This year has been a good year for me and Google. 2009 brought more love to our love/hate relationship, mainly because of two major announcements. The first announcement had to do with my longtime infatuation with microformats and Google’s inclusion of rich snippets, like hReview microformats, into their SERPs. The second announcement came from Matt Cutts at PubCon in Las Vegas. During his panel, he strongly suggested that 2010 would be the year of site speed. More specifically, site speed would be added as a new ranking factor. Further evidence of this new change can be found in Google’s recent announcement about the addition of their Page Speed tool to Google Webmaster Tools. Yes!!!
Why does this excite me so much? Because I love standards, accessibility, speed, and machine readable code (aka microformats.) In fact, it was accessibility that first got me interested in SEO. It quickly became obvious to me that using semantic structure, alternative text, and other accessibility techniques, that a site would perform extremely well in the SERPs.
Working under the assumption that 2010 will be the year of the fast loading website, and that it will count as one more ranking factor, I’m going to give you some tips on how to speed up your website.
How to Speed Up Your Website to Improve SERPs in Google
No Embedded Media & Flash
This one is simple, don’t use embedded media and Flash, or at least use it sparingly. Next…
Quality Hosting & GZIP Compression
One of the biggest speed problems come from cheap, overloaded hosting providers. Consider spending a little more money to get a speedy and reliable hosting provider like Pair Networks. Also, when choosing a hosting provider, make sure they support the ability to enable GZIP compression.
Google Analytics Asynchronous Tracking Code
Replace your existing Google Analytics code snippet with their new asynchronous code snippet. The new tracking snippet provides faster load times, along with other goodies like better data collection and the elimination of common tracking errors.
Slim Down the HTML & CSS
Most HTML and CSS are bloated with unnecessary code. In most cases, there’s entirely too many DIV elements and styles, and not enough semantic elements, like headers, paragraphs and lists. Try to keep the HTML simple, and reference semantic elements instead of using IDs and classes. Also, try to only link to CSS that’s actually used on the page. In many cases you can achieve this by having one common, global stylesheet. Then you can use individual stylesheets for every page that uses unique styles.
Google Page Speed Tool
After you’ve optimized your Web pages, the last step is to test your page using Google’s Page Speed tool. The Page Speed tool will provide you with a speed analysis, and show you even more page components that may be slowing down your page load time.