Improve Page Load Speed – Steal Half A Second From Your Competitor

As lifelong students of marketing, we’ve subscribed to Steve Jobs’ advice from his 2005 Stanford commencement speech: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Because we’ve done our due diligence, we know that achieving organic search rankings comes only from hard work and persistence. We know that a winning search strategy involves more than just compelling content in combination with an earned media strategy, search-friendly architecture, and a unique social presence. It’s competitive intelligence research. It’s testing and refining. It’s marketing automation. It’s thought leadership. It’s leading with your “Why?”

Pop quiz

How could you hand over a potential client to a competitor in just under half a second? Let’s suspend your disbelief and suppose your top competitor knows all about a winning search strategy, and that you and your competitor have the exact same purpose, strategy, website, and collective brain power. Your sites, which are near-duplicates (and they’re not getting penalized for duplicate content because you’re suspending your disbelief), are also the most relevant sites in your market related to a highly commercial search term.

However, their site loads in 200ms and your site loads in 400ms. That’s the only supposed difference between you and your top competitor. Who do you think will win the time and attention of a potential client performing the search query for this highly commercial term in your industry? If you answered your site—which loads 200ms slower than your competitor—I’m going to go out on a limb and say you might be a bad test taker.

Page speed racer

So why all the rigmarole with this scenario? Why strip away of all the other potential issues that could plague your site or your top competitor’s site? Because when you’re addressing your site and any issue that you have the ability to control, analyzing each item with this intensity allows you to properly address each item and give each item the proper weight it deserves.

Page speed happens to be one of the more important items you can address on your site. Page speed is under your control. It serves as an overall quality indicator to Google that your site will allow visitors to access information quickly. It also plays into your on-site metrics, to which Google gives a great deal of weight. On-site metrics that play a role in page speed include metrics like bounce rate, average time on site and average pages visited.

New additions to your online toolbox

In June of 2009, Google released a study they conducted using speed loading increments similar to the ones mentioned above. Their study covers the importance of page speed in search. Since then, Google released other speed related updates like Google Instant and Instant Pages (releases which are out of control of the site owner). Google also began counting speed as a ranking factor, the industry realized time to first byte (TTFB) seems to be correlated to this ranking factor and earlier this year, Matt Cutts announced mobile page speed will soon be a ranking factor for sites.

Based on the number of related tools Google has released, page speed is also becoming more important. Google successively released PageSpeed for Firefox, Google PageSpeed Insights, the PageSpeed Insights API, PageSpeed Module, PageSpeed Optimization Libraries and most recently PageSpeed Service (currently free to accepted applicants). They even recently ported all page speed data from Google Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics.

We took the hint and asked ourselves the question: “How can we look at an entire site (or the most highly trafficked pages of a site) and analyze page load speed issues so we can quickly address them?” Our answer was simple: utilize the PageSpeed Insights API to create a Google Drive tool.

We’ve made this tool freely available to anyone who would like to use it, and instructions can be found here. Our PageSpeed Insights API tool analyzes any number of pages/URLs input. Put in your own URLs or a competitor’s. The tool determines page speed issues, highlights overall relative impact of an issue on the associated page and quickly identifies recurring page speed site issues. Each page analyzed also receives a PageSpeed Insights URL that directs you to the information needed to quickly correct the problem on your server.

It’s easy to see that site page speed is of growing importance to Google. The focus Google has put into releasing page speed related tools demonstrates Google’s focus on page speed as a ranking factor. Analyze your site and address any page speed issues so that you don’t lose any more clients to your competitors.

Image credit: wwarby