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Optimize your Website: Ditch the World Wide Wait

05 Jan Google, SEO | Comments

seo1In the not so distant past, web designers happily went about their business building websites and, as long as the pages loaded within the golden two seconds, they were as happy as a seven-year-old finding a furby under the tree on Christmas morning.
Fast-forward just a few years and, according to Microsoft, that magical number (magical as in your visitors won’t roll their eyes and click elsewhere) is more like 250ms. It’s undoubtedly a ridiculously tiny window in which to grab and hold your visitor’s attention, but if you want your site to be successful, then grab it and hold it you must.
It makes it easy to see that aside from the obvious tasks of making sure your site content is fresh, interesting, regularly posted and is not buggy, spammy, or anything else that’s nasty, you must place a huge priority on making sure your site is fast (and by fast we mean really fast).
Since it’s often confused with search engine optimization, let’s be clear: web page optimization (WPO) is not the same as search engine optimization (SEO). Where SEO is concerned with all the “let’s get jiggy on Facebook,” “give people content they actually want to read” and “get rid of those dodgy inbound links” kind of stuff, WPO looks at internal site metrics, drilling down into its nuts and bolts to ensure maximum performance. By maximum performance, we mean speed – that sometimes elusive 250ms. In that sense, web page optimization is one of many tools in the typical SEO toolkit.
If, far from winning any races, your site is just about giving a snail a run for its money, there are steps you can take to speed it up. It may help you to think of the front-end and back-end of your site as alternate sides of the same coin (or as a double-edged sword depending on how you’re feeling at the time). It’s likely that you’ll find any bottlenecks right up there in the front. Why? Because that’s where you’re going to find the heavyweight content dragging its heels: the social media “sharing is caring” type icons, and the client side code such as HTML5, Ajax, and JavaScript.
Exactly how you fix all that kind of stuff is beyond the remit of a blog post (we have to make sure these posts are effortlessly readable – it’s the new content law). What we can do though is identify some awesome resources where you can head to get all lovely and geeky with the goal of making your website load faster. Expect an informative (but not very exciting) read about the tiny details of what might be causing your site to struggle to haul itself out of bed in the morning. You’ll come away knowing far more about the importance of avoiding 404s, ensuring fewer HTTP requests, and optimizing images than you probably ever thought possible, or indeed probably ever wanted to know.
1) SEOmoz: 15 Tips to Speed Up Your Website
2) Google: Make the Web Faster
3) Yahoo: Best Practices for Speeding Up Your Website
Having entered geek territory and made all the suggested tweaks to your site (or bribed a geeky friend to do it for you), what are you looking at getting in return? A fair bit, it seems.

• Better ranking in the SERPS: While the exact algorithms used by Google are one of the industry’s best-kept secrets (kind of), it’s almost guaranteed that the ruler of all search engines awards some clout to page load time and latency when determining your organic ranking.
• Faster spiders: The more efficient your site is, the faster those spiders are going to be. This part is really simple. If the Google spiders can get around your site faster, it makes perfect sense that more of your site will be indexed as a result.
• More cash in your pocket: Like anything in life, more money can almost never be guaranteed, but it’s been reported that for every extra 100ms that their site takes to load, Amazon loses around one percent of their anticipated sales revenue. If a global retail success story deems speed to be important, so should you.
That’s not to say that if you get your site loading faster than a speeding bullet you’re going to be automatically sitting on easy street and can sit back puffing on a cigar or sipping on a vanilla latte watching the sales roll in (while wearing a silk smoking jacket). You’ll probably still have to get jiggy on Facebook!

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