Now that Google is expected to pull site speed into their ranking algorithm, could this negatively affect your rankings? Should website owners look to improve their site speed? 

While Google’s ranking algorithm takes into account hundreds of different factors, I personally can’t imagine site speed will play a major factor on most site’s rankings. With that said, will a website that takes exceptionally long to load be penalized? It very well could be. In my opinion, most website owners shouldn’t obsess over site speed unless they notice a significant issue. If you do happen to notice an issue or are just interested in identifying a few quick fixes that may increase your site’s load time, there are plenty of free resources at your disposal.

Free Website Speed Tools

Whether you are looking to increase your site speed as a response to Google’s expected algorithm change, or you just want to make browsing your site a little bit faster for your users, the following are some great tools for analyzing and improving your website’s speed.

Firebug

For those of you that have Firebug installed as a browser add-on, you already a very easy way of checking your website’s loading time. If you don’t have Firebug yet, click the link below to install it on your browser. Once you have Firebug installed and opened, simply click on the "Net" tab and select "Enabled." Now you can visit your website and you will see all the requests being processed in real time. Once your page is finished loading, you can scroll to the bottom of Firebug and view how many requests were made, the total amount of data that was requested, and finally, how long your page took to load. It is important to note that you must clear your cache before loading the page to get a true first page load time for your site.

Download Firebug

Yahoo! YSlow

Yahoo’s YSlow is another great program for identifying issues and improving your site’s speed. YSlow is an add-on that is integrated with the Firebug tool so you must have Firebug installed before using YSlow. Once you have both of the tools installed on your browser, simply open Firebug and navigate to the YSlow tab. Make sure your browser is displaying your website and then hit the ‘Run Test’ button. YSlow will provide you with an overall performance score and then also grade the performance of individual components of your site. Based on the grades your site receives, this will help you determine which areas you can improve upon to help speed up your site’s loading time.

Download Yahoo! YSlow

WebPagetest.org

WebPagetest.org is very similar to YSlow, but operates on their site directly rather than you having to install a browser plugin. When compared to YSlow, this tool provides some additional test options including your choice of test location, browser, connection speed, and more. The test usually takes about a minute or two to run and provides you with a plethora of data. In comparison to the other site speed tools, WebPagetest.org provides a much better visual representation of the data. Included in this test are two pie charts showing the breakdown of requests and bytes as well as an optimization checklist of each individual request.

Visit WebPagetest.org

Google Page Speed

Page Speed is one of the newer site speed tools developed by Google and seems to be a direct response to Yahoo’s YSlow tool. Google’s Page Speed also operates as an integrated Firebug add-on and works in a very similar manner to that of YSlow. I have noticed, though, that these two tools will often provide slightly different results. I recommend running both tests and then comparing the results from Page Speed and YSlow.

Download Google Page Speed

Google Closure Compiler

Another great free tool by Google is their Closure Compiler. Many sites these days seem to be loading a handful or two of external JavaScript files for various site functions and this is often one area where you can speed up you site’s loading time. Simply add the locations of your various JavaScript files and this tool will automatically combine and optimize your JavaScript. With smaller optimized JavaScript, your website will load a bit faster.

Download Google Closure Compiler

If you have any other website speed tools that you like to use, be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

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