Why Speed MattersSpeed matters first because it is one aspect of an efficient, high-functioning website. But site speed also matters because people’s attention spans are getting increasingly shorter. Data shows that almost half of all internet users expect website pages to load in less than two seconds. If your site takes longer than three seconds to load, 40% of users will move on. And speed matters to Google. If people are leaving because your site is too slow, then you will have a high bounce rate. A high bounce rate tells Google that your site is low quality, and your ranking will suffer. For these reasons, web developer Robert Mening says that increasing site speed is “an essential skill for any website owner.” He provides an extensive list of strategies for speeding up WordPress (WP) websites in particular.
Evaluate Your SiteFirst, you should objectively test the speed of your site. To do so, you can use GTmetrix or Pingdom, both of which provide a detailed analysis of what (if anything) is causing your site to lag. These tools measure if your site is too slow and you can also use them to continually monitor its performance. Remember that your goal should be for your pages to load in under two seconds. Faster than that is even better.
Have a Good FoundationMake sure that you have a good hosting provider. Most likely your best bet is to opt for a virtual private server (VPS). Shared hosting will slow you down too much, and a dedicated server probably has more power than you need and is too expensive. You should also consider managed WordPress hosting created especially for WP sites. With managed hosting, you won’t have to be responsible for the technical aspects of your site. Keep this same mentality when selecting your theme. Choose one that only has what you need, keeping it as lightweight as possible. One strategy is to opt for a minimal theme and then add plug-ins to add additional functionality. You might also consider utilizing a content delivery network (CDN). The closer a server is to a user, the faster the loading time will be. A CDN takes your static files and distributes them on various servers across the world so that your site is closer to people than it would have been otherwise. There are even solutions that will allow you to host parts of your site through a CDN. Some CDN resources you can check out are:
- Amazon Cloudfront
- Jetpack (a plugin)
- WOT Cache
Updates and MaintenanceIt should go without saying that you should keep all of the elements of your site as up to date as possible. This includes everything from HTML and PHP to your theme and plug-ins. Your hosting provider is responsible for your site’s primary updates, but you should still keep any eye on them. The more up to date your technology is, the more secure your site will be and the more efficiently it will run. Use tools such as WP-Optimize and WP-Sweep to clean up your database as it gets bloated with data you aren’t actually using. You should eliminate anything you aren’t using (plug-ins, widgets, etc.).
Other Tactics for Decreasing Loading TimeSpeeding up your site is about enabling it to do as little as possible. With this principle in mind, consider doing the following:
- Don’t host videos on your site—auto-embed them
- Compress your images and your website files
- Reduce server requests (e.g., limit how many posts you show on each page, break comments and posts into pages, implement lazy loading for images)
- Allow caching
- Concatenate files (i.e., combine them into one larger file)
- Minify files
- Limit what you can (such as post revisions, buttons, and widgets)
- Deactivate pingbacks and trackbacks
- Include an expires header in your static resources (this determines the length of time a visitor’s browser caches content)
- Optimize CSS delivery
- Prioritize above the fold content
- Install WOT Cache for an overall WordPress Cache Plugin solution
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)It’s old news that people are using mobile more and more for all of their online activities. Not only does your site need to load quickly but it also needs to load quickly on smartphones. Because of the widespread use of mobile, Google has released Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is “a whole new way of creating web pages and effectively changes the mobile web.” AMP is an open-source software designed to boost loading speeds on mobile devices. Even before AMP, Google took steps to favor mobile-friendly sites. So the better your site’s mobile friendliness, the better its ranking. You can learn more about AMP here.
Everyone Benefits from Fast Loading SpeedNo matter what area of life we’re talking about, people appreciate having experiences that are orderly, seamless, and fast. Optimizing your site for speed will set you ahead of the majority of websites on the internet. The result will be that you lose fewer visitors and increase your revenue. Image source: pixabay.com
Few things can cause such a stir in the SEO world as a significant change in Google rankings, not least because such changes are so unusual. However, this is exactly what many commentators are reporting to have happened on 1st or 2nd September 2016. But what exactly has happened, and what does it mean for SEO professionals and businesses that rely heavily on their online traffic?
Was there a Google update?
While Google has not commented definitively, many experts are convinced that two different updates took place around the date in question.
The most significant was thought to be around core web search. A number of threads sprang into life on Twitter and other fora discussing significant changes in ranking, with sites seeing shifts of more than 100 places up or down from specific keyword searches.
