By Chad Rhodes
Jun 5, 2012
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The final session of day 1 at SMX Advanced is about to begin. I am sitting in on Breaking The Speed Limit: Faster Sites Win! where speakers will be covering the benefits of having a fast site, as well as some tips to help speed up your site and the sites you work on.
Site speed is your “silver bullet” for search marketing. It is important for both organic and paid, and affects user experience. Conversion rates, customer satisfcation, bounce rate, organic traffic levels, overall competitiveness, and site costs, are all effected by site speed. Site performance isn’t just about SEO. It is about the user experience.
Make the case for web performance optimization.
Fast websites make people feel good, and let users feel in control. That feeling translates to happiness.
One of the biggest challenges with increasing site speed is deciding what to remove from a page. There will likely be somebody who defends each part of the site, regardless of how it affects performance or revenue.
What Tools Do I Need?
Speed A/B Testing Tips
It can also be difficult to decide how fast your site actually needs to be. Do you aim for the magical 2 second mark, or just try and match your competitors? Should you just be satisfied if a speed tool gives you a good score? An extreme test can help decide if increased speed is worth the loss of features on your site and can help you set your speed goal.
User perceived performance also needs to be considered. Look at the “time to first byte”, which is how long until your site responds. Even if your entire site doesn’t load instantly, if it starts loading quickly a user may perceive it as speedy. Users who perceive that site as fast, even if it really isn’t, will bounce at a lower rate.
What Can You Do?
Case Study: ShopatHome.com
The goal was to keep the visual as close as possible while still increasing site speed. Using the tactics described above, visual load time decreased from 1.2 seconds to 0.7 seconds. Full load time went from 5.5 seconds to 2.6 seconds. The number of calls was reduced from 55 to 27. The heat map stayed virtually unchanged, while click-through-rates increased on many of the on-page links. This suggests that the changes had no negative affect on user experience.
Good service means responding quickly. Jonathan used the example of if somebody doesn’t bring a glass of water quickly at a restaraunt, he gets up and leaves. This same idea can be applied to websites.
Pingdom is a free tool that offers a load speed analysis. This tool givfes and overall performance grade, which Johnathan ignores for the most part, but the other items are more valuable for analysis. The requests section shows the number of HTTP requests that go back and forth between servers while the page loads.
Using a content delivery network can decrease load time significantly by caching parts of your website on various servers around the world.
Hosting is also and important factor. The difference between using a quality server vs a lower quality one can also make an extreme difference. Talk to your provider and make sure you are getting the performance you are paying for.
HTML code can have a huge affect on load time. It isn’t the number of lines of code, it is the number of requests that seems to correlate the most with load time.
Content Management Systems can help you cache and store script. This cuts response times, which can be valuable for increasing perceived speed as discussed before. Some of these tools help compress and merge files to provide these better results.
Web and video speed can impact load speed as well. Asynchronous video and AJAX impact site speed very little. It is the larger streaming videos that slow things down.
It is worth noting that speed tactics are cumulative. Working with all of these simple tips can add up and improve your site speed greatly.
Summary of Best Practices
However, the speed of light is the biggest factor in page load time. This speed is 186,282 miles per second. That means information can never move faster than this speed, regardless of technology increases.