Page Load Speed – Is It Important?

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About 2 ½ years ago Google announced that site speed was going to be a factor in rankings.  And while not as important as content or links, site speed is a factor which can be easily improved to help influence a site’s rankings.  In this article we look at some common tools one can use to test the speed of a website.

In April 2010 the Google Webmaster Blog added a post entitled “Using site speed in web search ranking” and it got webmasters all around the world worried.

That is because up until that point everyone knew having faster sites was a “best practice” but not many considered that it may become a ranking factor.

But Google didn’t leave us in the dark on how to improve site speed – they also released some tools to help test and improve speed.  Now, almost 2 ½ years later, the tools are much improved and even provide suggestions on how to improve your website’s load speed.

We have used many of these tools and have provided a run-down of them here:

PageSpeed Insights Extension for Web Browsers

This started out as a Firefox extension which quickly grew in popularity.  There is now a Chrome and Firefox version of this extension.  Once installed, the extension can be run against any web page to determine its load time as well as provide suggestions on improving site speed.

We’ve used it on our site frequently to find issues and it has provided valuable insight into what we can do to make our site faster.

For example, the tool said we needed to compress our CSS and JS (JavaScript) files.  Doing so not only increased our site speed dramatically, but it also improved the “score” assigned by the tool.

That’s right – it gives your site a mark out of 100.  It even prioritizes the issues so that you can address the most important things first.  The more issues you fix, the higher your score will be.

You can get the Firefox and Chrome extensions of the Google Developers site here.

PageSpeed Insights Online version

Google also has an online version if you don’t use (or don’t want to install) Firefox or Chrome.  It functions the same way as the browser extension – you plug in your website address, hit the “Analyze” button and results are displayed in priority order, along with a score for your site.

To learn more about PageSpeed Insight rules click here.

Other Services

There are other page speed services out there.  Pingdom has a Page Speed Tool as well but it actually provides you with more hard numbers, such as page load time, how many requests were made and the page size.  Plus it too gives a score, as well as a list of files loaded.

After the test is complete you will see a few different tabs showing different things, such as what can be improved, if any errors were found and so on.

Web Page Test is another free online tool which analyzes your site speed and provides a breakdown of the issues; however it is much more detailed and technical. It’s good if you know what to look for but for the casual user it might be too overwhelming.

Summing it all up

No matter what tool you prefer, or if you use something else completely different, you need to be aware of the issues which could be slowing your website down and take a proactive approach to resolving them.

You don’t have to do them all at once, but over time try to clean up the issues.  Start with the critical items first and work your way through the list.

If you run a WordPress site like ours, there are tons of plugins you can implement to help with some of these issues.  For example, there are plugins which offer complete CDN (Content Delivery Network) solutions geared towards parallelizing downloads to help speed up your site, as well as altering code to make things speed up even more.

Keep in mind, though, that your web host may not support some of these plugins because they can be resource intensive.  If you aren’t sure, check with your hosting provider to see if you can run the plugin on your site.

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