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The need for speed

Gary Bultitude

Karubu

Even incredibly patient people can’t stand waiting in line, whether at the shop, airport, or on hold to the bank and let’s face it, the web is no different.

Research shows that if a web page doesn’t load within 3 seconds, your web visitor will leave your site and look elsewhere. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, Google also scrutinises your site on its loading speed. Back in 2011 Google released the following article on their Webmaster Central Blog “At Google, we’re striving to make the whole web fast. As part of that effort, we’re launching a new web-based tool in Google Labs, Page Speed Online, which analyzes the performance of web pages and gives specific suggestions for making them faster. Page Speed Online is available from any browser, at any time. This allows website owners to get immediate access to Page Speed performance suggestions so they can make their pages faster.”

But, why does Google care about site speed?

Former Vice President Marissa Mayer asked users if they preferred 10 or 30 results for Google searches. Obviously, web surfers went with the higher number, and Google made the changes.

The result? Traffic dropped by 20 percent on the pages that featured 30 results. Yet, the download speed difference between the pages with 10 and 30 results was only half a second – what an impact!

It should be noted that page speed is one of 200 or so signals Google uses to determine rank. In fact, as Moz has pointed out, page speed has affected less than one percent of search queries.

Keep in mind though, that page speed remains a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm for both desktop and mobile sites. John Ekman explains in an article on Unbounce that faster load times will indeed improve your ranking, as well as help you gain more organic traffic.

So while it’s just one of many factors in determining your site’s ranking, it’s certainly shouldn’t be ignored, especially since mobile sites can be penalized for loading slowly.

What Causes Your Page to Load Slowly?

There are hundreds of factors which might be causing your site to load slowly, here are the most common reasons:

• Unoptimised images

• Widget/plugin overload

• Incompatible browsers, plugins, and apps

• Lots of ads

• Bulky code

• Design theme

• External embedded media

• Shared web server

So what can be done?

There are a number of free tools out there to help you to diagnose why your site has poor load speed, these will show you what score you are getting and the items on your page that are taking the longest to load.

Try out GTMextix, (www.gtmetrix.com) it will give you a score based on A-F score, A being the best. Unless your website has nothing more than a white page, you will never reach 100% (google.co.uk has Grade A 91%).

Quick fixes include running an image optimiser throughout the site, leverage browser and server caching, move your javascript to the footer of the page and implement a content delivery network (CDN) like CloudFlare. Doing these should see your load time decrease by a third. Always speak to your web developer before making any major changes to your site.

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