The second issue was around local Google rankings, where similar SEO discussions reported the biggest change to local rankings that had been seen in a long time.
Google has not confirmed that any update took place at all, and this in itself is causing further debate within the general search community. What is certain is that something caused some significant changes to rankings and that it was seen across all industries and verticals.
Or was it something else? Ask Google!
If it was not an update, then what else could have caused this phenomenon?
Three days after all the excitement, Google reported that a system error dropped all Search Analytics data from 01 September to 06 September. But while some experts were still forming the words “That explains it!” others were quick to point out that this issue could not be related to the fluctuations in rankings.
Google also confirmed categorically that the rumoured update was not Penguin related. Google’s John Mueller stated on both YouTube and Twitter that Google is constantly updating, but that in terms of any update on 1st or 2nd September, Penguin could definitely be “ruled out” – the penguin is sleeping!
How much does it matter anyway?
While the updates, non-updates or system errors have provided plenty of fuel for speculation, some in the community feel that the whole thing is a non-issue.
Marketing professional and online commentator Larry Madill noted that the majority of Search Engine Results Page (SERP) results that he monitors returned close to their previous positions after a few days.
He felt that the incident followed a familiar pattern that he had seen many times before following an update (whether acknowledged as such or not). The phenomenon he reported was that the SERPS “get tossed around for about four days then slowly go back to normal.”
Bizarrely, Madill noted that it was the larger names in retail that took the biggest hits from the phenomenon, with companies such as Home Depot and Amazon losing several places on two significant SERPs.
This has led to some giving the phenomenon the nickname “The Big Brand Update.”
The only thing that is known for certain is that chatter was still rife long after the effects had all but disappeared.
Google Introduces A New Travel Update, But Will It Affect SEO?
Changes to Google’s destination search has got the travel industry in a spin, but does it really affect the way we do SEO?
It seems as though a week cannot pass by without another report about a major change at Google that has the potential to shake up the establishment. At first glance, the latest in a long line of such announcements looks set to hit a bunch of travel related sites right where it hurts most, in the pocket. But is that really going to be the case? Let’s take a closer look.
What Are The Changes?
Late in January 2016, Google announced changes to the way its mobile search interface would look with regard to travel information. Dubbed as Trip Planning, searchers looking for info on terms such as ‘where to go in Mexico’ or ‘Mexican destination’ will now be served with Google-controlled content rather than the standard organic results of old.
This is triggered by a knowledge-graph result that summarises relevant information into neat little boxes listed above the normal search results. The fear is that this new addition to the now four-year old knowledge-graph that everyone has grown used to will further demote organic placements whilst promoting sites that Google want to receive clicks – namely AdSense paid search material.
Will This Harm User Experience?
The jury is still out on this one, but the majority seem to be swaying towards an enhanced UX rather than an unwanted nuisance for those looking to make a straightforward search. For digital publishers, however, the response is likely to be a little different, but it’s not as much of an attack on the little man as it may first appear.
Who’ll Be Affected?
As we touched upon above, it’s likely to hurt the big players in the travel industry rather than the smaller travel blogs out there. Sites such as Lonely Planet, Yelp, Trip Advisor, huge news corporations and the larger travel sites are likely to be worst hit by these changes. These brands have totally dominated the destination search market for a long, long time, and this shake up is going to come as somewhat of a shock.
For those with smaller sites, however, the impact is likely to be minimal at worst. Think about it, if you’re not already ranking for top-tier keyword terms such as ‘where to go in Thailand’, what have you got to lose?
Travel companies and airlines may see a change in number of referrals coming from Google and this could hit profits. Some airlines and package holiday companies work very hard behind the scenes on complex digital marketing campaigns that help improve their search positions. This change has the potential to turn the industry on its head. In January 2014 we reported how one Google update saw Expedia dramatically lose traffic from Google. However, a drop of traffic from Google of around 25% was not enough to cause a major drop in revenue, and Expedia share prices continued to rise.
What Does This Mean For Google?
Naturally, Google is on to a winner with this move as more clicks on paid advertising means more money for the company. The change will also make Google’s other products more prominent too, pushing the likes of Google Maps and YouTube to the fore every time someone searches for these short-tail terms.
Until the changes have full rolled out we cannot really predict the long-term effects, but once again, Google is controlling how we obtain information from the Internet, and to some extent, who will win and who will lose.