SEO Best Practices for Site Speed

Written by: Jason Bayless | April 24, 2015

No matter how you look at it, faster pages and site speeds are just better. It’s been shown that faster web pages both convert and rank better overall.

Best Practices for SEO

Google has pointed out that site speed (and page speed) is one of the key indicators used by its algorithm in order to rank pages. Research shows that Google may be purposefully measuring time when it’s looking at page speed. Additionally, a slower page speed indicates that search engines crawl less pages with their allocated budget for crawling, which may in turn negatively impact how your site ultimately gets indexed.

Site and page speed is very important to visitor experience overall. Pages with longer load times usually have higher bounce rates along with less average time spent on the page. Longer page loading times have additionally been proven to negatively impact conversions.

Here are some key SEO practices to increase your site speed and enhance user experience:

1. Utilize a Content Distribution Network

CDNs (content distribution networks), otherwise known as content delivery networks, are primarily networks of servers used to allocate the task of delivering content. Basically, copies of your website are stored at several, physically diverse information centers so that users can experience more reliable and faster access to your website.

2. Facilitate Compression

Consider using a software application like Gzip for file compression in order to diminish the size of your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files that are bigger than 150 bytes. However, don’t use Gzip on your image files. Instead, try to compress them using a program such as Photoshop where you have more control regarding the quality of your image. Compression will greatly help speed up your page loading times.

3. Optimize Your Images

Make sure that your images aren’t any bigger than they actually need to be. Also, be sure that they’re in the correct file format (PNGs are usually better for graphics containing less than 16 colors while JPEGs are usually better for photos). Ensure they’re compressed specifically for the Web. Consider using CSS sprites in order to generate a template for the images that you use often on your website including icons and buttons. CSS sprites will merge your images into one huge image that loads simultaneously (meaning fewer HTTP requests) and will then only display the key sections that you want to actually show. This saves a great deal of time for the user since they don’t have to wait for several images to load.

4. Minify HTML, JavaScript, and CSS

Try optimizing your code by removing commas, spaces, and other pointless characters to dramatically increase the speed of your pages and site. Also, eliminate any unused code, formatting, and code comments. Google suggests using YUI Compressor for JavaScript and CSS.

5. Boost Server Response Time

Your specific server response time is generally impacted by how much traffic your site receives, the type of hosting you use, the software that your server is using, and the resources each page is using. To improve your overall server response time, look for shortcomings like slow routing, slow database queries, or a lack of enough memory, and then remedy them. Overall, 200ms is the optimal server response time.

6. Leverage Your Browser Caching

Browsers cache a great deal of information including JavaScript files, images, stylesheets, and more so that when a user returns to your website, the browser doesn’t have to waste time reloading the whole page. Use a tool like YSlow to determine if there’s an expiration date already set for your cache. Next, set your ‘expires’ header to the length of time you want that data to be cached. Unless the design of your site frequently changes, in most cases a year is a reasonable period of time.

7. Reduce Your Redirects

Every time a page has to redirect to another page, your guest has to sit and wait for the HTTP request cycle to fully complete. For instance, if your redirects pattern is: ‘ -> -> ->,’ each of the two more redirects slows down page loading time and frustrates your user as well.

Use these SEO tactics to speed up your site and pages in order to offer your readers a better overall experience.