What is it worth to see your business name show up on Google’s first page? For many companies, it’s the difference between growing significantly in a short amount of time or having to close your doors while watching the competition succeed. For years, businesses have worked to build a digital presence, but many have seen their website SERP (Search Engine Ranking Position) rise and drop as Google constantly enhances their algorithm to better serve users, providing the best answers to online searches. With these ever-adapting enhancements in mind, your digital footprint must be nimble enough to shift gears at a moment’s notice to abide by the guidelines set by the big digital bully in the sky. (Hint: It’s Google.)
In July 2018, Google rolled out the “Speed Update” to determine rankings for specific search queries. This update uses your website’s load-time as an official factor in website page rankings. While this update does play into your rank on a desktop, it’s more targeted toward mobile rankings—these help users access the information they are looking for while on the go.
If you find your website to have a slow load time, here are some tips for you or your developer to address on your next website audit:
Optimize and Compress Files
Before your site is built, make sure your developer is using the best and most up-to-date website development practices. By ensuring they are writing clean code, you help avoid building “bloated code,” which has a negative impact on your load time. Developers should also compress all the files they build for the website, making sure they’re the smallest size possible.
Enable Browser Caching
One of the best tools in a developer’s toolbox is browser caching, and for many hosting providers, it’s a FREE add-on to your account. Browser caching works by taking all files needed to display your website and storing them locally on the user’s machine. By doing this, you limit the number of resources needed, helping to further decrease load time.
Ensure Your Hosting Provider is Customized for the Site’s CMS Typically, WordPress gets a bad rap for being too “bloated” and having sluggish webpage load times. While this is true in most cases, having the correct hosting provider makes all the difference.
Utilize a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
A Content Delivery Network works by taking all your website files and placing a copy on physical servers worldwide. If a user goes to the website, the CDN pulls the files from the closest server, decreasing the time it takes to get the files. This service typically comes cheap from most hosting providers.
Install an SSL on Your Domain
Recently, Google made holding an SSL certificate a factor in ranking. But, does having an SSL increase load time? As technology advances and HTTP/2 becomes more commonly adapted, having an SSL will, in fact, increase load times. All things considered, my suggestion is to get the SSL installed.
Optimize All Images
Image size matters. It still amazes me how something so crucial to load time seems to always be the one thing that goes unaddressed. All images should be at 72 resolution and no larger. With enhancements of coding technologies, it’s possible to render images for specific devices and specific resolutions. Properly optimizing your images can be the difference between a 5+ second page load time and a less than two second load time.
It’s important to think of your website as a living thing requiring constant maintenance. Every day, Google uncovers ways to better enhance their algorithm to meet the user’s needs. Because of this, it’s important to work with an agency that stays ahead of the curve and is properly vetted in the best SEO practices, ensuring your website maintains its SERP through every Google update.
To learn more about Four Columns’ SEO services or to get connected with a member of our team, click here.