Speed Matters for SEO

5/18/2014

Speed Matters for SEO

Web page speed and performance is very important when it comes to user experience and search results. If your site is too slow, you run the risk of losing potential customers or frustrating existing ones. As part of Google’s efforts to quantify page quality, it takes page speed into consideration. This means page speed should be part of your search engine optimization strategy.

Google’s Matt Cutts said in October 2011 that page speed affected page ranking noticeably in only 1 in 100 searches. The impact is small enough that it probably does not make sense to make speed changes just for SEO purposes. However, if you are creating content or updating a site, page speed should be a consideration.

Fortunately Google has a helpful tool to help you incorporate best practices to improve site speed.

Here is an explanation of some common recommendations to improve page speed that you may see in Google’s tool:

  1. Serve Scaled Images. The image you use on a webpage should be no bigger than necessary. If an image is 800x400 pixels, but you need it to be 400x200 pixels, you should resize and resave the image using an image editor like Photoshop or Fireworks. Do not rely on the browser to scale the big image down.
  2. Optimize Images. When optimizing images, you need to select the right image format. Use JPG for photos, GIF for illustrations or icons, and PNG for anything requiring transparency. Then select a compression level when you save the file that reduces the image size as much as possible without a dramatic impact on quality. Try to avoid ever using images to display text. Using images to display text not only increases load times, but makes the type inaccessible to screen-readers.
  3. Combine Images into Sprites. Sprites aren’t some fairy like creature; they are single graphic files that hold multiple images. CSS is used to show only the part of the graphic that is desired. Why would this improve page speed? Combining multiple images into one allows your browser to make fewer requests to the server for files. Think of it as putting of the smaller image items into a shopping bag to make them easier to take away. This idea applies to combining JavaScript and CSS files as well.
  4. Optimize Web Caching. Resources such as CSS files, JavaScript and image files take time to download which increases the time it takes to load a web page. Caching allows these resources to be saved, or cached by a browser, leading to a reduction in page load time for subsequent user visits.
  5. Enable Compression. Similar to image files, text elements like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript can be compressed to reduce files sizes. Usually this is done with Gzip, but how it is implemented will vary based on your server environment.

Improving page speed is good for users and good for SEO. The next time you update your site keep in mind the ways that you can reduce load times.

About the Author

Dave Bossler
Senior Art Director
Godfrey

Creativity flourishes when you experiment, explore and take risks. Expressing ideas through visual communication has been a love of mine since an early age.

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