Using page speed as a primary factor in the search-engine process will only affect a tiny percentage of sites, according to information from Google. The company provides a number of ways to speed up sites. Webmasters should probably take look at these. code.google.com
When word first came out about mod-pagespeed there was a tendency to panic. Developers and Webmasters found that in addition to the dozens of factors affecting search-engine rankings Google was going to start using speed as a primary factor. The questions were:
- Would this have a serious negative effect on the “little guys” who couldn’t afford to fully optimize their self-designed pages?
- How would complex but attractive pages be affected?
Here’s the bottom line on mod_pagespeed: Webmasters and developers will use this to improve performance of Web pages. But there is some specific information these developers will need to know. This is open-source Apache software used to automatically optimize pages and content served with the Apache HTTP server.
Using mod_pagespeed in combination with the correct compression and caching steps should result in significant improvement in loading time.
Before committing to the use of mod_pagespeed be sure you are working with Apache 2.2 since there aren’t any plans to support earlier versions. If you’re up to it you can develop a patch for these early versions.
According to the best information available, mod_pagespeed can be downloaded as binary code for i386 and x86-64 bit systems through svn. Google instructions add: “It is tested with two flavors of Linux: CentOS and Ubuntu. The developer may try to use them with other Debian-based and RPM-based Linux distributions.”
Several filters have already been mentioned but Google puts special emphasis on “exciting experimental features such as CSS outlining.” This enhances the ability to draw around some page elements to help them stand out to the viewer. Developers and Webmasters can set outline color, width and style.
Achieving optimum page speed is the goal but Webmasters have to take compression, caching and order of download into consideration. It’s also important to reduce the number of trips back to earlier pages and to cut down the number of round trips from page to page.
As you learn more about this significant change in the function of search engines and the Web you may want to understand Page Speed, an open-source add-on for Firefox/Firebug. This is used to evaluate page performance and find ways to improve results.
This is an extension to Mozilla Firefox that runs in the Web development package. Running a performance analysis on a page brings the user a set of suggestions and rules to follow for improvement. Page Speed measures page-load time so that it presents the issue from the user’s viewpoint.
Rich Get Richer?
So, with this additional information about using page speed as a search-engine factor, should we all start to worry about the “big boys” crushing the smaller sites? As we mentioned in brief earlier, this was a cause for concern among Webmasters, developers and site owners. But a blog from Matt Cutts in April went a long way toward reducing the stress of this announcement.
He literally thinks this is not that big a deal. His reasons include:
- Site relevance will still be paramount
- Reputation and content quality will still be primary factors
- Less than 1 percent of Web queries will change after the inclusion of site speed as a factor
- Most people didn’t even notice when Google launched the “speed” factor
There are a lot of sources for learning about site speed, mod_pagespeed and other factors in this process. Google has devoted a section of their Web presence to the issue. See code.google.com As for the problems presented to small sites, Cutts and others believe that smaller sites will be able to react more quickly and would actually feel fewer negative effects.
Keep in mind that when we took a brief look at Page Speed above (the open-source tool) we mentioned that the emphasis is on load time. That is the amount of time that passes between a user request and the time when they are able to see the full page, with all graphics, images and text.
Some larger sites with complex designs may suffer if they can’t figure out a way to speed up their load time. Part of the answer may be in the move to larger hosting companies that can afford to put lightning-quick servers into operation.
But there’s still another issue with using page speed. The tendency among quality Web companies is to analyze every detail of operation. Google Analytics can slow down load time as it tries to gather significant data. How will this be folded into overall operation of a site?
To Sum Up
Slow page-loading leads to loss of viewers. Studies have shown this to be true. Even if a site is very popular, users will drift away because of slow response times. It may take a week or two for them to build up the courage to come back. At this point it’s best to take a few basic steps such as reducing download size if possible, improving layout and minimizing round trips between pages.
We don’t need to panic about mod_pagespeed but then we probably shouldn’t be shouting from the rooftops either. The best path is somewhere between these two extremes.