browsers and spot slow areas on your site.

These tests could take some time for a large site but since they
give you detailed data about which parts are slow, just be patient.
Good tools report not only the average site speed but elements, such
as first byte, user time, time to fully load, percentage of images,
htmls, JavaScript files, etc., which is useful later when you start
fixing the problematic areas.

2. Move to a Faster Server

One of the obvious reasons a site is slow is that the server you
are hosting it on is slow. The reasons here could be numerous –
from a web hosting provider that lacks the capacity to offer fast
servers, to the type of your hosting account.

The easier solution here is to upgrade your account. For instance,
if you have a large site with many pages and frequent database
reads/writes and you are still using a shared account, then no
provider to Earth can offer the speed you need. In this case, if you
are happy with the provider per se, your solution is to upgrade from
a shared account to VPS (Virtual Private Server) or even to a
dedicated server. The costs for VPS or a dedicated server a month are
much higher than what you are paying for your shared account but if
your site is making
you money
(or at least has the potential to), the problem with
website speed is literally killing your business.

On the other hand, if your web hosting provider is not good even
if you upgrade your account, this won't solve your problem. The only
thing you can do is migrate your sites to a good web hosting
provider. Here
is a list of some of the best web hosting providers for you to choose

3. Optimize Your Site's Code and Images

Your server might be fast but if your site itself is slow, you
will still experience speed issues. If your code and images are not
optimized for fast loading, you won't see speed improvements till you
fix them. This task could take a very, very long time, especially if
your code and images are bloated but you've got to do it.

For images, you can use compression
and/or smaller sizes. This will speed loading big time. For HTML,
CSS, JavaScript, PHP and other Web languages there are tons of tricks
(and tools) how to optimize your code.

Website speed is not a factor with huge
importance for search engine rankings, though it does count. The
bigger problem with slow sites is that they are not user–friendly,
which in turn kills conversions. If you don't want to lose money
because of the speed issues of your site, take the time to fix them –
it will pay in the long run.

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