If you have to be a slug, be the fastest

As part of my journey to share my knowledge, I will begin sharing insights into SEO one item at a time to help anyone who desires to learn. – Jared

The most common question I get is “how do I fix or improve my seo” from virtually everyone whether they are a small business or large enterprise company. Unfortunately the answer is never the same and usually requires some digging. However, there are a few that apply universally to all and are simple enough for even a non-developer or marketing veteran. Today we will cover some of the basics of Speed!

Site Speed

The latest standards are a maximum of 3 seconds for a fully loaded page. To make sure your website loads quickly you will want to also follow the standards of a maximum page size of 2.4MB and run as many optimization techniques as possible. I would first like to cover the different of on-load and fully loaded before diving into how to improve your site speed for seo purposes.

On-Load: this is when the page is first visible to the user. It does not mean that the page has fully loaded but at least they are shown the above the fold content and can begin interacting with the page.

Fully Loaded: this is when all scripts, marketing scripts, and content has loaded. Especially for enterprise sites, there are so many tracking scripts that a page can crawl to fully load, which is why I pose the question “is your website a slug?”

How to find out if your Website is a Slug?

I have been using GTMetrix for years as it is free and allows you to change locations of servers, see historicals, and really get into the nitty gritty of technical site speed. You can see Google’s page speed, slow scores and more all from this one tool. It will show you on-load and fully loaded page times as well and even break down in the waterfall what items are loading and their size and if they are causing an issue with your speed.

Slug Score

Be a 4 slug website

4 Slugs

1-3 Seconds

This gives you the best shot at the top 3 pack

3 Slugs

4-5 Seconds

Moderate results, top 10 still viable

2 Slugs

6-8 Seconds

A high chance you will not be in the top 10

1 Slug

8+ Seconds

Death spiral, you will most likely loose non-branded rankings

If you have to be a slug, be the fastest slug in the room. What I mean, is that you only have to be faster than your competition and small businesses may find it hard to compete with larger companies who can afford the best cloud servers, the fastest CDN, and have developers on staff constantly improving their web property. So when you set out to improve your speed, review your competition before determining where you need to be.

How to Fix Your Site Speed

    1. Benchmark your current speed
    2. Benchmark your competitors speed
    3. Optimize your images
    4. Optimize your scripts
    5. Throw everything behind a paid CDN
    6. Upgrade your server
    7. Lazy loading if needed for larger pages

If you are using WordPress you can use a plugin to auto optimize your images without having to lift a finger. If you are on a custom platform you will need to code a custom solution to save time or as a last resort tell your marketing team to always run their images through something like compressor.io or similar and images should not exceed 1600px for in-content imagery.

The same information can apply for scripts as optimizing your images however, do this one step first – review all your scripts and attempt to reduce the total number on your site. Some themes are so bloated with functions that it will slow down your website which is why its recommended to build from scratch or use a starter theme without all the features.

There are some free CDN options but if you want real results, disable the free cdns through your site and server and go for something paid to gain real results. Paid results can take a bloated horribly coded website and reduce it to under 3 seconds without taking the other steps. Big tip here, even though a fast server and paid cdn may bring you into compliance do not give up there – fix everything even if you do not have to.

Move to a managed solution or cloud hosted option as cheap servers (grid hosting) often goes down and is unreliable especially in server response times. Better hosting solutions are around $15-$30 per month in 2019.

Lazy Loading is a technique where below the fold content or interactive content that is not required on-load can be loaded once the user begins to interact with that section of the page. This will reduce loading times significantly for pages that are full of images and tools.

In Conclusion

Site speed is a crucial technical aspect of your website that affects users experience (UX) and therefore is at the top of our list of things to fix on all websites no matter who you are. So the ultimate question is whether you want to be the fastest slug winning the race and maintaining the top 3 SERPs or are you shriveling up in the salt flats on page 2? No slugs were harmed in the making of this article.

Do you need help optimizing your website or an hour of consulting to get you on the right track? If so, give us a call today!