SEO is a big part of any blogger’s journey. Most bloggers prefer organic marketing to paid advertising.
Especially at the start, when you don’t really have the budget to spend on advertising. Plus there’s something special about ranking on Google search results.
And good SEO means you make your blog profitable.
So it’s almost a given that a blogger has to get really familiar with the concepts behind SEO. It’s a multipronged approach.
One of the factors to having a highly-ranked blog is page speed. It is a major factor in my book, as I’m a big believer in making many little improvements to get a big overall result.
Here's what we'll cover
- What is page speed?
- Reduce Redirects
- Leverage Browser caching
- Optimizing Images
- Hosting Option
- My recommendation
- Your Takeaway
What is page speed?
The page speed is the time it takes for the server hosting your blog to respond to a user request. It can also be the time taken to finish loading the page.
In any case, it is measured in milliseconds. If you’re a blogger, and your page speed has to be measured in seconds, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Why you should care?
A blog is about its content. And that’s what your audience are there for. So your job is to make sure they’re able to browse and read seamlessly.
Everything else is secondary. The snazzy looking themes, high-def images, embedded videos, all of it.
These should only add to the experience, not distract away from it. Priority is making sure a visitor is able to load the page and read without any hitch.
There’s also a SEO angle to this. A faster page will rank higher on Google, all other things being equal.
Google PageSpeed Insights
This reason is exactly why Google have made their developer tool available to the rest of us.
Their PageSpeed Insights can be used to measure how fast your site loads. They turn the response time into a score with a maximum of 100.
It’s called the Speed score, real subtle. And on your blog should aim for 100. You have no excuse to go for anything less.
Text is your trade and text is light. So having more slower loading elements on your site should take a back seat to having an ultra-light page.
The tool even gives you an in-depth report. This gives you an explanation of why your score is what it is.
There will also be suggestions for improving your speed score. Separate ones for desktop and mobile for added convenience.
Desktop and mobile
Of course, you have to check your scores on both desktop and mobile. They will differ because phones use slower hardware and your blog will act differently.
So make sure you check scores on both before you stop stripping away the unnecessary elements.
Page speed is particularly important when people see your blog on mobiles. Bad page speed makes a lot of people leave your blog after seeing just the one post.
An article from Think with Google addressed this exact issue. They used a very telling infographic in it.
Those numbers are not uncommon when accessing sites from mobile devices. So make sure your blog doesn’t become part of these stats.
There are a lot of things you can do to bring your speed score up to an acceptable level. That’s about 85+ for blogs.
We’ll be checking each way to increase page speed and how you can use it for your blog.
This is a pretty straight-forward step.
If you have a lot of stuff to load, make sure the stuff is compressed. This is not for images and videos and such, but for the more basic stuff.
But it does add up and will shave precious time off your response time.
There’s a free tool called Gzip that makes this possible.
Redirects are actually quite useful. Redirects like 301 and 302 use HTTP to explain that a page or resource has moved.
So it’s to ensure all elements in the page load correctly or to ensure all links in your blog lead somewhere and not result in an error.
But avoid these as much as you can.
How do redirects affect page speed?
What redirects do is that they ensure any user request returns the correct result. But it’s like being bounced around by bad directions.
Instead of having a request return the correct resource or page on the first try, you get bounced around instead till you land in the right place.
These increase in number the longer your blog has been up and is something you should always have a handle on.
As far as redirects go, server-side redirects are the faster and less-damaging ones.
Your web browser can handle these a lot quicker and make less of a dent in the loading time.
These must be avoided at all costs. These result in longer waiting times and performance issues. Strict no-no.
Leverage Browser caching
This has been a life-saver when it comes to saving denizens on the web time.
What caching does is that it has the user’s browser store some of the webpage resources. So the next time the user loads the same page, most of it is pre-loaded and don’t have to be fetched from the server.
This cuts down a lot of the time your browser would’ve spent loading the same resources over and over again.
It’s why people clear their browser cache. These tend to add up over time from multiple sites. This makes your browser bulky and slow.
But from a blogger’s perspective whatever design elements you didn’t strip away, can be stored on the visitor’s browser.
Leveraging browser caching is the process of instructing the user browser what elements to store for the next time(s).
You would normally set the cache period, the time for which the browser will store resources, to a year at the most.
There’s a reason why this wasn’t included in the ‘compression’ section.
We use images to break up the text. It makes the site look better when the right used images.
One of the things you would do, especially if you have a tight content schedule, is to resort to stock images.
They look good with their high-def sheen. But they are also bulky as heck.
So you compress them right? Wrong. This makes the image look a bit unattractive. Thereby defeating the original purpose of the images.
So my advice is this. Keep them to a minimum, especially stock photos. They seldom add much value to your blog.
So stick to images that support the writing. Screenshots and the like. But even these can be a bit bulky. So we optimize them.
What does it mean?
It’s a compromise between high-def and random compression.
It is possible to reduce the bulk of an image file without losing much of the quality.
So the look of the page and the load-time are both given their due.
Fairly obvious. Less bulky images. Faster load time. Smoother browsing and scrolling. Better SEO. Cakes all around.
Images still look good. So the aesthetics is also preserved.
How to optimize?
If you’re blogging on a WordPress site like I am, this means plugins. And boy are there options when it comes to WordPress plugins.
Rather than dragging you through their plugin market, shouting excitedly about the various options, I can suggest a couple that’ll do the job.
But I like ease so I stuck to the plugins.
And finally, there is the hosting option you chose. Obviously, for any hosting service, the pricier plans will be faster. At least I hope that’s how it works.
But all kidding aside, check out Hrank for a list of hosting options and their response times.
I’ll just leave a couple of options I’ve tried and am happy with.
A solid option for every argument between hosting options. More than solid to be honest.
Good options and great support to boot. It’s fast and is a great option for a blogger.
Inexpensive and solid performance across categories.
It is also a good service to pick, but is a bit lacking in helpful support.
- Best Speed Test tool: Google PageSpeed Insights for both desktop and mobile.
- Best Compression: Gzip is the only real choice because it’s perfect.
- Best Image Optimization tool: I’ve used reSmush for my blog posts and it’s worked great.
- Best Hosting Option: BlueHost for inexpensive and managed WordPress hosting.
Take the tests. All of them.
And don’t rest till you see green across the board for desktop and mobile.