Pagespeed Optimization with XOVI
March 12, 2015
Pagespeed has been an important ranking factor in Google’s search engine algorithm since 2010. It also plays a vital role in visitor-action conversion rates, so it is important to make sure that your website’s load times are as short as possible to make it as easy as possible for both crawlers and potential customers to find the information they are looking for.
Why are load times so important?
As described in the introduction, it is important to differentiate between users and search engine crawlers. Websites which are overloaded with too many images and banner ads are likely to put more focus on advertising income rather than genuinely useful content and information. This benefits neither search engines nor the users themselves. The focus should always be on content. Search engines place great value on quality content and are looking to see whether websites meet the needs of users. If a website takes too long to load, users may become unsatisfied and quickly abandon the website to search for an alternative.
Search engines also prefer quickly loading websites so that new documents can be swiftly processed and added to the search engine index. As a webmaster, you should therefore ensure that your website performs as well as possible to maintain a positive user experience on your page. Here we can differentiate between two types of load time:
1. Load time
Refers to how long it takes to load and display all of the content of a website.
2. “Time to first byte”
Refers to how long it takes for the browser to receive the first bytes of information from the webserver.
What can I do to make my website load quicker?
Webmasters have lots of options to speed up their websites’ load times. Longer load times generally have more than one single cause, which may include:
- Resources must be loaded individually rather than as a bundle
- Resources must be fully loaded again with every new page load
- Resources are not compressed
- Resources are not out-sourced
Now, let’s have a more detailed look at the optimization options.
Minimize the amount of http requests
When creating a website, the necessary resources are loaded from the webserver. The more resources that have to be loaded, the more requests that must be send to the server, which has a direct influence on load time. For instance, it is advisable to keep the number of unnecessary external scripts, CSS and images to a minimum. The more requests which have to be sent to the server, the slower the load time.
Only use one CSS-Stylesheet
Stylesheets should be merged in one single CSS file per website to facilitating caching. Furthermore, by avoiding “inline CSS”, CSS files can also be easily cached. This process ensures that resources which have already been loaded at some point in the past must not be reloaded with every new visit.
Efficient browser caching
When a user loads a document, the relevant information such as images and other features are loaded from the webserver. If the user then returns to the website at a later date, this information which has already been loaded once in the past can be loaded quickly via the browser cache, thus reducing load time. Since content can of course change over time, webmasters can set a limit date in each http header which specifies a point at which cached content should be refreshed or whether content should be cached at all. To reduce website load times, use the browser cache to ensure that resources which have already been loaded once do not need to be reloaded every time.
Use CSS sprites
CSS sprites allow several images to be merged into one (large) image. For instance, if only one single image from the larger “merged image” is to be displayed, then the website will only show that particular part of the larger image. The user doesn’t see the entire image, just the relevant section. CSS sprites are often used to displays buttons, icons and logos without the need to load individual images time and time again. Instead, only one (larger) image need be loaded, thus reducing the number of http requests and contributing to a quicker load time.
Even though 301-redirects can be very useless for SEO (for example by passing on valuable backlink juice), redirects should still be used sparingly since new URLs must be processed by the browser in order to be able to load relevant data later on. After requesting new URLs, the browser must then wait for a response from the webserver, which can lead to longer load times. Redirect chains on the other hand do not pose problems for search engine crawlers, but can increase load times for users. It is therefore advisable to keep the number of redirects as low as possible.
Pagespeed Optimization with XOVI
XOVI helps webmasters to improve the speed of their website or online shop in order to optimize crawling efficiency and user experience. Most documents on a page don’t take particularly long to load. The problem lies rather with certain aspects such as the homepage. To optimize this in the XOVI Suite, navigate to Pagespeed Monitoring under Onpage in the menu on the left hand side.
Here, under Monitor new URL, select a previous created project and enter the URL which is to be optimized. We also recommend carrying out a comprehensive XOVI Onpage Analysis on your own website in order to get an idea of average load times in your domain.
Once you have entered the URL, XOVI provides you with a detailed analysis containing the following points:
- Google Pagespeed score
- YSlow Score
- Load time
- Number of requests
- Number of requests to external domains
- Website size in MB
The analysed data is clearly displayed in the above graphic to make it easy as possible for webmasters to recognise weaknesses in website load times and optimization potential for documents.
What data does XOVI provide?
XOVI provides the following charts and diagrams to allow Pagespeed optimization to be carried out as efficiently as possible:
- Pagespeed trend
- Load time by type
- Load time by host
- Requests by type
- Requests by host
- Pagespeed details
- Timeline / YSlow recommendations
In order to reduce the number of requests and resources to be loaded, the Timeline section of the XOVI Suite contains an overview of different requests. “Status code”, “size”, “load time” and “time of load time” are also provided, ensuring that webmasters can easily keep track of which resources are loaded and when, and how big they are. This enables webmasters to quickly identify which resources are responsible for long load times and therefore need to be optimized. When Google Pagespeed is also implemented, webmasters can receive tips directly from the search engine itself. One final advantage is that these tips are automatically prioritized so that webmasters can easily decide which Pagespeed optimization measures to implement first.