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Back in November 2009, the infamous Matt Cutt’s mentioned in an interview at PubCon that there was a push within Google to make the speed of your website a factor in ranking criteria. Considering that there are many factors that will affect the speed of your website, it seems a little unfair to me. None-the-less if that’s what Google plan to do, we all need to prepare ourselves for this possible ranking factor.

What can you do to ensure your website is running at optimum speed? Well as mentioned, there are a number of factors to take into account some in your control and others not. Here’s my list of things you should work on.

  1. Hosting
    First and foremost you should ensure your hosting is with a reputable hosting company that provide fast reliable hosting. Judging by the page speed test in Google’s Webmaster Tools, they will POSSIBLY take the average speed of your website over a set period of time.
  2. Reduce use of and optimise your image files
    There’s nothing easier than reducing the use of images on your website. For more complex designs, it may not be the easiest thing in the world, but when designing your website you should be conscious of the fact that larger images increase download times.

    Optimising your images is also of key importance. Make sure you choose the correct file format for the image type you are using. For example, don’t save a photograph as a gif!

  3. Clean Code
    Make sure your websites HTML code is as clean as can be, if possible don’t use tables. Apart from the fact that using tables for design is a no no in terms of web standards, tables tend to have a lot of code associated with them. If you can avoid using them, do so.
  4. Combine CSS files & Javascript Files
    Another obvious way to reduce the load time of your website pages is to combine your all your CSS into one extermal file rather than placing it all on the page. Similarly you should do the same with with all your javascript.
  5. Reduce HTTP Requests
    Following on from point number 4, you should try and limit the number of HTTP requests you make from your webpage. So for example, rather than having 2 or 3 external javascript files, try limit it to one file.
  6. Gzip Compression
    If your server supports it, make sure it’s turned on! Need I say more?

Of course, there are a number of other ways to reduce the load time of your website, but by sticking to these simple steps, it should be enough to keep your website running at an optimum speed. There are also a number of free tools available for you to test your web sites page speed. The Page Speed plugin for FireFox is really good as is the website www.webpagetest.org !!

Oh and don’t forget to check out the Page Speed test tool within Google Webmaster Tools to see how your page is currently performing!

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