The speed at which your web page(s) load has always played a part in the success of a website or blog. If your website or blog loads slowly, the visitor will just leave. Web surfing people are very impatient. It doesn’t matter how they are accessing your site, if it’s slow you are not going to make that sale, have a reader added to your blog, have the visitor spread the word for you by word of mouth or get bookmarked on any of the social networking sites.
Now, because Google announced that web page download speed plays a part in your positioning in the search results everyone is on the band wagon to improve the download speed of websites and blogs. Don’t figure. It takes Google to watch something for people to pay attention they should have been doing in the first place.
You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.
Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.
Using site speed in web search ranking – Official Google Webmaster Central Blog Friday, April 09, 2010
How to Test Web Page Download Speed?
There are various ways to test the download speed of your pages. Here are a few:
This site has been around since 2002. That just shows you that web page download speed was important before Google decided to make it part of the factors they use.
You can enter your url in the box provided or copy and paste your (X)HTML coding in the larger box. Click Submit Query and the program begins analysis of the page. It might take a while, depending on how much code it has to process and of course, how slow your page loads.
This site was created to accompany the author’s book he wrote years ago. He has a new one, Website Optimization: Speed, Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets, that you should consider adding to your library.
Google’s Page Speed
If you have a Webmaster Tools account with Google, down at the bottom of the left menu (Labs > Site Performance) is the Site Performance link. It will show you an approximation of the download speed your site has and also notes which pages it found slow with suggested solutions. For a more detailed analysis, even Google suggests you use their Page Speed for Firefox.
With Page Speed installed, open Firefox, start Firebug then run Page Speed. The results are pretty quick.
Like the online version, you get a list of what needs fixing but this time it is more detailed.
The Page Speed official documentation is available if you really want to study how this works and see explanations of the details.
Yahoo! has YSlow for web page download testing. It also requires Firefox and Firebug to run.
Like Page Speed, once you install YSlow, go to the page you want to test and run the test you get results complete with what needs to be fixed.
Out of the three download speed testing programs mentioned above, Web Page Analysis is probably the easiest to understand for a non web designer.
Web Page Download Improvement Tips
Before you even run the tests above, there are somethings you can look at before actually running the tests:
Web Page File Size
A good web page file size is 30k. A litte more would be ok but if your web page file size is over 40k you really need to have a look at what can be removed and/or improved upon.
Tables in general slow down the download speed of a page because the browser has to stop and process all the coding for the table. And in nested tables (tables within tables) and that process is slowed down even more.
If your web page coding is using nested tables for manipulate the placement of the page elements, then remove these and use CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) instead. You could save a bunch of file size.
Image File Size
Quite often people use images as they received them or straight out of the camera. You need to resize the images before uploading the website. If you use the oversized image and force it to the right size using coding, the browser still downloads the original image.
Third Party Content
These days there are lots of third party stats, features and ad networks that can be added to your site, particularly blogs. Unless the background coding is done in such a way that these are loaded at the end of the web page coding being processed, they slow down or even hang your web page if not working.
Some Things to Understand About Web Page Download Speed
Even if you have improved on all the above, run the tests and tweaked the heck out of your site there are still a couple of things to understand.
Your web server plays a part in how fast your web page downloads. If the web server is crowded with lots of sites and they are all really active, this slows down the web server’s performance. Paying a higher price for better web hosting is something to consider if this is a problem.
Dynamic websites (sites that include programming and databases, like ecommerce sites and blogs) are affected by the quality of the programming and database optimization used. A poorly programmed page or poorly optimized databse takes time to process the information requested before sending it back to the browser.
Your visitor’s location is really not a valid excuse for slow download speed. If your site is optimized properly it shouldn’t matter if they are in Timbuktu or next door to you. Optimize the site for the slowest internet connection your visitors have.
One other thing, if you have not set up your browser to clear it’s cache (history) when closed things like images and external CSS files are stored on your computer. The next time you visit the web page, the browser fetches these from the copy on your computer, not the website. This of course makes it appear that the site is loading fast when it’s not. Learn to clear your browser cache so you see the site like a new visitor.
Web page download speed will be important whether a ranking factor for your site or not. People don’t have the patience to wait for your site to load. With mobile devices becoming more common than the traditional desktop computer or laptop download speed is crucial as these people are paying for data plans based on how much data they download.
Test your web page download speed now and improve your overall search engine optimization program.
Further Reading on Web Page Download Speed
- Why Marketers Must Care About Site Speed – Search Engine Watch
This article was created as part of the V7N 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Click the image below to see who else is participating.
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