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5 Ways to Speed Up Your Website (and Improve SEO!)

Website loading times are one of the most important factors in search engine rankings. But search engine optimization (SEO) is not the only reason why you should be concerned about how fast your site loads. Users quickly leave sites that are frustratingly slow to open – the KISSmetrics blog suggests that 40% of people leave webpages that take longer than a mere three seconds! Clearly, speed is of the essence. Here are five ways to speed up your website and get it running at full throttle.

1. Reduce Image File Sizes

Craigslist still looks like it’s straight out of the 90’s (and doesn’t seem to suffer for it), but the rest of the web has evolved and, year over year, become more data-intensive. Images are one of the biggest data hogs on modern websites.

M2 Bespoke’s article A (Not So) Brief Guide to Image Optimisation offers the following advice:
“Aim for an image size of less than 100kb (but preferably around the 70kb mark)
Reduce the DPI of your image to 72dpi (where you really can’t get away with it, run with 96dpi instead)”

Images can be compressed using a number of free tools (check out Creative Bloq’s The 18 best image file compression tools). And keep in mind that reducing file sizes is about making the most efficient use of space while maintaining the same visual appeal – not about compressing until your pictures look grainy.

2. Enhance Server-Client Path Optimization

Server-client path optimization is about sending your website’s content to users as efficiently as possible. Imagine you’re asking your friend Dave for a book (perhaps The Great Gatsby). But Dave has loaned the book to Ryan. Dave tells you that, of course, you can borrow the book, but first he has to ask Ryan for it. You’ll get it, but it will take longer because there’s another request and response involved in the transaction.

A second – or third or fourth – step in the chain is what happens when server-client paths aren’t optimized. Keep your data communications and transactions simple with the shortest possible paths. This can be achieved by minimizing secondary requests for data. Practically speaking, this means that website data should be stored on the same server (as much as possible).

3. Implement Browser Caching

Downloading data from your website has a cost for your users – on mobile in particular, it may be a real monetary one. Website loading takes up time and bandwidth, at the very least. Browser caching is important because it makes accessing your site less costly for your visitors.

Google recommends “a minimum cache time of one week and preferably up to one year for static assets, or assets that change infrequently.” In concrete terms, this means that images or other site assets that aren’t going to be updated frequently can be stored temporarily on your visitor’s devices. This avoids the need for redundant and unnecessary re-loads of site data on subsequent visits.

Cache what you can to speed up load times – but do be respectful of the amount of space you’re taking up on your visitors’ computers, phones, and tablets!

4. Implement Server Caching

Server caching reduces the time it takes for web servers to send requested data to their visitors. When we talked about server-client path optimization, we discussed how layers of additional requests cost valuable time; when server A has to request something from server B to pass along to browser X, it’s not a direct route.

Your primary web server can decrease the time it takes to send data by caching data requested from other servers for future use. For example, if server A needs a picture from server B, it can cache that image the first time it receives it. The next time your web server receives a request for the same image it will already be available locally, and the path is reduced by one step.

Websites can find particular bottlenecks on their site with the help of site profiling. Profiling can be done using a number of tools, including the NetBeans profiler module, HPROF, Borland’s Silk Performer and WebMeter, and many other open-source and paid alternatives.

5. Use Parallel HTTP Connections – But Not Excessively

All modern browsers support parallel HTTP connections, meaning that they can send multiple requests – and get multiple responses – from a given site simultaneously. It’s like drinking a soda through multiple straws: the more straws you have, the faster the soda can flow!

There are limits, however. Each browser (and version of that browser) has its own limits as to the maximum number of parallel connections, and having more may not always provide increasing returns when it comes to speed. Depending on your necessary browser support, you may need to keep parallel connections as low as 2, or 4-6 for more modern browser implementations. Generally speaking, parallel connections should be used sparingly and with good reason.

Google Loves Speed – And So Do Your Visitors

Boosting the load speed of your website is a win-win strategy: a win for SEO and a win for your users. Load time is one of the biggest factors in SEO ranking according to Google. And speedy sites can earn you some love from your appreciative visitors. That extra loving could mean a real boost to the bottom line for your company. That’s a definite win.

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