page speed

Tips and recommendations from SEO experts

Site speed performance and, consequently, page speed has been a topic of discussion since the beginning of the web. However, it wasn’t until April 2010 that Google declared that page speed was considered in its search engine rankings.

For many organizations, that day marked the beginning of a perennial race to have the fastest websites to give them advantage over those businesses who didn’t make it a priority.

Optimizing site speed is difficult

Despite that from April 2010 onwards, page speed performance became an important SEO factor, not all businesses did a good job with optimization. Many factors affected their efforts, from lack of knowledge and experience, to limited development resources. But mainly it was an issue because, unfortunately, it is not an easy task to optimize site speed performance. There are three key problems:

  1. The improvement opportunities that tools like Google Page Speed Performance delivers are typically only sufficient for small websites with a few pages.
  2. There is no page speed performance tool in the market that can deliver highly customized insights/opportunities, and simultaneously design relevant solutions.
  3. Page speed performance is looked at solely from a user experience perspective, using generic tools which are not fit for purpose.

Take a SEO perspective to improve page speed

Since Google announced the change to its search engine algorithm back in 2010, SEO experts have dedicated time to understanding factors related to page loading events such as time to first byte, first contentful paint (FCP), and total page load time, as regular KPIs for improving website rankings.

This has made SEO experts valuable collaborators in development teams to help map page load events and identify improvement opportunities that can have a positive impact on the business.

The work and analysis that SEO experts have carried out during the last 10 years in terms of page load speed optimization have contributed to improving methods and techniques, resulting in better effectiveness and efficiency. In the process, it has become possible to identify key recommendations.

Here are 5 key recommendations for page load speed optimization.

1. Do your own research

The first way to approach page speed optimization is to know what’s wrong with your site. As mentioned, free tools available online will provide some insight, but it’s necessary to understand specifically what resources involved in the page load are taking too long to download in the users’ browser.

The most reliable way to know this is to run a page reload from the network tab in the inspect console available in every internet browser. Through this, you can get a list of all resources downloaded during the page load, with its corresponding request size and specific load time.

It’s recommended to download this list to analyze it thoroughly using a HAR (HTTP archive file format) viewer tool or convert the HAR file to CSV if you prefer to read the information in a spreadsheet.

2. Focus on the biggest offenders

More often than not, you’ll see that the main aspects responsible for the site’s low page load performance are represented in three groups: Javascript, images and marketing pixels (tags or snippets).

Among these three groups, the easiest to optimize will be the images, so it is advisable to start there by reducing the size of these resources, but taking care not to degrade their quality too much.

This is one of the first elements that an SEO expert looks at when analyzing a site, as their improvement can become an easy fix and have a quick effect on reducing page load time and increasing search engine rankings.

Next up, are pixels, but it is recommended to seek the help of an analytics specialist, who can understand the tags logic, where it should be (and shouldn’t be) activated, thus helping reduce the total amount of requests that a site needs to load completely.

Last but not least is Javascript. This is a tougher one, mainly because it requires specific development resources and skills, as well as time.

It’s best to address these three items in parallel and, if possible, with different teams, goals and deadlines.

3. Decide what needs to be fixed first

Once you have identified the biggest issues related to page speed performance in your site it is time to prioritize them. The best way to accomplish this is to determine the actions that potentially add more value to your business in the short term.

To do this, I recommend creating a spreadsheet with detailed information about the improvements you identified as necessary for your site to implement, including task difficulty, roles/resources needed and business relevance.

To evaluate these indicators, gather your team and/or the people interested in these improvements to come up with a system that can provide your organization an easy way to set the item’s importance and priority.

4. Set your goals

At this point you’ll have a lot of information about your site, improvement opportunities, and the resources you’ll need. This is already a big step forward. Although it can be tempting to continue introducing new elements to improve your site, it’s important to keep in mind that applying these changes is not the final goal – rather it is to help your business grow.

The best part is that even if your goals are not yet defined, applying these actions will have a positive impact on your site’s performance. However, having clear business goals will transform this process into a long term plan.

Before starting to identify and define your goals we recommend you use the SMART methodology for the page load optimization process. This technique is regularly used because it helps focus efforts and avoids setting unrealistic expectations.

5. Select and collect your KPI before implementing

Before making any changes, it’s recommended to conduct a site performance snapshot. This will help keep track of how these modifications are affecting your business page load speed and other aspects such as traffic, navigation and conversion rate, after you have implemented improvements.

The best way to accomplish this is to make a list of all the KPIs that can be affected by the performance optimization process and then run it by every team and role involved in the improvement process.

Indicators like search engine rankings are probably one of the most sensitive KPIs to page load speed improvements. As this is one that SEO experts constantly track it’s a great idea to consider it in your initial assessment.

Final words: Hire an SEO expert to get the job done

The technical experience and know-how of an SEO professional to improve business search engine rankings means they have necessary tools to identify, analyze and propose improvement opportunities for your website.

SEO experts typically track more than 20 KPI’s at any one time to help them understand and identify how site improvements are impacting performance. This level of insight will help you identify further elements to achieve your business objectives.

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