The suspicion that site speed might be a ranking factor for Google was just a suspicion; that is, until April of last year. Google plainly stated site speed as a factor in SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking. What does this mean? Website performance monitoring needs to become part of your SEO process – if it isn’t already.
A while back, we published an infographic to help explain the various levels and tools of website monitoring. Using this infographic, let’s discuss how website monitoring relates to SEO, and how it can strengthen your SEO campaign and response time.
Website Performance Monitoring: The Questions to Answer
It’s easy to check site speed, thanks to browser extensions like Page Speed for Firefox, WebPagetest and Google Webmaster Tools. Lucky site owners and SEOs can look at these tools and smile, because their site is speeding along at 1-second load times.
Most aren’t that lucky. Most find out their site is slower than a turtle stampeding through peanut butter. For those SEOs and site owners, it’s time to go down the list of potential issues, like these four:
1. Is the web server up or down?
This seems easy to answer. You go online and enter the URL of the site. If it’s up, it’s up; if it’s down, it’s down.
You can’t stay online 24/7, however; if your site goes down at 1 am every morning, chances are you’re not going to know about it. Website performance monitoring works around the clock. What you’ll get is an email saying, “Psst… Your site is down at least 10% of the time.” In most cases, the problem is your hosting provider.
If you consistently have a high down time, you usually have two choices:
- Upgrade your hosting account – it could be caused by using a shared server
- Change your hosting provider – some hosting providers just don’t provide high quality services. You may have found one of them. Utilize a web hosting service that places a high priority on customer service.
If website performance monitoring shows your web server is working correctly, it’s time to look at your pages.
2. How long does it take to load a page?
You probably know by now that site speed matters in more places than SEO and search rankings. Let’s talk visitors. Studies show most visitors are either lost or kept in the first six seconds. If your page takes longer than 6 seconds to load, you haven’t had a chance to make an impression at all.
If it does take a long time to load a page, you have to understand part of your on page SEO probably isn’t working. It’s a definite your marketing lingo isn’t working. In other words, you have some severe issues that need to be fixed.
Your job is now to find out why the page is loading slowly. To find that out, you have to go down the list of questions and answer them with your website performance monitoring reports:
3. Is the content loading as it’s supposed to?
In website performance monitoring reports, problem files stick out like sore thumbs. You can’t miss them.
4. Are the site functions loading correctly?
“Site functions” can be classified as functional extras. Shopping cart functions are a good example. If other files are loading properly, there could be compatibility issues with your site functions and server.
Improving You Site’s Speed
If you’re already monitoring your website and the reports say your site is slow but it isn’t your server, you have a hard road ahead. Even professional web developers want to throw their hands in the air sometimes. However, here are a few pointers that can give you a little boost and start you on your way to a faster loading site:
- You have to know what parts of the code do what. For example, if you have a Google Analytics tracking code on your client’s site, you – as the SEO – should know that ga.js is part of that code. If you see “jquery.jcarousel.js”, you have to know what program that file is attached to.
- For each issue, you have to decide whether site speed or usability is more important. Ask – does this file provide essential additions to the visitor experience, or is it just eye candy?
- You have to be unemotional about your site design. Whether you’re digging through the code or your SEO is telling you about it, you have to be willing to cull things you may really like. Usually, the “extras” are causing the site to slow down.
- You have to be willing to change programs. Program XYZ may be your favorite forum program, but recent server updates have made Program XYZ load extremely slowly. It’s time to make a change.
- Always make sure your images are optimized for the web. This doesn’t necessarily mean all should be PNGs (many think PNG means optimized). It means all should be optimized to the smallest file size. If a .jpeg has the smallest file size and faster load time, use a .jpeg.
Will Your Site Win the Race?
What do your reports say about your site? Does it drag behind the rest? If everything is great, should you continue using website performance monitoring as part of your SEO process?
Well, just as SEO is a continual process, monitoring your website should also be continual. Even if you don’t change anything on your site, things could begin to slow because of things like server or browser updates. Remember – the more fancy stuff you have on your site (including images), the slower it can get. That’s just how websites work.
Keeping your site in tip-top shape is the best way to succeed in online business. Website performance monitoring is a good way to make sure your site isn’t getting flabby. Run a site speed check on your site; we’d love to hear how you’re doing!