Page Speed: A Simple Path to Better SEO

Posted by Thomas on December 9, 2011 in Website Design

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The following is a Guest Post from Chris at

The speed with which your website loads is becoming an increasingly important signal for Google. This October, Google guru Matt Cutts estimated that improved page speed would impact a full 1% of all search queries. While that might seem like a small number, it translates into likely hundreds, if not thousands, of queries you could improve your ranking for by simply shaving a second or two off of your load time.

Beyond pleasing Google, a well-optimized page that loads quickly pleases your visitors. Patience is in short supply among most Internet users, and even a few seconds of delay can cause a visitor to click the back button and move on to a competing site.

So, page speed is important – you get that. What you might not get is how simple it is to cut down the amount of time it takes for your site to load. In this article, we’re going to focus on one simple area of a website that can easily be improved, with potentially dramatic impacts on page speed: Images.

Improving Your Images

Images generally make up the bulk of a page’s total size. Thankfully, they’re the easiest culprit to catch and correct. There are a number of improvements you can make in this area, but we’re going to focus on three: Format, Reduction and Serving.

The first adjustment you’ll want to make is to the format of your images. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to use GIFs and PNGs for simple images (few total colors) while using PNGs and JPGs for more complex images. It’s not enough to choose the right file type, however – you’ll need to make a few tweaks to the images themselves to squeeze the most size savings out of the process.

For example, if you have a simple five-color pie chart, you can use an 8-bit PNG or low-color GIF to reap substantial file size savings. For a photo with lots of color and detail, using a JPG quality of around 80 works, and is absolutely sufficient for most images on the web while producing files that are svelte in comparison to their higher-quality brethren .

If the above is beyond your skill set, no worries. You can download the free image editor which will handle most of the optimization for you. As you save or export images, you’ll be given the opportunity to preview the image at different quality levels (and file sizes). Even if you have no experience editing images, you’ll quickly get a feel for what formats produce the best file sizes for different image types.

Next up: Reduction

This is a simple step that entails just what it says – reducing the number of images you use on your page. Are you using images instead of text in some places? Use actual text instead – it’s easier to edit and provides an SEO advantage. Are you using multiple, yet similar, versions of the same image on various pages? Ditch them and settle on a single image that you can use over and over again. Do you have large, decorative background images or gradients? Go for something smaller and simpler, or use CSS to generate the gradient. You get the idea – do an audit of all of the images you’re using on your site and you’ll no doubt find plenty of fat to trim.

The final adjustment has to do with where your images are served from. Most webpages uses cookies of some sort, and cookies are often essential for the site to function. However, if you serve your images from your primary domain, you’re serving those cookies along with every image request – a significant waste of time that can slow down your site. The alternative is to serve all of your images either from a subdomain or different domain that does not use any cookies. This could require some work, especially for larger pages (I’m about to undertake the project on and I’m not looking forward to it), but if your site employs cookies heavily, you could see a real reduction in your average page load times.

We’ve done little more than skim the surface of all the ways you could improve page speed on your site. Brief as it may have been, I hope this article has given you a starting point for putting your site on a size diet – your visitors and your traffic stats will both reward you for it.

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