The time it takes to load pages on your site has a major effect on both user experience as well as search rankings through Google’s inclusion of site speed as a major factor in SEO performance. You want your visitors to have a great and seamless experience browsing your site and Google wants to show sites that offer such positive user experiences high up in their search results. Therefore it should be a major priority of all webmasters to do everything in their power to reduce the load time of their site.
Just like in many other areas of life, the 80/20 rules, also known as the Pareto principle, applies to site speed albeit in 90/10 form. Recent research has shown that browsers spend only 10% of the time requesting the HTML file while the other 90% of the time is spent fetching external components such as style sheets, running scripts and downloading images. These are known as the ‘HTTP calls on page’ and are evidently the best place to start to improve the speed of any site. This article aims to explain the major areas for optimisation here focusing on each of these external components.
Scripts are basically any instructions given to the browser and most sites contain far too many individual scripts that slow them down. The solution here is to consolidate these scripts however the technical guidelines on how to do so are outside the scope of this article. Tracking codes or ‘tags’ can be a good place to start by first conducting a tag audit and subsequently removing any tags that are no longer used. The remaining tags can be further consolidated into a tag management solution, which replaces a bunch of tags with one container tag. There are many options out there, most of which are paid products, however Google have their own free tag management solution aptly titled Google Tag Manager.
Further site speed gains can be found by consolidation in the areas of style sheets and images. CSS style sheets from various parts of the site can usually be consolidated into one style sheet for the entire site presuming the styles are consistent throughout the site. However if your site users different style sheets then this is not a possibility, however the use of consistent style sheets throughout the site is considered best practice for both a site speed and user experience perspective.
Many sites are slowed down by separate image requests for each image within the HTML code. Considering that browsers can only run between two to four requests simultaneously this could present major issues for image heavy sites. Therefore the recommended solution here is the use of image maps, which can consolidate several image requests into one request see this page. The only limitation is that they can only be used for contiguous images contained within the same page element, such as the navigation panel.
Major gains in page load speed can be found in the area of HTTP calls on page and the key word here is consolidation – consolidation of all externally fetched components including scripts, style sheets and imagery. Paradox SEO can help you with reducing http calls and your SEO in general in ways that are easy to follow and impalement..