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Page Speed Guide

What Is Page Speed?

Page speed is how long it takes for a single web page to fully load its contents. Site speed is a measure of how fast your website loads pages overall. This guide will focus on page speed because if you can improve individual page performance, your overall site speed will naturally improve as well.

Why Is Page Speed Important For SEO?

Back in 2010, Google announced in a blog post that site speed was now a ranking factor in their search algorithm. They stated that they are rewarding websites with faster page speeds because it is helpful for both users and webmasters. For users, a faster loading time means a better experience and happier people. For businesses, some data has shown that faster load times can actually reduce operating costs. Originally, the keyword ranking improvements from good page speed scores was minimal. At the time of the 2010 announcement post Google said, “fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal in our implementation.” While it’s unclear just how much this has changed, certain studies such as the 2015 Searchmetrics Ranking Factors study showed a positive correlation between site speed and keyword rankings. Additionally, online consumer behavior studies from Akamai and Gomez.com have shown almost 50% of users will abandon a web page that doesn’t load within 3 seconds. While not officially confirmed, many SEO’s believe bounce rate is a ranking factor in Google’ search algorithm, but even if it isn’t a high bounce rate will affect your bottom line.

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PageSpeed correlation chart from Searchmetrics.

What Factors Determine Page Speed?

There are dozens of factors that determine page speed. Google has identified 10 of the largest factors. You can check out each of these links for more information from Google.

  1. Avoid Landing Page Redirects: None of your internal links should return a 301 response code. If you have implemented a 301 redirect, update your internal link to point directly to the new final destination URL.
  2. Enable Compression: Because all browsers support gzip compression, you should be using it to compress your HTML and CSS files. This can lead to code reductions of over 50% in some cases.
  3. Improve Server Response Time: Reducing your server response time will help your page’s HTML render faster for the user. Google recommends a server response time of fewer than 200ms.
  4. Leverage Browser Caching: Caching is when your computer stores recently accessed information or data; this relates to page speed because if users cache files or images, on return visits the browser doesn’t have to use resources to recrawl them so page load times will be dramatically lower.
  5. Minify Resources: Minifying, or reducing the file size of your code can also reduce load times. This involves things like using shorter variable names and removing whitespace or unnecessary comments in your code.
  6. Optimize Images: One of the biggest reasons for slow website are huge images that take a long time to render. Try to keep your image file sizes as low as possible without sacrificing quality.
  7. Optimize CSS Delivery: All web pages need to render CSS in order to properly display a page’s styling and layout. If your CSS is render blocking the page won’t load until the browser fully processes the entire CSS file. Try to inline small CSS code directly into the HTML, but use external style sheets for large blocks of code.
  8. Prioritize Visible Content: This just means you should set up your code so that above-the-fold content renders first on your page, so that users do not have to wait for the entire page to load before seeing the page.
  9. Remove Render-Blocking JavaScript: Many pages use external JavaScript files, which requires the browser to wait until all these files can be downloaded before displaying the page. To avoid this, you can inline JS (if it is small and simple) or make the JS asynchronous, which means the page is rendered first and then the JS is loaded.
  10. Use Asynchronous Scripts: As discussed above, using asynchronous JavaScript can improve page speed by not requiring browsers to load all JS before displaying the page.

How Can I Test My Page Speed?

The two tools we primarily use at Wpromote are Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom.

PageSpeed Insights - PageSpeed Insights is Google’s official tool, and checks your page to see if it passes the 10 rules listed above. Just plug in the URL and the tool will give you a score for the desktop and mobile version of the site, and then identify the issues that cropped up. The report is broken down as follows; ‘Should Fix’, ‘Consider Fixing’, and ‘Passed Rules’. The nice thing about this report is that under each issue you can click ‘Show how to fix’ and Google will show you exactly which images, CSS files, JavaScript files, etc. you need to optimize. You can also download optimized image, JavaScript, and CSS resources for the page in question.

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The Wpromote website has a PageSpeed score of 88/100.
Pingdom Website Speed Test - This tool is great because it gives you a score and an average load time for the page. You can also choose where you want to load the page from, meaning you can test how fast the page loads for different markets. The tool also provides you with performance insights and gives the page a grade for each rule (these rules are slightly different than Google’s tool). Your goal should be to keep your page load time under 2 seconds.

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The Wpromote homepage has a load time of 1.46s, which is under the recommended 2s.

What Are Some Tools To Help Optimize My Pages?

Images

Compressor.io: Use this tool to lossy or losslessy compress images.

WP-Smush: This WordPress plugin will automatically optimize your images in bulk.

Cloudflare: Cloudflare is a great content distribution network (CDN) that hosts your content externally and helps serve this content faster, from anywhere in the world. Will also help with code distribution.

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Cloudflare is a great CDN that can improve your site’s page speed.
CSS/JavaScript

CSS Minifier: Simply paste your CSS in the left box, and your minified CSS will be displayed on the right.

Online Javascript Compression Tool: With this tool you can copy and paste JavaScript code or upload a file, and then the tool will provide you with optimized JS code and/or files.

Caching

W3 Total Cache: A WordPress plugin that enables powerful browser caching automatically.

written by: Justin McKinney

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