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Page Speed Coming to a Ranking Algorithm Near You
Monday, January 04, 2010
Last year while visiting a client with Enquiro, we were communicating the importance of Internet Speed and the fact that the Internet can be a quick place to find information and as a result you need to ensure that your web site is built to handle Internet Speed.  For years now, whenever I audit a client's site, one of the technical items that we look at is page load times and size of pages from a coding perspective.  We use various tools to do spot checks on a client's web pages to see how these pages are performing in from a technical stand point.

Page speed has always been an interesting factor from a user's perspective.  Remember the "old days" when using dial up connections and having to wait... and wait for a page to load?  Very frustrating at times.  Fast forward a couple of years as Search Engines and (search engine bots, spiders and crawlers) enter the picture.  Think about these crawlers trying to access a given web page and discover all of the coding and content on the Web.  Huge block of unneccessary coding can prevent these crawlers from finding the actual copy nd topic of the page.  Remember that Google is trying to organize the world's information.  In an attempt to do this, they are trying to provide the best results based on a given keyword query.  They continue to add to the number pages in their index, at last count I believe this was at 19 billion or so.  They try not to serve up duplicates and they try to serve up timely and relevant results.  Not an easy task by any means. 

In 2009, there was much discussion about real-time search and the ability to find timely information.  This was, no doubt, a result of items such as microblogging services such as Twitter and other social environments such as Facebook.  There are tools such as Surchur http://surchur.com/ which acts as a real time board pulling in the hot topics and hottest keywords from a number of sources including Google Trends, Yahoo Buzz and Twitter.  People are looking for timely (but accurate) information.  Internet Speed allows them to find this information, at least for the most part.

Part of Internet Speed is page speed and the ability to serve up pages that load fast.  You can see by recent efforts from Google that page speed will become even more important in 2010.  So much so that there are rumblings that Google  is considering incorporating page speed as a more important piece of their ranking algorithm. 

Page Speed is Important to Google

Google's Caffiene update is focused around providing real-time search results coupled with the importance of blended search and personalization, to provide a richer search experience.  According to Google's Matt Cutts, "... a lot of people within Google think that the Web should be fast...".  It appears that in the not to distant future faster sites may in fact be rewarding with better rankings in the Google Search Results Pages.  Again, this gets back to the user, they do not want to have to wait for a given page to load, they want everything now... or at least as soon as possible.  Slow loading sites may lose the visitor forever as they bounce from the site to another. 

As part of your SEO and online marketing strategies in 2010, making your site faster and optimizing for speed may be one area that you want to focus on.  Especially if Google does factor page speed into the ranking algorithm.  You will be better served by making your site quick and efficient for the search engines and users to visit.  Google recently announced a Site Speed site, which provides webmasters with even more resources specifically aimed at speeding up their pages.  Some of the other items that Google has recently announced with regards to site speed include:
  • Google Page Speed - an open source Firefox Add-on that can be used to evaluate performance.
  • Google Analytics now supports asynchronous tagging, so a web page load no longer blocks on Analytics JavaScript.
  • Google Web Toolkit now includes a declarative UI, incremental app download, and the Speed Tracer profiling tool.
  • Google Public DNS: Make your web experience faster and more secure.
Google has even shared some great performance best practices when it comes to page speed.  According to Google,
Page Speed evaluates performance from the client point of view, typically measured as the page load time. This is the lapsed time between the moment a user requests a new page and the moment the page is fully rendered by the browser. The best practices cover many of the steps involved in page load time, including resolving DNS names, setting up TCP connections, transmitting HTTP requests, downloading resources, fetching resources from cache, parsing and executing scripts, and rendering objects on the page. Essentially Page Speed evaluates how well your pages either eliminate these steps altogether, parallelize them, and shorten the time they take to complete.
The best practices are covered in five categories:
  1. Optimizing caching — keeping your application's data and logic off the network altogether
  2. Minimizing round-trip times — reducing the number of serial request-response cycles
  3. Minimizing request size — reducing upload size
  4. Minimizing payload size — reducing the size of responses, downloads, and cached pages
  5. Optimizing browser rendering — improving the browser's layout of a page
There are a number of things that can be done to address page load times from a coding poerspective (this warrants a post on its own) but to name a few:
  • Externalizing JS
  • Externalizing CSS
  • Removing unused CSS
  • Enabling compression
  • Optimizing images
  • Serving Resources from a unique URL(to eliminate duplicate download bytes)
Optimizing for Page Speed can not only help your site perform well from a technical stand point, but it can help improve bounce rates, and in the near future may actually help improve your rankings in Google.

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posted by Jody @ 8:57 AM  
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