How Can You Help Your Website Load Time?

by Shannon Suetos

If you have a company website, it is probably safe to assume that you want to rank high with the search engines. You want your brand out for everyone to see, and what better way to get it out with a company website. But what are you doing to get your site up on that ever coveted first page of Google?

Search engine optimization (SEO) has become more popular over the years as businesses are making a profit from helping other companies rank high on the major search engines. You may not be an SEO guru, but there are certain tactics you can utilize to help.

Google announced at the beginning of April that page loading time will now be a factor in their mysterious algorithm. If you don’t have an in-house programmer, or you aren’t an expert programmer, there are a few tactics you can do to help you optimize for faster loading times.

Reduce HTTP requests

HTTP, short for hypertext transfer protocol is a lot less intimidating then what it sounds like. Basically the Internet works like this—you have web crawlers (like the ones Google and Yahoo! send out) that read your site, and then they index your site and tell the search engines what keywords are relevant to your site.

If your HTTP requests are not in order, or you have too many it could slow down your loading time. In non web speak, if you are looking for a pair of shoes to wear and your closet is a mess, it’s going to take longer to find them than if your closet was in order.

To reduce your HTTP files you can do the following:

  • Combine your files so that there is less information to search. Make it as easy as possible for the web crawlers. There are plenty of tools available to help you if you are not knowledgeable on combining your files. SL Combinator, CSS Mixer and minify are just a few programs you can use.
  • Group images into one large image—doing this will reduce your HTTP requests and can help prevent a longer loading time. To do this you should use, “the data: URL scheme to embed the image data in the actual page.” You will need to do a little digging around though, because using an inline image isn’t supported on all browsers quite yet.

Avoid Flash

You don’t have to take Steve Job’s stance on Flash and cut it out all together, but many Flash files take a longer time to load. If you can’t live without your Flash, then think of ways you can use minimal amounts of Flash. Other great alternative to Flash is to use a large image or oversized header image. Both of these options can add a lot of value to your site, and will have less loading times than Flash files. HTML5, which is the newest upgrade to HTML code also brings an alternative to Flash files. Although HTML5 is not quite ready, their video tag will allow people to insert video files without Flash.

Clean Up the Code

Keeping your HTML code neat and tidy will also help with your loading time. Get rid of any, “white spaces and excessive tags that you don’t really need such as empty tags.”

Tools to Assess Your Loading Time

Google wrote in their blog after announcing the loading time factor now incorporated in their algorithm some useful tools to help you gauge your loading time. These include:

  • Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
  • YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
  • WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages' load performance plus an optimization checklist.
  • In Webmaster Tools, Labs > Site Performance shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world as in the chart below. We've also blogged about site performance.

You probably won’t be able to change your loading time over night, but it is something you should have on your radar. Getting higher rankings in the search engines is a must if anyone is going to see your great product and services. Although many companies utilize pay per click campaigns to help get their website out there, it is a good idea to supplement those costly ads with high organic search optimization as well.

Shannon Suetos is an expert writer based in San Diego, California. She writes extensively for an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing.

1 comment

Arabella Bianco said...

Hi, also don't forget to resize your images to reduce loading time. You can use, for example, Microsoft Picture Editor to resize. The size of an image shouldn't be more than 100KB.

Best Regards, Arabella

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