Faster and optimized websites result in higher visitor satisfaction, engagement and eventually conversions. That sounds quite logical, right? But the performance of your website also has an effect on your ranking in search results. A higher website speed contributes to your SEO efforts. Search engines and visitors appreciate short page loading times and reward them with either higher rankings or increased pageviews.
Free Tools to analyze the Speed of your Website
There are many free and handy tools to check the speed of your website. Most of the tools give recommendations on how to increase speed. My two favorite tools are offered by the big search engines, Google and Yahoo.
Yahoo comes with a free browser extension YSlow, which grades the performance of websites and makes suggestions for improvements. Google, of course, offers a comprehensive PageSpeed Tool to analyze and optimize the speed of your website. It gives detailed instructions and explanations for identified and prioritised weaknesses.
How to improve the Speed of your Website?
Even if the speed of your website is not the top priority for SEO, unless your website takes more than 5 seconds to upload, it cannot hurt to improve its performance. Here are some practices that should help to speed up your website:
- Check and reduce HTTP Requests, such as scripts, stylesheets, flash, images and videos, practically all items that need to be loaded
- Load all your CSS in the section of your website from an external file, which can be cached for faster loading times
- Put scripts at the bottom of your website or in external files since they block multiple downloads, which are allowed by other HTTP requests
- Optimize your images for the web (best practice is png-format) and avoid uploading bigger files than actually displayed in the site
- Do not use 301 Redirects if possible since they cause another HTTP request for the new URL
- Fix broken links with bad requests results (404/410 error)
- Split content in pre- and post onload and prioritize your website components
- Compress your content with gzip encoding (read more about gzip compression)
The opinions about the relevance of site speed for search engines differ a lot. Finally, you build your website for people and the last thing you want is scaring them away with long loading times. Try to find the right balance between a fancy website with many images, scripts or applications and a website that loads in an appropriate time.