Site speed is a key element of technical SEO, one of the 3 pillars of SEO. In this article, we’ll cover a handful of ways to improve your site speed. Not only does a slow site hurt your SEO, but it also damages the customer experience.
When we say site speed, we generally mean the speed of the pages on our site, so each page will have its own page speed.
What Gets Measured
First, we have to start off with some sort of measurement or assessment to actually understand where we stand and diagnose some of our speed issues. This is where I would usually look to a tool like GTMetrix to give me my insights. The tool analyzes at the page-level so you may have to check a few of your most important pages to find common issues. The tool will give you a couple of scores: PageSpeed score and YSlow score, as well as a handful of recommendations specific to that page.
At a high level, there are a variety of best practices or common things that people should be on the lookout for and optimize.
1. Minimize HTTP Requests
When a page loads, it needs to download all parts of the page like images, CSS styles, scripts, and more. An HTTP request goes out for each of these elements so try to limit these as much as possible. You can see how your page loads using a tool like GTMetrix or within Google Chrome using the Inspect tool and going to the Network section.
To reduce the size of the files on your site and improve speed, you’ll want to use a file compression tool to compress large files. Images will be a separate category.
Optimizing your code by removing unnecessary clutter can also improve page speed. This means reducing the size of each file and reducing the number of files that need to be loaded. Clean up your code to ensure there is nothing unnecessary.
4. Reduce Server Response Time (DNS)
A DNS, domain name server, is the server with a database of IP addresses and their hostnames. You can check your DNS speed with DNS speed tools, and if you’re using a slow DNS consider switching to a faster one.
5. Reduce Redirects
If you have redirects on your site, whether to a mobile version of the site, or redirects from old pages, that will slow down the page.
6. Browser Caching
Browser caching reduced load time for repeat visitors by storing/caching information from the previous visits so many things do not need to be reloaded. You’ll also need to set “expires headers” to indicate how long you’d like to cache that information.
7. Content Distribution Network
CDN’s are networks of servers that distribute the load of delivering content. It spreads out your content across various data centers to deliver content faster and more reliably.
8. Optimize Images
Make sure to optimize your images before uploading them to your site. You can use simple tools like ImageOptim to do this online quickly. Another part of image optimization is serving the right sized image so that your site doesn’t need to load the full-size image and then adjust it, which takes time.
While all of these things may seem small on their own, the site speed game is a game of milliseconds, and every millisecond counts. Think about the last time you visited a slow site… your visit probably didn’t last long.