In order to get ahead of the competition when it comes to search engine optimization, businesses need to sweat the small stuff. Sure, building strong links and providing optimized on site content is essential – but if you really want to make it to the #1 spot for competitive keywords you need to think to optimize where your competition isn’t. For many businesses, a simple place where you can do this is to rigorously test and optimize your website’s speed.
As a number of articles and a Moz survey from 2013 have pointed out, speed is certainly not something that will single-handedly make a company do well in organic search, but it does play a small role in both user behavior and the keyword agnostic features of a website. As a result, the effect speed can have on a website should not be overlooked. In order to make sure that your website is as fast as possible and helping, instead of hurting, your rankings, here are four relatively easy steps you can take to make sure that your website is lightning fast.
1) Losslessly Compress Images
Most good, modern websites rely heavily on images to convey ideas and keep users engaged. While this is definitely preferable to having a website that is covered in hard-to-read text, it can cause problems for a website’s load time. You’d be surprised just how much data a user has to load in images alone to see your site – so making sure that the images aren’t enormous file sizes will help to speed things up, make users happy, and help your SEO rankings.
A very straightforward way to deal with the issue of large image filesizes is to losslessly compress them so that they are optimized for your website. At it’s most basic definition, “lossless compression” means that you are shrinking down your image filesizes without sacrificing image quality. A great first step is to simply make sure that you are saving filetypes that are optimized for web use – like .jpg, .png, and .gif.
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However, it is important to take it one step further and use a lossless compression tool to make sure that your images are loading as fast as possible. There are a lot of great options out there, so regardless of budget you should be able to find a solution to minimize the size of your images.
2) Make Sure Every Piece of Multimedia Serves a Purpose
When trying to build an effective and entertaining website for your users it can be easy to get carried away with the amount of multimedia you’re adding to a site. While having too much copy on a website can make a website unusable for your audience, many business owners don’t realize that adding too much multimedia content can have the same effect.
When planning out how your website is going to look, take the time to map out what pieces of video or image content are essential to your website and which ones you might be able to do without. Not only will this help up your website’s speed by minimizing the amount of useless content, it will also make for a clearer user understanding of your site by keeping the site’s layout from getting too cluttered.
If you have an existing site, a great option is to A/B test your pages with and without certain images or videos by using an A/B testing tool like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer. Using these tools will give you hard data on how your audience acts when certain elements are added or removed, and will help you to identify what pieces of content are actually driving the behavior or conversions you are looking for from your website.
3) Check the Reliability of Your Hosting Provider
This is often not the first place you should look, but if you can’t find anything about your website that could reasonably be slowing down its load time, it makes sense to look at the hosting provider for your website. Particularly if you didn’t spend much time comparison shopping and researching the best hosting options, sometimes you might find that your hosting provider is either unreliable or providing less than ideal services.
If this is the case, it can be worthwhile to take the time to migrate your website to a hosting provider that can provide your website with reliable, fast service. This will help your site to avoid loading slowly for your users even when you have done your due diligence in terms of optimizing the site.
4) Remove or Replace Unneeded Code
If you have a site that has been around for a long time, sometimes it can amass a lot of old code for programs that are no longer being used on the site. While it might seem like you should keep it on there just in case you ever use the program that the code is tied to, it can slow your website down – particularly if the code is not asynchronous.
While you shouldn’t be pulling code on and off your website and having it on there only when you are actively using it, code that has been on your site upwards of a year and has never actually been used is just extra baggage that shouldn’t be kept around. If you know how to quickly and easily remove code from your website or have access to development resources, this is a task that can be accomplished pretty quickly and can pay high dividends for your overall website speed.
Don’t Underestimate Speed
While it can be easy to fixate on link building when focusing on your website’s SEO, the speed of your website should not be overlooked. Particularly if you’ve spent the time and resources to have a mobile friendly responsive site created for your mobile users, the difference in the amount of users that engage with your site on mobile devices can be drastically improved by simply increasing your site’s load speed by mere seconds (or less). This can translate into sales that your business hadn’t been able get before. If you have the means to make these slight improvements to your website, a very minor time and effort investment can equate to a noticeable increase in ROI for your website.