I do understand that it may sound a bit weird, but SEOs should not limit their responsibility to actual SEO (link building and on-page SEO), because you can’t see the whole picture if you focus on those aspects only. As Rand Fishkin told in one of his Whiteboard Friday shows, whatever can bring more traffic to the table is an SEO’s responsibility. Well, I’m not quoting him, but you got what I mean, right?
The thing is that Google has been taking usability into consideration for a while now. And it looks that it’ll go even more in-depth. So, should you stumble upon a usability course, you may wanna take a look at it.
What is a Slow Site
So, you may have to think twice before adding all sorts of gimmicks, such as the one described in this parallax scrolling tutorial, because it may make your site slower and the user will just go away before your bells and whistles even get loaded.
The caveat though is the fact that Google seems to consider complete load time unlike the average Joe that came to your site. The solution – as pretty much always – is the compromise. Make your site load really fast for the user first. That done, you’ll be able to satisfy the almighty search engine. I recommend satisfying the user first because this approach is future proof. Google moves towards assessing sites as actual users do. So, if you do what your visitors want, Google will love it down the road as well.
Other than that, you want your site to be quick because it’ll help you increase your conversion rates. Customers tend to use fast sites more willingly. Most likely because if your site loads quickly, it means you value your clients’ time. And that makes you look professional and reliable.
How to Fix That
Now that you know what you need it for, let’s see what exactly you can do to fix those pesky things that make your site slow.
Give a break to HTTP Requests
Those of you who use WordPress may not know, but every single time the user visits your site, the whole page is being dynamically generated just for that user. What’s more, if you have 1,000 users an hour, it’ll happen 1,000 times. And that stinks. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to fix the issue, because you can just install the WP Super Cache plugin that turns all your dynamic (php) pages into plain HTML ones .That means all your users will load the same page and your WordPress won’t have to create a brand new page for every single visitor.
Put the Whole CSS and JS Shebang in One File
The whole idea of CSS sprites is about using (ideally) one large image file for all sorts of effects on your site. For instance, instead of loading two image files for your button’s neutral state and on roll-over one, you can just load one image files that has those effects in different sections (such as at the top and bottom).
Save for the Web in Photoshop
Be sure to save your images properly before you use them in your site. Instead of just saving an image in Photoshop, use the Save for the Web option because it’ll allow you to optimize your images. And optimize means saving the image with exactly the quality that can be seen on the Web. There’s no need to use a 300 dpi image in your site because the user won’t be able to see the visual difference anyway, though such an image (300 dpi) will EXTREMELY slow down your site.
Using Gzip allows you to save on bandwidth and load time, because the content of your page is sent in zipped format and gets unzipped right in your visitor’s browser. That allows to make all the surfing experience really amazing and darn fast.
CDN is the Answer
The idea of CDN (Content Distribution Network) is as follows. The network allows to store copies of your site on multiple servers across the globe. So, if a user enters your site from Berlin, the copy of your site that is stored on the server that is the closest to Berlin gets loaded. That allows to save a whole lot of time. Plus if one server is down, it’ll load from the next closest server, which means your site down time will be little to nothing.
No 301 Redirect Overuse
Use 301 redirect only if you ABSOLUTELY need to and there’s no other way to fix something. There are cases when it’s the only way to take care of an issue, but I’ve also seen cases when people use it left and right. For example, instead of just tweaking their WordPress settings just a bit, they turn to using over 400 lines of 301 redirects. That’s a total overkill. They slow down your site just because a redirect means interaction with the server, which usually means slowing down your site’s download time.
Kill Redundant Files
You need to delete all the files that you don’t need on the server. It’s not OK to just block them via robots.txt, because Google ignores that file’s directions while counting the load time for your site. I’m not exactly sure why they do it, but that’s how the Google cookie crumbles. Go figure.
Though load speed is not the only thing that you need to care about for better site rankings, because there are over 200 of Google ranking factors out there, you still need to keep a close eye on it. Make sure that your provide quality stuff on your site, something that people return to your site for over and over again. That done, you can start fixing issues like load time and the like. Your visitors will definitely love it if your site’s download time is a snap.