Make no mistake, Google and other search engines now routinely figure page load times into their search algorithms. If your site loads slowly it may very well rank lower than a comparable site that is faster if all other factors are equal. The good news is that many of these slow page load problems can be fixed, and usually the fix is fairly easy to do even for a beginner.
Page Size and Page Load Speeds
Back when dial up modems ruled the earth the size of a web page was incredibly important. Most people you would speak to in the business recommended that a web page be kept under 50K including the images and text. Today however that old 50K recommendation is all but forgotten. With the nearly ubiquitous access to broadband connections page sizes have blossomed to include rich, multimedia content leading to page sizes of over a megabyte being commonplace. Even on broadband pages of that size can take ten seconds or more to load but make no mistake, if your page doesn't load fast your visitors are going to give up and go elsewhere.
Pingdom's Speed Checking Tool
To find out just how big your web page is and whether or not the size might be affecting your load times try running your page through a site called Pingdom. Their Pingdom Website Speed Test tool will grab your page, tell you how long it takes to download it, and give you a score based on how well it performs when compared to other sites. Start by typing in your main root URL into the tester and hit Start. Below the main score it also will provide a waterfall listing of every element on the page that is being loaded. It may surprise you to realize just how many bits and pieces of images, text, scripts, and other content are being loaded every time you refresh the page. Take a look at the data in the waterfall and see what items are taking the longest. Write that information down or print a copy of the report and hang on to it for later reference before moving on to the next step in the process.
Google PageSpeed Tool
The Pingdom tool is great for seeing specifically what is taking so long but it doesn't really tell you why nor does it give suggestions on how to speed the page up. If you want a second opinion on your webpage speed problems strongly consider also using the Google PageSpeed Tool to check the site as well. The PageSpeed Tool will be discussed in greater detail in a later article. For now, be aware that many web developers believe the PageSpeed speed test may be one of the most important things for you to score well on. While there is no confirmation directly from Google many people believe the score on the PageSpeed test is factored into search engine rankings in some way.
In the next article in this series we will show you how to analyze this data from the Pingdom and PageSpeed tools to determine where the speed bottleneck is for your web site and how best to fix it. Read on to find out more.