Something that is probably not well known is that Google has started to take into account the speed at which a site loads in their page rank. At this point about 1% of sites in their US English Search listings have had this new algorithm applied to search results and if your visitors are from America like many are then your page rank may have dropped over the past few months due to this new filter.
I was alerted to this by a friend this week while trying to figure out why one of my sites has been dramatically effected in its page rank.
Recently I had made modifications to the Google Search Bot crawl speed through Google’s Webmaster tools. This happened back in July when Amazon announced they would be placing throttles on their Affiliate API Access. In the first week of October those Amazon rules went into effect and I ended up having to shut down 80% of my affiliate stores to allow the remaining ones to stay online… most of the time.
Anyway while looking at my site this friend suggested that I should improve the speed at which my pages load.
If you go into your Google Webmaster Tools account you can see the load times of your site and you can see the reason for the slow load times.
Below the graph you will find suggestions.
Unfortunately for me it seems that Google suggests that the dns lookups required to load my advertising is taking up most of the time. While it may be easy to suggest I speed up my site it is difficult to require me to remove remotely hosted advertising which is not under my direct control.
The fact is 95% of the site will load for visitors in under 3 seconds and this is on a site that is relatively rich in graphics and scripts. The remaining few seconds to load ads in the sidebar will go unnoticed by the visitor BUT google sees this as a problem and could use it against my site when ranking it in search engine results.
This makes me wonder if the Google Adsense DNS lookups and bot crawls are excluded in the calculation of page loads.
Anyway since some of the offenders are from companies that do not make me money or very little money I will consider removing them and replacing them with banners that are hosted on my server that could make money.
Now for the rest of you out there if advertisers are not lagging down your site then it may be because you are loading images, scripts or other content that has not been optimized for speed.
On many of my sites I upload images which have been optimized in jpeg or png format. Animated Gif images should not be used on most sites unless they are required and their sizes are under 50k.
The number of images used on your site can also be a problem and you probably don’t want to overload most of your pages. You can install a gallery plugin or script to present smaller images on your pages which your users can select to see larger versions or not.
CSS files can also receive optimization and if you run a main site along with a store, form and other scripts you should decide whether it is better to consolidate all of the CSS in one file that a browser will load on the first page view or whether many of your visitors can do without the extra load.
Remember that any remote script whether it be one that collects statistics such as google analytics or one that shows your facebook or recent tweets can lag your site for your visitor and also bots.
You should check your load times with a number of tools that are propagated around the USA or World to collect information on how your visitors see your site and the load times of most of your basic pages.
Although we live in a time where many internet users have multi-megabit connections it does not mean that everyone does and it does not mean that a visitor from outside your country will have the same experience as you may.
Here are a few tools that you may want to take a look at when examining your site for page load speed:
Page Speed – Open source Firefox/Firebug Add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
WebP – Reduce image file sizes and download times.