IndustryWhat Small Business Web Site Owners Need to Know About Page Speed

What Small Business Web Site Owners Need to Know About Page Speed

Is your small business site old or outdated? Here's how to avoid the wrath of Google's new ranking factor.

The name of the game in SEO is to find out what makes a page rank — and abuse the heck out of that tactic until Google shuts it down. Thus, the ever-evolving list of what works and what doesn’t work. A pain for Web site owners, but job security for SEOs like me!

This cycle was evident when incoming links gained popularity as a ranking factor. Although Google hasn’t gotten to the “shut it down” phase yet, excessive reciprocal links along with paid links have been devalued.

One of the big stories at PubCon was Google’s work on a new ranking factor: site speed. To clarify a bit, they actually mean “page speed” vs. “site speed.” If we look at Google’s code site, they talk a lot about “page speed” and not at all about “site speed,” so let’s get the vocabulary straight as we move forward.

Many small business owners have older or outdated sites. It costs money to design a new site, and time to coordinate the construction, so a new site is generally far down the list of “things to do” for many small businesses. With this projected change in how Google looks at your site, a new site might become a must if pages on your old site load slowly with bloated code and clunky images.

Generally, the modus operandi for Google algorithm changes is to talk about something for a while, warn a few times, and then bring the smack down. If you listen and act when they first start talking, chances are the smack down won’t hurt as much when it comes. This is exactly what happened with the paid link/bad neighborhood linking crackdown during early summer a few years ago.

To help site owners get a handle on site speed and how to fix problems, Google gave us a Firefox/Firebug add-on to help you test your page speed. Everyone should look at and download the page-speed add-on. Just a click away from this page you’ll find a list of Google’s Web performance best practices to keep in mind as you think about fixing or redesigning.

I downloaded the tool and ran a few sites through to see what it could tell me. Read on for some tips, and the revelation I came to while wading through this information.

First, there’s a lot of stuff here. Volumes of it were over my head for sure. Now is the time to decide if you need to fix what you have or to think about redesigning into a more user and Google-friendly version of your site.

I ran a local pizza restaurant Web site, through the Page Speed tool and it showed me the following info:

Overall Performance Summary

This is where my eyes glazed over a bit, because I’m neither a designer nor a developer. So what do we do? I started clicking on the plus signs next to the items in red and yellow above.

Detailed Performance Summary

OK, I was still confused, so I started digging into definitions of each section trying to wrap my head around what to do — you know — how to fix it. An hour later, I didn’t have much insight into what to do with this information, and then it hit me: I don’t have to know this! My time is better spent running my business and letting a Web site developer figure out what this mumbo jumbo means.

Would I be a smarter, more educated Web site owner if I did this work? Sure, but it’s the holidays. Do you have time? No? Me either.

So if you don’t have time to take care of this on your own, hire someone to do it. This is going to be a ranking factor, so it’s important information. The long-term benefit to having a swift and sexy (but SEO-friendly) site is going to outweigh the short-term cost savings of figuring it out for yourself.

Join us for SES Chicago on December 7-11, 2009. Now in its 11th year, the only major Search Marketing Conference and Expo in the Midwest will be packed with 70+ sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, video optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an exhibit floor, networking events and more.


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