I originally had the title of this post as, “Google has a need, a need for speed!” and then suddenly realized that was probably the least original post title ever. After a quick Google search, I confirmed as much, and instead alluded that a search engine has drug issues… much better.
Anyway, starting in 2010 with the Caffeine release, Google made it known that it was really into websites that load at quickly. So much so that it is now part of the algorithm that determines your site’s rankings in organic results. How much of a factor is not known, but we’ve seen it make a big difference in our client’s rankings once page load time is improved, so it’s definitely worth your time to look into the matter.
As you may know from some of my other posts, Fang Digital performs a lot of SEO Audits for our clients. During these audits, we look at three major areas of interest: Content, Site Architecture, and Inbound Links. Within these three major areas, there lives a myriad of details that can make or break a site’s organic rankings, and page load speed is an important part of the Site Architecture area of interest.
We usually charge for SEO Audits, but here’s a freebie… seriously check out your page load speed. I say this because, during the many audits we provide for our clients, page load speed comes up a lot… I mean, a lot, a lot. Plus, it’s one of those factors of the audit that is always a surprise when we present our findings, so it’s easy to say that its one of the pieces of the algorithm that is often overlooked.
Here’s another reason to look at page load speed: your customers. You know, those people that the site is actually for in the first place? Yeah, they can’t stand it when a site loads slowly, which is really the reason why Google includes it as a ranking factor (you may hear others say it was for the previews you can get in organic listings now or other reasons, but the heart of the matter is, nobody likes a slow site).
The good news is that Google is here to help and will drag your slow butt into the fast lane if it has to in order to make sure that everybody is on board with this concept. How are they doing this? For starters, “Site Performance” is one of the items you can review within Google Webmaster Tools under “Labs;” that’s usually your first indication that you have an issue (and where that graph in this post comes from). Then, about two years ago Google released the Page Speed browser extension for Firefox and earlier this year a Google Chrome extension that allows website owners to find out exactly what is slowing their pages down. They also released a Page Speed Online API to provide developers with specific suggestions to make their web pages faster. Last year they released an Apache module called mod_pagespeed, to automatically rewrite web pages before they are delivered to the public. Just yesterday, Google announced the latest tool in the speed tool chest, Page Speed Service.
A lot of SEOs hate telling you about the tools they use to do their audits, but that’s mostly because if they keep SEO sounding like its a form of dark magic, it will scare the regular folk into paying them big bucks to fix their organic listings. We at Fang Digital think that’s kind of silly and respect the fact that the reason companies hire SEOs is because they usually just don’t have the resources to handle it internally or with the same level of efficiency. I mean, I could probably do my own plumbing work too, but it would take me twice as long and probably some cuts and bruises, so I just hire a pro when the time comes.
Anyway, one of the tools we use during our SEO Audits is the PageSpeed extension for Google Chrome and like I said, we usually always find something that is slowing our clients’ sites down enough for Google to notice. Some of our larger clients have internal resources that can attack the recommendations we provide from the PageSpeed tool, but many of our other clients wouldn’t even know where to start, and that’s where the Page Speed Service comes in handy.
Google’s Page Speed Service is service that automatically speeds up the load time of your web pages by grabbing your existing pages, running them through some optimization filters to fix a bunch of common issues, and then serves those optimized pages for you . As Google says, “Now you don’t have to worry about concatenating CSS, compressing images, caching, gzipping resources or other web performance best practices.”
This is majorly cool in my book. Anytime I can outsource something like this to another pro that will just handle it for me, I’m on board. Of course, there are some concerns about the fact that you’re relying on Google’s servers to get your pages out to your customers, but if there was anybody you could trust with this, I would think Google would be on top of the list.
After you sign up, there will be some changes to your DNS file to be done, but that’s gotten easier and easier over the years, so I wouldn’t sweat that too much. Right now, Page Speed service is on a free, limited run, so not everybody can use it, but if you can get in, I’d give it a shot. I’m also hearing some grumbling that some sites are slower after they use Page Speed service, but I have been assured that this was caused by the initial rush of new users and Google is compensating and adjusting constantly to get past this issue (if they haven’t already).
Like I said, this is a free service right now and Google has already made it known that they’ll charge for it eventually, so I’d get in on it now while it’s free and see how much of a difference it can make for your organic listings and traffic. As I’ve always said, there really is no “secret sauce” for SEO, there’s just knowing and playing by the rules and the rest will fall into place.
Jeff @ Fang
P.S. If you would like to see one of Fang Digital’s SEO Audits in action, drop us a line and we’ll discuss the ins and outs of the process and give you a free quote.