Site Speed Optimization Techniques #Semrushchat

Liza Voronkova

Feb 06, 201712 min read
Site Speed Optimization Techniques

There’s no need to mention how crucial your website’s speed is to its online performance. The faster your site’s load time, the better. Webpages that have a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and a lower average time on a page. So, the question is, how can you speed up your website?

To answer this question, we decided to discuss this topic during our weekly SEMrush Chat. This time, we asked Bastian Grimm to be our guest expert. Bastian is a speaker, a trainer, an online marketing professional, an international SEO consultant, the Director of Organic Search at Peak Ace AG, and the Managing Partner of Grimm Digital.

Let’s find out how to optimize your website’s speed!

Q1. What is the difference between Yslow and Google PageSpeed, and is there any "okay" site speed score for both?

To start, we asked our chat guests about the difference between Google PageSpeed and YSlow. Both of these tools are designed to help website owners analyze and optimize their site speed.

Our special guest said that the biggest difference between these two tools is that YSlow is a client-based plugin that runs in your browser, while Google PageSpeed is not.

Browser-based tools, such as YSlow, are usually less accurate, but Google’s tool also has a serious disadvantage, because the "grade" that the tool applies to your site is not helpful. As for a good speed score, Bastian recommended not only focusing on your site’s score, but also paying attention to whether or not your site is actually fast.

Patrick Stox believes that both of these tools will only show you some opportunities to implement site speed optimization best practices, but neither of them tells you about your website performance.

In Bill Slawski’s opinion, YSlow and Google PageSpeed use slightly different indicators to measure website load speed.

However, the Miles Technologies ‏ @milestech team pointed out that both tools use the same rules: “Both use a similar set of rules. PageSpeed pays more attention to CSS. YSlow has a more convenient visual interface.”

Gabriella Sannino mentioned that YSlow effectively removes unused CSS files in order to specify your image dimensions and give your site the ability to cache extra files. Google PageSpeed, on the other hand, provides just a few tests based on best practices: “[Best practices] are the elusive words Google likes to throw around,” tweeted Gabriella.

Dawn Anderson finds PageSpeed Insights very helpful and considers YSlow a bit more granular.

You can also check out the following article that Bill Slawski shared: “ Google’s Patent on Site Speed as a Ranking Signal.” But we’ll also return to the relationship between website speed and search rankings a bit later.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q1

Now let’s move on and find out the best tools for site speed optimization.

Q2. What are the best tools to test website speed and improve your site's performance?

Our chat participants named the best tools for testing a site’s speed and improving its performance.

Here they are.

  • WebPagetest. WebPagetest is an open source project and a tool that is used for measuring and analyzing your webpages’ performance. You can easily run it in your browser and get a wealth of information about how your site performs.

  • GTmetrix. This free tool analyzes your webpage’s speed. Using PageSpeed and YSlow, it generates scores for your pages and provides the full picture on how your website loads.

  • Pingdom. Pingdom is a service that tracks the uptime, the downtime, and your website’s performance. With this tool, you can quickly find out when your website is down or slow.

  • Varvy’s Pagespeed. This tool shows you a graphical representation of what can be fixed and improved on your site. Its reports are broken into five different sections: page resource, JavaScript usage, CSS delivery, page speed issues found, and services used.

Observatory by Mozilla. Observatory is an online project that was designed to help developers and system administrators create safe and secure websites. Just enter the URL of your site and the tool will analyze it, providing a numerical score and a letter grade for your site’s performance.

Miles Technologies also named Google PageSpeed Insights and YSlow, which we talked about earlier: “PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom, YSlow plugin to name a few. There are a lot of free tools out there.”

SEMrush Chat Recap Q2

As you can see, there’re some helpful tools for testing your site speed, and each of them has their own unique features. Once you know about all of your site's drawbacks, you can start fixing them.

Q3. Images take a lot of time to load. How should marketers optimize images to improve their site’s load speed?

Everybody knows that optimizing your images can speed up your website. But how exactly can you improve your site’s load speed and boost its performance by optimizing your images?

Here’re five tips to do it right.

1. Serve images in proper dimensions

First of all, you need to make sure that you use images of the right dimensions. Before your browser can display your page, it must understand how to lay out your content around your visuals. Therefore, if your browser doesn’t know the size of your images, it will have to figure it out, making your site load slowly. To speed things up, specify your image dimensions.

2. Use proper image formats

There are various image file formats that are used on the Web, such JPEG, PNG, and GIF. Each of these has its specific use cases. It’s important to use certain image formats for specific purposes. For example, if you want to make a transparent background, a transparent line or a transparent area in your image, it’s better to use PNG format, while JPEGs are typically used for colorful images. For animated images, you need to use GIFs. For more information, you can check out this thorough explanation of different image file formats provided by Vladimir Gendelman.

