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Site Speed: All You Needed to know

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It’s understandable that you haven’t given it much attention.

Reality isn’t always convenient. The importance of site speed is increasing, as internet users’ attention spans are decreasing.

Google is aware of the issue and it will affect your ranking if you don’t fix it.

Site speed is becoming more and more important to SEO strategies. Let’s get started.

What is the real impact?

Stop right there.

You can’t just say, “Oh, this is for perfectionists” or “I haven’t got enough traffic to make it matter”.

For a number of reasons, site speed is important for all websites. It’s best not to ignore them.

Think about your visitors’ browsing habits. As if this weren’t convincing enough, let me tell you that Google is also concerned. It’s only logical, right?

Google’s ultimate goal is to make money, but it also wants to improve the Internet for its users. It is in Google’s best interest to encourage website owners to behave well and to make the internet a more enjoyable and safer experience for users.

Google’s algorithm is likely to take into account site speed if so many users say it’s important.

This is not news. Google confirmed in 2010 that speed of a site was a ranking factor. You can bet it hasn’t been changed since then, as third-party data has corroborated this time and again.

How to measure site speed

Sold? I hope that you don’t think I need to convince you why it is important to improve your website speed.

Let’s get to the point. You’ll need to first measure the speed of your website to determine if it requires any attention.

You can use a variety of free tools.

It’s likely that you’ll have a favorite tool, but if you want to improve the load time of your website I recommend trying them all. Each tool is unique and presents slightly different data.

Last but not least, and here is an important caveat, keep in mind that the score isn’t everything. Scores will vary depending on the tool. There is no standard metric to score page speed.

You should remember that every situation is different. It’s possible that a certain implementation doesn’t score well on a YSlow scale, but this doesn’t mean Google will penalize your site.

Bottom line, the scores should be used as a guide. Set a goal that is not arbitrary and work towards it. You may find that you are making sacrifices you don’t need to make and cutting resources you could be using on your website in order for you to achieve your goal.

Keep an open mind and you will be fine. Let’s look at the tools that I recommend.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Google has its own tool. Start here.

This is not the most robust tool. It’s the simplest of all the tools that we’ll be discussing.

It’s a good place to begin your journey. Look at the recommendations for your website and you’ll have a good idea of where you can improve.

GTmetrix

This tool is my absolute favorite. This is also for objective reasons I believe you will find valuable.

It provides two different score options, as well as a “waterfall graph”. It’s a bit technical but it is a valuable resource.

You can tell that the people at IGN have a lot of work ahead of them. They do have a loyal fan base. Maybe they’ve tried it and discovered that the terrible load times don’t affect their return traffic.

It’s great to be able to create a GTmetrix account for free and have it generate a daily report of your website. You can view your progress over time or compare two or more reports in order to determine what you have improved on and how much.

How to improve your site speed

There are more than enough articles on the subject to fill at least 1 or 2. There are many resources available on the subject.

In this guide we are just starting out, so my recommendation will be to keep it simple and not get too technical.

Many of us will need to hire an expert to resolve any issues that are found by the above testing tools. We can also make progress on our own, and if we’re lucky it will be enough to achieve the 2 second load time that we all desire.

Optimize your images

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Or, in terms of file sizes, 100,000 words.

Images can be used to keep visitors interested, build a brand, and communicate a lot of important information quickly.

They are large files and can significantly increase the time it takes for a web page to load.

Plugins make it easy to optimize images in bulk. Download EWWW image optimizer and edit your images in bulk if you use WordPress. You can leave it to do the work for you. It only takes a few clicks.

It’s amazing how much better your images will look just by optimizing them.

Theme selection

You won’t like my next comment if you use a WordPress theme to build your website.

Some themes may not cause you any problems, but they aren’t optimized for speed. Your theme will determine whether or not you experience any issues.

Check forums, support threads and the documentation included with your theme. You may find specific suggestions in the documentation or settings within the theme’s Advanced Settings console to help improve the speed of your website.

In the worst case scenario, you might have to choose a theme with better code optimization in the future.

Remove all unnecessary plug-ins

The first thing I check when I’m helping clients optimize their websites (after optimizing the images) is what plugins are installed and active.

When I look through the plugin directory, I am often surprised by what I see. There are tons of cosmetic plugins that don’t do anything. Google Analytics tracking is duplicated. You name it.

Look at your list of plugins and remove anything you are not using.

GTmetrix will show you which plugins consume “heavy” resource usage. You should remove them as soon as possible.

Page Size

Too many images, videos or unnecessary lines of code within your.htaccess files or JavaScript can slow down a site.

Ask your developer to strip down the code of your website where necessary. If your site is older, there may be features or fluff that you no longer use.

When it comes to embedded videos, they are usually large files that include multiple JavaScript resources.

Do people watch your embedded video? You can check your analytics in-page (there is a plugin to do this). Consider removing the item or rearranging it to make it more visible.

GZip compression

Gzip reduces the size by 150 bytes of any file larger than that. We’re talking CSS, JavaScript, HTML, etc.

You can find plenty of information online on how to use this. It will make a big difference in your “bottom line” for page speed.

Concatenate and minify CSS and JS

You will need to be a very advanced user to understand all the complexities. It’s so complicated that I don’t know enough to be able to offer detailed advice.

What I can tell is that there are WordPress plugins which can assist you with this.

BWPMinify may be the plug-in you are looking for. It is easy to use and has a lot of features. It is a great tool that can improve a lot of things without needing advanced knowledge.

You may also find Autoptimize useful.

This particular angle requires some experimentation, so I would recommend using a testing or staging site where you can play around without breaking any live systems that are visible to customers.

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