Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Shave your body hair. Wear form-fitting suits and caps. Improve your balance and form. No, these are not the latest fashion trends (unless you are a swimmer). These are tips from USA Swimming for reducing friction and improving speed. In competition, these tips—when combined with training and ability—can mean the difference between getting one second (or one millisecond) closer to crossing the finish line.
The same could be said for improving your website’s page load and page crawl speed (minus the shaving, of course). There are many factors that I have discussed to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and depending on which SEO guru you listen to, page speed could be one of the top-five factors or just one of the more than 200 possible factors for improving SEO. (I believe it is one of the more important factors). Still, it is one of the many ways to boost website optimization for search engines and site traffic, preventing your website from drowning in a sea of competitors.
During our evaluation, we found that the participants averaged a 3.5 or “C” grade. This is the best average grade the group received of any SEO factor during the analysis. The highest speed goes to The Secret Mountain and Bold Strokes Books, with both the homepages and book pages loading in less than a second when we ran our tests. I hope that this section will provide a few tips for their peers to catch up to them.
Speed Is the Key for SEO and CTR
Before we dive in to a few guidelines on how to improve page speed, let’s take a closer look as to why it is important.
• Google loves fast websites. In 2010, Google updated its algorithm to take page load speed into account. This means that for the past five years, your ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) has been affected by how fast your page loads. So the faster, the better. SEO gurus believe that this follows Google’s (and other search engines’) desire for a positive and efficient experience for their users. Others note that the faster search engines can crawl your website, based on the amount of time that is devoted to crawling per website, the more pages that can be indexed. This means that if you have a larger site, more of your website pages will be indexed during the crawl, providing more information to users who are looking for the books that you sell on your site and all the other content that will lead them to your books.
• Users love fast websites, too. When a swimmer falters at the beginning of a race, it takes a lot for them to pick up the pace and win. In the meantime, all eyes turn to the other swimmers who have a better chance of winning. The same is true of websites that do not load quickly. Users will become impatient, hit the back button and find their books elsewhere. Page load speed can damage your click through rate (CTR) and increase your bounce rate, with users never going further than one page, bouncing away from your website onto your competitors’. Here are some serious statistics that support this theory:
o Fifty percent of US shoppers and 67 percent of UK shoppers cite poor page load speed as a reason to abandon their purchase.
o Almost half of online consumers expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less. Note: My opinion is that it should be one second or less.
o A one-second delay could reduce your conversions to purchase by more than seven percent.
o This is especially true with mobile (which I will discuss in a future post). Anecdotally, users seem much less willing to wait for a page to load on a mobile device than they are on a desktop (at least I am). And with the continued rise of mobile, load speed is therefore becoming even more important.
Taking Seconds off Your Page Load Time
Fortunately, there are more than a few ways to shave some time off your page load speed. But before you begin making changes, use Google’s Page Speed Insights or the speed checker at Pingdom to check the load times for each of your URLs. This allows you to evaluate your website page load speed for free.
Now, let’s see what we can do to improve your performance:
• Change Your Image(s). The images on your pages might be choking your load speed. Don’t get rid of them; proper image usage can be an important SEO factor, and can help with user experience. Images that have not been optimized, however, impact almost all the top websites in the world. To fix this, try the following:
o Start by optimizing images to decrease the size without reducing the clarity of the image. Compressing images can reduce your page speed time.
o .PNG files can be quite large compared to .JPG files. Use optimized .JPG files for the bulk of your images. Keep your .PNG files limited to smaller images, such as icons.
o Consider using CSS Sprites, a technology designed to combine all your page images into one file for faster loading.
• Pick a Direction. When we talked about redirects in a previous post, I discussed the importance of using redirects to get your users (and the search engines) to the right pages. However, too many redirects can slow down your page speed, adding a little bit for each one. It is recommended that you stick to 301 redirects, as they transfer SEO “juice” to the new page, but never have more than one redirect leading to one specific page. Check your redirect page load speed first before you start making changes.
• Cache It if You Can. To make things easier for users when they return to your site, many browsers cache information (stylesheets, images, etc.) to make page loading easier. That means that images, widgets and other content that have not been changed will load faster than other recently updated content. Be sure to enable browser caching for your site and set expiration dates for your page features (one week to one year).
• Take Time to Unplug. Social media plugins are an important way to promote your books, retain customers and build up your SEO. In fact, I will be discussing social integration in later posts. Choose your social media links carefully (Facebook and Twitter seem to be the most popular), however, and don’t flood your pages with icons, as each plugin and social site you link to will increase your load speed. Work with your site developer to ensure that your plugins are necessary and are not hampering your page load speed. WordPress users have access to P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler), which alerts you to plugins that are slowing your page load speed.
Do Some Research Before You Dive In
There are even more tools out there to improve your page speed, ranging from compression to content hosting. Have a quick look around online and do your research. If you are not sure which tool is right for your website, consult with an SEO expert to discuss the most efficient and cost-effective way to improve your site speed. The best solution is to find a balance between the aspects of your site that are necessary for SEO and building your business, those that can hamper your page load times for site visitors, and others that slow down search engine spiders.
Next, I’ll be focusing on why a picture is worth a 1,000 words, especially to search engines. Image optimization is next.
How fast do your pages load? Let me know in the comments below.
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