Last week, we were introduced to Google Instant. Some say it’s creepy. Some are “amazed.” Some actually see this as a step backward.
Google says that it saves between 2 to 5 seconds per search. Doesn’t sound like much. But when you consider all the searches being performed around the world, that time does add up.
I’m not going to get too caught up in Google Instant today, but rather discuss the bigger picture: speed matters with today’s Google. Let’s also examine Google’s focus on a “good user experience” for searchers, addressing issues such as broken links.
Check out this graphic from a client’s Google Webmaster Tools (below):
We had discussed resolving some issues with their code to enhance their website’s load time; the results were pretty phenomenal. Pages crawled per day jumped from 35,000 to over 100,000. Time spent downloading a page went from 17,000 milliseconds to a low of 404 milliseconds. The website also went from around 100,000 pages indexed to over 700,000 pages indexed in Google.
I don’t think there’s any doubt what caused all of this “good SEO love” from Google.
Speed is important to your website’s visitors. We’ve known it to be important for usability. Now, we know that it’s important for search engine optimization. How much time are you putting into creating the best user experience that you can, including improving your website’s load time? Remember, Google tries to deliver the best experience that it can to a searcher. So that aligns with things that we’ve known, but perhaps neglected to give as much attention to up until this point.
You can no longer overlook something like this. Are you hosting your website with a reliable service? Do you have a dedicated server? Downtime is another thing that can bite you in the butt. You want your website to have good uptime and serve up pages quickly, and “on demand” when Googlebot (define) comes by for a visit.
Here are some tools you might consider using to ensure that your website is everything that it can be in light of Google’s new focus on speed and your continued focus on maintaining a healthy website.
Pingdom: At our agency, we track all of our client’s websites using Pingdom. We can get instant notification of downtime, and also maintain an archive of any downtime that’s happened with the domain.
Firebug: This tool does a lot more than just provide you with steps for helping your website load faster. Still, that’s what I find myself using Firebug for lately. A simple download will place this Firefox plug-in into your Tools menu; you can open it whenever you are on a page that you would like to investigate further.
Web Page Analyzer from WebSiteOptimization.com: If you’d like to know how to speed up your website’s performance, but would rather not hassle with setting up Google Webmaster Tools, Firebug, or anything else, consider this service. Visit this website and enter in your domain; you will receive a list of everything loading on that page and a list of things that you might do to improve performance.
Google Webmaster Tools: If you don’t already have Google Webmaster Tools set up, do it now. It enables you to get some great crawl data for your website as well as site speed information, including archived information (see screenshot, below).
Xenu Link Sleuth: This is my default tool for uncovering any bad links that may exist on websites. Certainly, if a visitor clicks on a broken link on your website, that’s a bad experience. I suspect this also matters to the search engines. This free tool is really simple to use. Download this to your desktop, open ‘er up, enter in a domain that you would like to check, and “run.” To avoid getting too many “bad link reports” from social sites, be sure to use the exclusion feature to designate those URLs/domains you do not want a report against. (For instance, you would want to exclude websites such as StumbleUpon.com, Mixx.com, MySpace.com, Digg.com, reddIT.com, etc.) Once you have your report and see some broken links that seem questionable, right click on that result and select “properties” to see the detail, as shown in the graphic below.
Site performance is an issue that I think will become even more heavily weighted as we move on in search engine optimization. Remember though, this isn’t just an investment that you are making in your search engine optimization efforts, but also one that you are making in user experience. Consider this a win-win.