Optimizing Website Performance Using Google PageSpeed.
We all know that Google dominates worldwide search. For most small businesses, it delivers the majority of their website traffic. Google earned that position years ago by providing more accurate search results than any other search engine. We came to trust the search engine to deliver the highest-quality results for a given search query.
Google’s early success is often attributed to the development of PageRank—a ranking signal they used to track the number and quality of a website’s inbound links in order to gauge the website’s value or authority.
These days, experts believe that there are hundreds of signals used to assess content. This post aims to help you understand one increasingly important signal—PageSpeed.
But First, What Are Ranking Signals?
The degree to which some aspect of a page contributes to the page’s ranking—in other words, the specifics of a search engine’s ranking algorithm—is proprietary and a closely guarded trade secret of a search engine company. This prevents people from reverse engineering the algorithm to push lower-quality content into higher search engine positions.
Suppose you searched “How to replace the alternator in a 2004 Ford Mustang” for example. A search engine would try to find the most suitable result within its database by analyzing each page against these signals and ordering those results according to which content it identified as more relevant and of higher-quality.
Obvious ranking signals would include things like:
- Are there specific keywords? Ex. Ford, Mustang, Alternator, Repair, Replace
- Are there related keywords? Ex. Instructions, Guides, Do-It-Yourself
- Does the page have pictures or diagrams? Ex. ford-mustang-alternator.jpg
- Is the text well written and easy to understand? Ex. Readability scores
- Is the text was easy to read, with larger font sizes and a concise layout?
- Do visitors stay on the page, indicating they found what they were searching for?
- Do visitors share the page to their social media accounts or leave comments?
- Do lots of other websites link to this page?
Then there are less obvious signals that indicate quality, but in other ways. For example, search engines provide users with a safer browsing experience by favoring pages that use encryption and warning users if a website shows signs of having malicious code.
Another opportunity to improve the quality of their results is by favoring websites that load quickly. Google calls this PageSpeed. The rate at which we produce rich content (images, audio, and video) and the dramatic rise in mobile usage, make PageSpeed an increasingly important signal.
So, What is Google PageSpeed?
PageSpeed is not a measurement of the time it takes to download a website, but rather a grade that indicates how efficiently a website is downloaded and rendered in a user’s browser. That’s an important distinction, because it is far more important to have high-quality content than a fast website with nothing on it.
You can have your website graded by visiting Google PageSpeed Tools. There, you can enter your domain name and Google will fetch and analyse your website. Google will display two scores (out of 100) for mobile and desktop performance which will each depend on a variety of factors including:
- Have you optimized your website’s images to ensure you’re not sending unnecessarily large images?
- Have you enabled website caching which serves static files instead of generating a new file on every page load?
- Did the web hosting server respond quickly when the tool accessed your domain name?
- Have you enabled browser caching which stores files in the visitor’s browser’s cache so that they don’t need to be downloaded over and over again?
We suggest testing each major section of your website (such as the homepage, gallery, and blog) to help identify unexpected problems.
From a technical perspective, speeding up your website will also help search engines index your website as many search engines limit the amount of time they spend crawling your website. The faster your pages can be downloaded, the more pages a search engine will be able to crawl during a particular visit.
Ok, How Do We Improve PageSpeed
Once the tool identifies bottlenecks, it’s up to you or your web designer to engineer your website. Google links each issue to in depth help files which can help solve these problems. Some issues can be fixed quickly, but some take significant time and effort. In some cases, you may even need to rewrite parts of your website, so it’s not for the faint of heart. We like to see websites earn scores of 85 or better, but that depends heavily on the situation. It is possible to achieve a 100/100 on both categories (and we’re striving to do so ourselves), but this takes a concentrated effort that may not be worth the investment for a small business. A better way to approach this would be to test your website and a handful of your competitors and see how you rank in comparison.
We recently did this with our own website and our competitors and set an internal goal to help our clients, outperform their top five competitors. The results of our own tests are shown below and we can help your website accomplish the same.
|Google PageSpeed||Desktop Score||Mobile Score||Average Score||Secured|
|Main Street Creative||Yes|
|Twin Creek Media||49||61||55||No|
|Black Mountain Media||33||30||32||No|
* All tests were performed between 10:00 to 10:30 on 12/31/2016.
* Updated at 10:00 on 01/22/2017.