Rank Higher in Search with a Faster Page Speed

  • April 5, 2016
  • Nic Raboy
  • SEO

Content and a following isn’t everything when it comes to ranking higher in the search results. There are plenty of other factors that determine if you’re going to rank at the top of the results. For one, a faster page speed could result in a much higher rank when it comes to search and even user happiness.

How does one determine how their website or blog is performing and even with such knowledge, how does one optimize their site enough to make a difference?

We’re going to take a look at some tools that can be used to check site speed and then how to take action on the results.

Testing the Page Speed of Your Site

The first thing you want to do is check how fast your pages are loading. However, you can’t determine this strictly by loading the page in a browser. Modern browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have some great tools, but there are some things to be desired.

This is where a few interesting tools and services come into play.

Pingdom Website Speed Test

You probably want to start by using a service called Pingdom Speed Test. It is free and allows you to enter a URL on your website or blog.

Pingdom Speed Test

You’ll get various metric information in the results such as load time, page size, and a performance grade. You can see that as of right now, Own the Web is listed at 82% faster than all other tested websites. Not bad!

The Pingdom Speed Test will also give a break down on different criteria related to the site test. This includes a breakdown of the performance grade, and details about the page analysis.

GTmetrix Website Performance Test

As a next step in getting the straight scoop on your website page speed, you should check out the GTmetrix Website Performance Test, another free service. I like this service because of how thorough it is on the details.

GTmetrix Performance Test

You can see that Own the Web doesn’t have a perfect score. There are things that can be done to improve the performance further and the great thing is that GTmetrix will guide me in making the corrections.

GTmetrix does a PageSpeed as well as a YSlow test, knocking out two birds with one stone. You can easily run these two checks separately if you wanted to.

Making Improvements to Your Page Speed

Now that you know what performance improvements can be made to your website or blog, it is time to take action. Although the Pingdom Speed Test and GTmetrix Performance Test give tips, they include a lot of technical jargon.

Leverage Browser Caching

Let’s start with a major fix to my own blog. Own the Web scored poorly when it comes to browser caching. If you’re using Apache and have control of your web server, editing the .htaccess file found at the root of your site is an easy thing to do.

Assuming you do, you can add an .htaccess file to the root of your site with the following:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
    ExpiresActive On
    ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 1 week"
    ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresDefault "access plus 1 month"
</IfModule>

We’re setting an expiration based on how long we predict certain web components to stay fresh. Of course images and other media won’t change frequently so a year is probably safe. Since this is a blog, and a static one, the HTML files need to be refreshed based on my publishing schedule.

If your level of access isn’t so thorough, you can go the CloudFlare approach provided you’re using CloudFlare. It is a free service and it will allow you to set caching through their system. You won’t have as many options, but something is better than nothing.

If you’re using Nginx instead of Apache or are on a shared host with limited access, check the documentation for what it takes to leverage browser caching.

Compressing Images and Other Media

This should be a no brainer, but just to over-stress its importance, you want to make sure you are using web and mobile friendly graphics and media. In other words don’t put media that has a huge file size on your website or blog. My rule of thumb preference is to not use any media larger than 1MB in size.

For any media smaller than this, it is a good idea to further compress it.

I use a Mac and prefer to use a free software called ImageOptim for compressing my images. If you’re not using a Mac or prefer not to use this software, there are plenty of alternatives out there.

Just remember, the smaller your page is in size, the faster it will load. Not everyone has a fast connection and search engines like Google and Bing recognize this.

Limit the External Resources Used

Many free and professional website and blog templates gather their resources from a remote part of the internet. I find this particularly frequent when using WordPress themes. Instead of bundling the scripts and stylesheets within the theme, they are hosted elsewhere to save server space.

You should make it a goal to keep all your site resources locally bundled within your website or blog. Otherwise choose a reputable content delivery network (CDN) with proven performance.

Conclusion

Ranking high in search results from Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, or similar is critical for anyone trying to build a brand. People will often tell you that content and keyword optimizations are critical for search engine optimization (SEO), but will often forget to mention that website performance is just as critical.

By making use of services such as Pingdom and GTmetrix, you can determine how your website or blog performs and get tips on how to improve the listed performance.

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