While many people look forward to summer as a time to relax and slow down, Google wants you to speed up … your web pages.
About 6 months ago, Google pre-emptively told webmasters that in July 2018 it would update its ranking factors to consider mobile page speed in the mobile search index. That change rolled out July 9, 2018, and, although it only reportedly impacts the most sluggish web pages, it’s definitely worth it to assess your own pages’ speeds and craft a plan for improvement (if you need one).
A tool that we ran against some of our sites is Google’s Page Speed (http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/), which is a free Firefox plugin. After running the tool, we were presented with a Page Speed Score, which is a number between 1 and 100 that is based on a number of criteria, including browser caching, downloads across hostnames, static content, minifying CSS, etc. Although some of the items are a little more difficult to tweak without a major overhaul, we noticed that some items can be tweaked with minimal effort. Some of the easy fixes we were able to implement to boost our score (by an average of 8 points) were:
We then got curious and ran the tool against several popular websites, such as Google News, Apple, Yahoo, Dell and Microsoft. Needless to say Google News had the highest score (98, no surprise there) and Apple had the lowest (71, kind of surprised). The one metric that this tool does not measure, which I would like to see, is server load time. Overall, we have found Google’s Page Speed tool to be a valuable part of our SEO implementations projects.
A few weeks ago one of our SEO team members wrote a great blog post about how Google may soon be including web page load time as part of their ranking algorithm. As mentioned in the blog post, Google has provided a site dedicated to providing information about improving a site’s speed: http://code.google.com/speed/
Just this week we are seeing that Google is making another step toward helping webmasters improve the speed of their websites. In Google Webmaster Tools under Labs, there is now an experimental section called Site Performance. This new addition to Webmaster tools shows webmasters on average how long it takes their pages to load, how that compares to other sites, and how the load time has changed over time through a trending graph. An example of this graph is shown below.
Other details provided in this section are example pages from the website and the time that it takes those example pages to load as well as suggestions of how to optimize those pages based on the Page Speed tool. Within the Site Performance section, webmasters can also download the Page Speed tool to help optimize their site for improved speed, which ultimately leads to a better user experience.
Its important to note that this data is an average and the load time of a website’s pages can vary based on a user’s location and network conditions.
As Google is trying to make their search engine as fast as possible, it is critical that webmasters evaluate and pay attention to the time it takes pages to load, and this new Site Performance section makes it much easier to monitor.