Tips to speed up your website

It is critically important that your website loads as quickly as possible.

In some cases it can be hard to optimise your website and make it go faster, especially with website with large databases or websites which have large quantities of images on them. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t try to optimise your website. In fact Google announced back in early 2010 that site speed will effect your website ranking when your site is scanned by their algorithms.

“Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.”

Google went on to say that improved site speed can lead to reduce costs in terms of website maintenance, I agree to a certain extent. I think that a faster website could mean that compromise can be made on the hosting server you are using or plan to use, but I think that where the website budget allows, faster servers should be used to compensate for future growth of the site and the number of visitors accessing it.

Modern Servers in a rack
Servers in a rack

Issues you may have with a slow website could involve any number of things however most issues can be attribute to the following website elements: images, javascript, and stylesheets.

Google offer a fantastic tool for working out what issues could be effecting the load speed of your website which can be found here.

JavaScript files can be compressed, various tools exist which will reduce the size of these files. Click here to perform a google search for this. Other similar tools exist which can compress your stylesheets. Click here to google search for CSS compression tools. If you would rather not use an online service to compress your website code then you could use desktop applications such as Notepad++ or Adobe Dreamweaver to perform this task manually. Notepad++ is free under the GPL license and does offer some automatic compression tools.

A good tip to keep in mind is that your web pages will load your site code from the top, which means if you have a lot of JavaScript or css files in the <head> tags of your website then your site may appear to load slower, to help combat this try putting references to JavaScript files at the bottom of your site. You will still want to load your CSS style sheets first however, so that the website appears as it should when a visitor comes to the website.

Click this link to go to another post about reducing image file size.(will update when post is live)

Site maps

A site map is a clear list of links that outlines the navigation of your website.

A clear outline of your websites navigation is vital if you want to try to ensure search engines are able to properly search your website content. Sitemaps can improve the chances of your websites content being checked by search engines even if the structure of your website is poor. Without a site map a search engine could miss a page of your site and it wouldn’t even have a chance of appearing in search results. The code used to assess your website will decide if the navigation on the site, without the use of the sitemap, is acceptable. The code will then determine if the content is hidden from visitors or if it believes the content is too hard to find, if this is the case the code may decide not to display the content in search results.

Site maps can be submitted to search engines directly and most website developers will upload the site maps they create to the major search engines so that they are sure the sitemap is being read by the search engine crawlers. Search engine crawler or search engine spider are terms given to the code which search engines use to search your website content. This code is very intelligent and is constantly being refined, however the code does sometimes find it tricky to find site maps so it is good practice to manually upload the sitemap to the major search engines.

Sitemaps are also useful because they allow you to clearly see how your visitors should be accessing your website content, this can be helpful for determining why visitors aren’t visiting a particular portion of your website or the reasons behind a large number of visits on one page versus a lower number of visits on another. However the use of a sitemap for visitor navigation research is only a secondary goal, the main goal is to make sure all the content you have on your website is seen by search engine crawlers.

Usually website developers will create a HTML sitemap, which is used to display the navigation of the website to the people who visit the website and an XML sitemap which is used by search engines to determine the importance of pages on your website and the navigation of the website. Site maps can be created manually but tools do exist that can automatically create them for you, if you are not sure if you have a sitemap or not then look for a link in the footer of your website or contact your website developer.

 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) what is it? Pt.1

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. SEO is the process of preparing your website so that it can be easily read by search engine site crawlers. What exactly is a search engine site crawler you ask? A site engine crawler is a term used to describe the code, or algorithms that search engines use to scan your website content.

Why do they do this? Search engine algorithms are used because they can determine what content your site contains and therefore where your website should appear in their search results.

It’s important to aim to be high in search results because it should in theory gain you the most website traffic for the specific search terms used to find your website. A search term is the words or phrase used in a search to find your website. The theory is that many people simply click on the first two or three results of a search query, many will only go to the first result, so website owners will want to aim to be as high as possible in the search results in order to gain the attention of their potential visitors.

Search engine optimisation can be implemented in different ways. The most popular way, in my experience, is by optimising your website with the intent to influence organic search engine results. Organic results are the results you see which, at least on Google, appear below the sponsored results when you conduct a search. These results are not paid for. Non-organic results are paid results e.g. the sponsored links that appear on Google, some would argue these are an easy way to get the most traffic to your site as your site is more guaranteed to appear at the top of the search results for your specified keywords. Keywords are the words you choose to use as relevant terms on your site and the words that you think will gain you the most effective exposure via search engines.

Effective exposure to your website does not just mean lots of traffic, the ideal exposure to your website should involve both high traffic and traffic which conducts the desired action of the website e.g. purchases a product, or learns some new information.

SEO – what is it? Pt.2