How To Optimize Page Speed To Master SEO

How To Optimize Page Speed To Master SEO

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Keyword research, engaging content and link building are at the top of everyone’s search engine optimization (SEO) to-do lists, but page speed is an equally important factor that is often overlooked. Marketers shouldn’t lose sight of page speed, as Google has been using it as a determining factor in search results since 2010.

Until recently, these speed factors were only applied to desktop searches. That will no longer be true after Google announced that page speed will be a factor for mobile search results beginning in July.

The following are some basic tools and guidelines to get you started on building a faster website that ranks higher and provides a better user experience for your visitors.

Establish a baseline.

Before you start improving your page speed, establish a baseline to find out where the biggest opportunities are. Google provides a PageSpeed Insights tool that analyzes webpages and assigns them scores up to 100 for both mobile and desktop. It also suggests optimizations that can improve page load times.

Once a score has been established and opportunities have been identified, progress can be made toward blazing-fast load times.

Make on-site improvements.

Each organization is unique, but the following are common issues identified by PageSpeed Insights, as well as recommended solutions:

• Full-resolution images can take a long time to load and aren’t necessary for most pages, especially for mobile. Optimizing images is easy and doesn’t require a high level of development skills. Images can be edited using Photoshop or Tinyjpg.com, a free online service that automatically compresses .jpg and .png images for faster load times.

• Render-blocking CSS and JavaScript files prevent your page from fully loading until they are processed. Because CSS and JavaScript control how your site looks and functions, browsers don’t show the page until all of these files are finished loading. These external files should be limited to what is absolutely necessary to load that page and not be a single, catch-all file for the entire site. While it’s more work, in-line CSS JavaScript can be used instead so elements are loaded as needed instead of all at once.

• Browser caching is a technique that tells browsers how long they can keep files such as images, CSS and JavaScript stored. This allows pages to load quicker as users navigate through the website.

• Compression is the process of reducing the size of text-based files that the browser has to download, resulting in faster load times. Gzip is a popular compression tool used for text-based elements like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

• Minifying HTML, CSS and JavaScript involves analyzing and removing unnecessary text or data without changing how the browser displays the page. Removing redundant formatting, code comments and unused code and shortening the names of functions will also help enable fast load times.

• Browsers load webpages in chunks, so most pages need several calls to the server and back. This is referred to as a loop. Loading all the elements of the page that are initially visible to the user, or “above the fold,” in the first loop is important for load speeds and creates a better user experience. Sidebar menus, ads and third-party widgets should be loaded after the main content.

Invest in a quality hosting platform.

Don’t spend hours optimizing your website to be as fast possible and then skimp on a $4.99/month shared hosting plan. Premium, dedicated hosting platforms use better hardware and up-to-date technology to make your site load faster. Addressing the following two items will help shave load times down.

• Reduce server response time if the page takes longer than 200 milliseconds to load. There are several reasons why a server may have a slow response, such as routing, file libraries, bad application logic and slow database queries. Exploring and correcting these potential issues will improve the speed of your server’s response time.

• A content display network (CDN) is a large network of servers that houses page files so the nearest server delivers content to the end user as quickly as possible. The files that are stored on a CDN can include text, graphics, scripts, video, downloadable objects and streaming media. Make sure your hosting provider offers a CDN; otherwise it’s time to find one that does.

While there are hundreds of factors that determine how high a site ranks in Google’s search results, ensuring that your site loads quickly creates a strong foundation for you to build content and grow your organic traffic. While it’s ideal to have the time and resources to complete everything on this list right away, it’s OK if you can’t. Steadily improving one thing at a time will yield positive results.

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