3. Resize and resample images before uploading

Resizing an image means changing its output size without changing the number of pixels. As a result, the image resolution will change, it will drop if its size is increased, or increase if its output size is decreased. Resampling images is the process of changing the pixel count, which requires interpolation. The output size, as well as the resolution, may remain the same or change. Make sure to resize or resample your images before uploading them.

4. Use WordPress plugins

If you use WordPress, there are a number of WordPress image optimization plugins that can ensure your website loads quickly. Here’re two of the most popular plugins.

  • WP Smush. Smush allows you to easily resize, compress, and optimize your images. The Smush plugin ensures all unnecessary data is cut without slowing down your site.

  • Kracken Image Optimizer is another plugin that allows you to optimize JPEG, PNG, and GIF files through its own API.

5. Use tools to reduce the size of your images

You can also use helpful tools for optimizing your images, such as It’s a powerful online service that reduces the size of your images, while maintaining their high quality. You can choose between two types of compression: lossy (with picture quality reduction) and lossless (with the same picture quality).

Let’s sum up!

SEMrush Chat Recap Q3

There are multiple ways to optimize your images. Experiment with different tools and plugins to see for yourself which of them you prefer.

Q4. What impact does site speed have on search rankings, if any?

There has been a lot of talk about whether or not Google considers website speed as a ranking factor. In 2016, Gary Illyes from Google confirmed that the company’s webmaster team will be updating the page speed ranking factor to look at the load speed of your mobile pages. He also said on Twitter that Google is just in the “planning phases.”

We asked our chat participants to say what impact, if any, site speed has on Google’s search rankings.

Bastian Grimm pointed out that even though Google claims that page speed is a ranking factor, it’s just one of many other factors, and you need to consider it in addition to other important aspects. What matters is user experience, which can be affected by site load speed.

Tangram Sky agrees that your site's load time is just one of other important ranking factors. If your website loads very fast but your content is irrelevant, its high speed will hardly do you any good. Kiyo ‏ @Cute_Data also said that a fast website won't fix anything if the has other issues, but slow pages will result in a bad user experience, which means fewer clicks and less time on site.

Matt Lacuesta believes that website speed plays a more important role in mobile search and agrees that you need to provide your users with an excellent, smooth experience while on your site.

Some of our chat participants remarked that site speed is a minor factor compared to relevance. However, Ryan Jones said that the speed of your webpages affects various metrics, such as conversions, page views, and visits.

Brian Kato thinks that there’s a correlation between your pages’ speed and higher rankings. Site load speed is becoming more important, considering the use of AMP pages and Facebook Instant Articles.

In Adam Dince’s @AdamDince opinion, site speed doesn’t have a significant impact on search rankings so far. However, it does affect user behavior.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q4

In a nutshell, as AJ Ghergich pointed out, ‏site speed is more of an indirect ranking factor. But slow sites definitely have higher bounce rates and poor efficiency in terms of user experience.

Q5. Should marketers optimize their site’s speed even if it loads pretty quickly? If yes, why?

At the end of our discussion, our chat participants shared their opinions on whether or not website owners and marketers need to optimize their site’s speed, even if it loads fast.

Here’s what they answered.

1. It’s a matter of competition

Bastian Grimm pointed out the importance of competition. You have very little time to show your visitors your content and convince them to stay with you. If your site is slow, there’s a chance that your users will leave your website before it even loads and go to your competitors who can provide a better user experience. As long as your rivals are faster, you need to optimize your site speed.

2. It should be a part of your ongoing core process

Many of our chat participants believe that optimizing your site speed should be a part of your ongoing process. Pay attention to how fast your site loads, but don’t focus solely on this aspect. “I wouldn't optimize speed as its own project — but as part of another core project, why wouldn't you make it faster?” tweeted Ryan Jones.

3. It’s important to do a weekly site speed check

Sandeep Mallya recommended testing your site's speed weekly in order to see if it needs improvement. To analyze your site’s performance and speed, you can use the tools that our chat participants named.

4. Site speed optimization can make your site accessible to a wider audience

Bill Slawski made a great point, saying that optimizing your site's speed can benefit your broadband Internet users and make your website accessible to a wider audience.

5. If you have bigger issues, you need to focus more on them

Even though you need to monitor your site’s speed and follow best practices, if you have bigger problems with your site, you need to focus your efforts on those issues. “If your users are not bouncing due to load times and your site is faster than the competition, optimize where you’re losing,” suggested Corey ‏ @CoreyW85. Jennifer Slegg ‏ @jenstar agrees, saying that if your site is already fast, there’re far better things to spend your time on that will provide a greater return on investment.

Let’s sum up these key points.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q5

Internet users are now less patient and tolerant of slow websites than they’ve ever been. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to optimize your site’s speed. The steady shift towards mobile Internet usage means that if your site’s not fast, you won’t be able to beat the competition.

We would like to thank Bastian Grimm and our other chat participants for sharing great website speed optimization techniques.