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Site performance is an integral part of any website’s success — this holds true for SEO as well. Whether you are operating a online store or a blog, the speed and ease with which users interact with your content has a direct impact on initial traffic, repeat visits, and overall page rankings. Website speed is taken into account by Google when calculating page rankings. Their filters can estimate load times and use that information to determine the value and reliability of your website. While it is true that the importance Google assigns to site speed itself is somewhat limited, and there are definitely other factors that trump it, the way a website performs has an effect in its overall usability. Anymore, internet users have notoriously short attention spans. A site that is slow to load will not captivate and hold an audience and will, in turn, experience a high bounce rate, diminishing traffic, and fewer conversions.

HOW IMPORTANT IS WEBSITE SPEED TO GOOGLE?

In this case, site speed really refers to the load time of a website. How long does it take for a landing page to load after the user clicks on a desired search engine results page (SERP)? Since there are so many sources available with good information, Google’s filters use load time as an additional point of comparison when multiple sites have comparable relevance and authority statistics. As far as Google is concerned, website speed has a minimal impact on page rankings — only about 1%. But, from a larger perspective, websites with faster load times offer more value to the internet user translating into higher customer satisfaction. This ultimately translates to fewer bounce backs (lower bounce rate), more return visits, higher share rates, and an increase in perceived value and authority.

COMMON FACTORS THAT SLOW DOWN A WEBSITE

There are some common culprits to look for when analyzing the speed of your website. First, and probably one of the most important, is the quality and reliability of your hosting service. Not all hosting services are created equally, and shared servers can inevitably lead to uneven performance. If your website is too slow, and pages are taking too long to load, it may be time to consider a different hosting service.

Another large contributor to the function and usability of your website is the construction of it. Along with the construction of your site, take into consideration that certain apps and add-ons are notorious bandwidth thieves. When assessing the speed and performance of your website, consider the following.

  • Too Many Ads: Ads, and the revenue they produce, are an important part of any website. However, slow-loading advertisements tend to bog down pages, slow down your site, and ultimately lead to higher bounce rates.
  • Too Many Widgets or Plug-ins: Having too many widgets and plugins can really kill the speed and performance of your site. Use them sparingly. Podcast links, comment plug-ins, and social sharing buttons can add seconds to your load time. Just as with any business aspect, a cost/benefit analysis can prove useful. Balance the value of any widgets and plug-ins on your site against the increased load time they require.
  • Complex Design and Theme of Your Website: Everyone wants to stand out online by having a site that is bold, attractive, and unique. Sometimes, however, too much can be just that — too much. Overly complex design themes will lead to slow load times. And with advances in themes and design elements, it is much easier to stand out online while keeping a simple website.
  • Optimize Your Graphics and Images: Images help to brighten up a page, attract the users’ attention, and make their overall experience better. And while style counts, overly bloated images can take an excruciatingly long time to load. Large image files slow down page performance and interfere with the functionality of your site. There are plugins and options for rendering “web-quality” images on your site to improve load times. Another example you may consider is using PNG8 instead of PNG24 for your image formats.
  • CSS and JavaScript: These can most times be the easiest to tackle in size reduction. To condense your CSS and JavaScript files, you could utilize gzip compression, minified code, or other options that are available to you.

HOW TO TEST YOUR SITE’S SPEED

Today, there are a wide number of tools that can be used to test your website speed and performance. Most of these tools are even free!  These website tools provide an easy way for webmasters to test the speed of their site and to calculate any changes that need to be made to improve overall performance.

  • PageSpeed Insights: This tool is operated and offered by Google. Simply submit your URL, click the analyze button, and PageSpeed Insights will return with a speed evaluation. They will also provide you with recommendations on how to increase your site’s load time.
  • YSlow: YSlow is a website performance-measuring tool that was designed by Yahoo!. It provides a detailed report on site performance with accompanying recommendations on how to increase its speed and performance.
  • Google Analytics: Google Analytics really does analyze it all for you. There is a “site speed” analytics located under the “content” sub-section so that you can see your daily speed.
  • Pingdom: This website performance tool is great for showing the general performance grade and is very simple to use.
  • Web Page Test: Of all the tools mentioned, this is probably the most comprehensive tool to test your website’s performance. It runs tests from multiple locations around the world using real browsers and at real consumer connection speeds. You will also receive recommendations for improvements that need to be made.

This is just a sample list of some of the tools available for testing your website and its performance. But, they provide a great starting point for webmasters in need of isolating issues and finding solutions to site speed.

While the speed of a website is a small factor in the equation Google uses to assign page rankings, it is a huge factor in the way visitors interact with your site. With advances in technology, people’s patience has diminished. We all want our information now. Faster websites give better customer satisfaction — and that is at the root of all good SEO practices. Valuable content, coupled with speed and ease of use, translates into better user experience. In short, a better experience for your clients or follower will lead to higher traffic, more returning visitors, and a better overall online performance.

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