Is your SEO suffering due to load issues?

Date: 24th August 2017
Author: Louise Arnold

The search engine optimisation (SEO) industry is one that never stands still. Constantly dancing to the tune of Google’s latest algorithm updates means trying to stay abreast of each and every aspect of your website. Times have changed significantly since the days when keyword stuffing and link building were enough to see you top the search engines, with Google’s advanced algorithms taking into account a host of ranking factors.

Among these ranking factors, few are as important as page speed. With the focus on user experience – as well as user intent – ensuring that your website loads as quickly and effortlessly as possible is a must. After all, web users are impatient, and you only have a few seconds to capture their attention. If your page takes too long to load, they will quickly go elsewhere, increasing your site’s bounce rate and alerting Google to the fact that the user experience is far from optimised.

Focus on reducing page load time for better SEO performance

So, what can you do to ensure that your website loads quickly? Of course, while website load testing helps identify how your site performs under the weight of user activity, page load testing will help you determine just how long it takes for the information to be served to the user. Below we look at a few of those measures you should take to ensure optimum performance.

Image optimisation

Anybody working in the web and technology world knows the effect large image sizes have on the speed of a webpage’s load time. Yet, despite this ‘common knowledge’, oversized images continue to be found slowing down load times and driving people away from websites.

Optimising and compressing images isn’t even a difficult – or particularly time-consuming – process, so if you’re finding that the size of your web page is unusually high, take a moment to double-check that you’ve resized your imagery accordingly.

Leverage browser caching

When you take the time to consider exactly how much information needs to be delivered from a web server to the client, it pays to leverage browser caching in order to boost load times and limit the amount of information requested every time a page is loaded.

Updating your ‘expires’ header will enable you to specify those elements that will stay the same over a longer period of time, such as stylesheets, images, JavaScript files, etc. Google itself recommends setting a minimum cache time of one week, with static assets and those that change infrequently with a caching time up to one year. Through effective browser caching, reducing the load time of your pages will improve the user experience and complement your SEO activity.

Minify resources such as CSS, HTML and JavaScript for reduced load times

Minify resources

When you look at the number of resources required for the development of a website – such as CSS, HTML, JavaScript, etc. – it’s no surprise that load times suffer, compromising user experience and impacting the user journey. By minifying these resources, however, you can reduce the amount of code being used, thereby reducing load time. But what does minification do?

Every web developer has their own quirks. As such, the appearance of a website’s code may differ from coder to coder, depending on preference. This may mean that one developer uses tabs instead of spaces, increasing the ‘white space’ being used, slowing down the load time of the page. By minifying resources, you will be stripping out all unnecessary white space characters, new line characters, comments, and block delimiters. Keeping code clean and as efficient as possible should always be the goal.

Compression

It can be easy to confuse minifying resources with compression, but the two are separate means of reducing the load time of your website. Whereas minified code runs ‘as is’, compressed data requires the additional step of uncompressing in order for it to run. As such, the level of reduction that can be achieved through compressing resources is significant.

GZIP compression – which is currently the most popular compression method – enables you to compress response size by, on average, 70%. As such, this particular form of compression represents the perfect choice from those websites featuring lots of images and files – websites such as ecommerce platforms.

Limit calls

Reducing the number of HTTP requests made by your webpage will also help reduce the load time experienced by users. Every single file on your website requires a separate HTTP request, meaning that the more you have, the slower the load and the worse the user experience.

Look into how many calls your pages make – something which can be simply done using Chrome Developer Tools – and try to identify those elements which are taking longest to load. You can then determine which page elements are really necessary, and remove those which are not. For example, you may have additional imagery that adds little to the user experience, or find yourself calling in entire font sets that are not in use.

There will always be something that can help save the number of HTTP requests being made, so check through methodically to determine precisely where you can reduce load time.

Invest in website load testing to improve user experience

Combine load time with load testing

While the measures identified above will help in delivering better SEO performance, website load testing can ensure that your site offers a user experience that delivers the sales and revenue needed for successful ecommerce. By complementing your search engine optimisation with regular, tailored load testing, you can deliver an ecommerce platform that performs well in the search engines and delivers the experience users demand.

Find out more about getting started with website load testing with SciVisum today, and request a free demonstration of how regular testing – alongside website optimisation and page load speed – will help prepare your site for the very best performance.

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