Matt Cutts has long cleared speculation that site speed isn’t “a major” vindicating influence affecting page ranking for both web and portable websites last August. Page ranking, however, is treated as the lifeblood of all SEOs since there’s something liberating about having that number closest to 10. For business website owners, site speed could cause the most important metric to tank: average visit duration.

Duration increases mean your visitors find specific site components which please them. For example, they can easily navigate your site. Content is great, graphics are sharp (yet compressed) and forms don’t take minutes to send. In fact, widely available reports dictate that customer satisfaction increases dramatically, too, provided pages don’t take longer than 1 second to load.

It’s 2014. Professional search marketers worry more about linking, superior content and appeasing the many rules search spam guru Cutts imposes frequently. Lest we not forget, Daniel San, it’s not just the site that helps us reach higher page rank; it’s the components behind the scenes working in syncopation.

Under the hood of page speed we go to determine areas for improvement.

Love Bytes

An explosive metric discussed by Moz involves Time to First Byte, or the gap in time between requested URL and server response. This metric, by design, points the technological finger at networks should response time lag, packets get dropped along the way, or return 503s. Since Google’s algorithm takes speed into factor when providing end users accurate keyword initiated search results, it only makes sense that faster pages rank above those which severely lag.

Information sent behind the scenes is measured in bytes, although you’ll probably never notice this metric when jumping from Amazon to Zillow. Higher bytes means more than heavy graphics or videos plastered all over your landing page; it’s an inevitable sign that GoogleBot will take away precious points needed to squeeze a PR5 during the next toolbar update.

Some of today’s high paying CPM advertising networks have significantly increased their ad load times by making them responsive. Mathematicians spend hours dissecting metrics to schmooze readers. Common sense tells the layman that if bytes are high, load time lags. Confucius say slow load, visitor no stay, PR drops.

SmushIt Real Good

WordPress programmers are adamant about writing compression-friendly CSS, although this never stops owners from uploading massive HD pictures into every article. Google loves SEO optimized imagery, yet dislikes huge photos that bog down their crawler. One tool that should be used to ‘byte the big one’ is an incredible image compression plugin available in WordPress cleverly named SmushIt.

Perform mass SmushIt compressions, individually smash MB down to KB or simply keep images minimal in size to avoid smashing your pictures to death. If you want ‘technically’, here it goes: stick figures in Windows Paint can tell an equally compelling story since, of course, GoogleBot doesn’t have eyes – yet.

Hosting on a Prayer?

Does spending $15 for unlimited (which it’s not – this fact has been tested) hosting mean better server responses will be achieved? Does spending $200 for managed hosting mean the hosting is actually managed intelligently? Businesses love saving money, but are cutting fat from the wrong part of the steak. It’s recommended that webmasters who depend on search engine traffic to opt for web hosting plans that offer SSD storage. In addition, sometimes even small sites with only a few thousand visitors per month are better served with high-end shared hosting or low-end VPS hosting. This ‘over-hosting’ of a site ensures rankings don’t suffer because of a hosting-related speed issue.

Due diligence should be performed more thoroughly when shopping for your business’ website hosting needs. Knowing you’ve picked an excellent host that doesn’t overcrowd its servers, performs uninterrupted maintenance behind the scenes, constantly updates patches and server software, and keeps hardwiring up to current standards could mean precious milliseconds are being won back by your website. Faster page loading times equates to higher Google search position and page ranking.

Programmer To-Do List

Website speed improvements above can easily be achieved by layman businesspeople. By mommy and daddy bloggers. This list should be completed by programmers that understand where, when and why websites load slowly:

  • Gzip compression – Although not a suggested course of action to speed up Javascript functions (due to responsiveness in older browsers), this compression works wonders when accurately written into your .htaccess
  • Code profiling – Spotting bottlenecks, or areas in code that are called to action the most, then speeding up those actions could save tremendous time during PHP page execution.
  • Avoid ‘gets-sets’ – Working with objects in a more direct manner, as opposed to setting excessive getName/setName calls, could free up more script load times.
  • Drop SQL query loops – Arbitrary in nature, these loops simply send another unnecessary fetch to the database, otherwise called roundtrips. Cut these down.

The Takeaway

Pagerank will always increase with content, engagement, internal and external linking choices along with keyword weight. Dissident areas of your site’s page load time mentioned above, should you let numerous offenses pile up, could cause loss of points used to tally that final score – one of many that SEOs gauge their progress by.

Hosting, image compression, programming snafus and even excessive videos should immediately undergo an extensive evaluation to determine areas of improvement, whether saving money is quantified and whether cutting down on images would take away from what end users experience. You’ll be amazed at how quickly GoogleBot notices the finer intricacies of website development when you’re rewarded with higher search positioning.

If you liked this article, please follow me as in the next article, I’ll cover whether there is something you should know about Android spyware and how it relates to keeping tabs on other phones, or if Apple and other app companies have made significant strides to help parents keep tabs on their child’s phones.