Website speed has been a desktop ranking signal for quite a while. While speculation on its impact for mobile rankings has been rife, this month it’s finally been made official.
On the 9th of July, Google rolled out its “Speed Update” for all users. The update means speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searches and will only impact “pages that deliver the slowest experience for users” and is applicable to “all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page”.
Trying to squeeze an extra millisecond out of a fast site is unlikely to provide many benefits. However, websites with noticeable speed issues will feel the wrath. So, if you’ve been putting off that planned website turbo-charge, now’s the time to take it to the mechanic. Below are a few pointers to get you started.
Firstly, how do you know whether your website has a speed problem? Thanks to Google, there are a few tools to help you diagnose any issues:
- Chrome User Experience Report: A public dataset of key user experience metrics for popular destinations on the web, as experienced by Chrome users under real-world conditions.
- Lighthouse: An automated tool and a part of Chrome Developer Tools for auditing the quality (performance, accessibility, and more) of web pages.
- PageSpeed Insights: A tool that indicates how well a page performs on the Chrome UX Report and suggests performance optimisations.
If the above tools identify any issues, simply correct them by bringing your website speed performance up to specification. Below are five features to address.
1. Image Optimisation
Image size is the bane of most website’s speed scores. In an effort to keep websites looking amazing, people fall into trap of using large high-resolution images or media files. The reality is we don’t need high-resolution files on the internet as our screens don’t require it. However, due to poor education or laziness, these large media files creep onto our sites causing performance issues. There are numerous tools that help you quickly and easily compress images before you add them to your website to reduce load times such as Compressor.io.
2. Streamline Your Code
The code that controls how your website looks and functions is a significant contributor to your website speed. Whether it’s the number of web calls it makes to the server, the way it’s been written, or the number of script files being used, all influence how quickly your website takes to load. There are tips and tricks to improve the performance of all these items, talk to your web developer about the following:
- Reduce HTTP Request
Reduce the number of elements your website needs to download to render correctly (e.g. images, stylesheets or scripts), or consider using the new HTTP/2 protocol that requests all items at the same time.
- Minify Files
3. Hosting Infrastructure
Where and how you host your website is another major contributor to the performance of your website. The location of the servers (are they nearby or overseas), the specifications of the server hardware, and whether you have dedicated or shared environments are all important considerations. Generally taking the “cheapest” hosting option will mean you’re compromising at least one of those items. So ensure you do your due diligence when reviewing your current hosting or looking for new options.
If your website is built using an open source CMS, there’s a good chance it was developed with a number of built-in plugins, plus any additional ones that were added to provide the necessary functionality. The issue with all the plugins is that they add to the code bloat behind your website, and often can be making unnecessary server requests (even if not being used). Therefore it’s recommended you audit your current Plugins and uninstall any unnecessary ones.
Beyond your hosting environment, you can also leverage Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to help speed up your site load times. CDNs are collections of servers located around the world that keep a cached version of your website. This means when someone goes to load your website, they’ll be directed to the server closest to them (reducing latency), and also that no one website is carrying all the load of your website traffic. There are several Content Delivery Networks available, including the popular option Cloudflare.
There are many ways to improve the speed of your website and consequently your search rankings, these are just five of the most significant methods. If you would like more information about the other approaches, click here or here.