This week Matt Cutts confirmed that natural search will start to look at the speed of your site as ranking factor. It’s something thats been in the pipeline, and an obvious change if you’ve been following the “let’s make the web faster” drive from Google.

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I think it’s a great move, there’s nothing more frustrating than a slow Internet connection or a slow site. If you head over to the “let make the web faster” from Google there are instructions to how to make your site faster some are a little complicated such as compressing JavaScript and CSS, HTTP caching, minimizing browser reflow etc.

If you know what your doing then thats great but if your an average webmaster here are five simple tips to speed your site up for Google and users.

1. Optimizing Images

Optimizing images is a simple process, there are two methods. Reduce white space, rather than giving your image a boarder or space crop the image tight and then use CSS to create boarder and positioning.

Save in the correct format, rather than using JPG’s GIF’s can be sometimes reduce file sizes for logo and simple images. Using “save for web” setting on programs such as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop will enable you get the best size while not compromising on quality. To get old images into a compressed format use a bulk process, remember to keep the file names the same and if changing extensions add re-directs to preserve image rankings.

2. Don’t use tables

When making the HTML output of pages don’t be tempted into using tables to display data. With a bit of skill you can recreate the same thing in CSS. A great article gives 13 reasons why CSS is better than table the number 1 being faster load times.

3. Navigation

Two points with navigation, a) how many items in the navigation can effect load time. Listing every single category and subcategory in some sites would create a huge navigation over 100+ items. Only link to the top levels on every page and other relevant pages, a good example of this in action is the BBC site, go into the sport sections to see..

b) Coding of the navigation is also important. Using Flash or JavaScript (all the code) is a no go, using css with a little JavaScript can create efficient drops downs, even better don’t use drop downs just a plain navigation will keep load times down. Remember that navigation is on every page so improving navigation improves load time on every page in the site.

3. Reduce loads form external sites

Each http request adds time to the load of your site, this includes loading items from a different site. Where possible host images on your own site, don’t have multiple tracking codes, try not to pull twitter / RSS feeds into every page.

4. Move External JavaScript and CSS to external files

By placing the JavaScript and CSS in an external file users and search engines don’t have to load it on each page load. You place the code in a file either .js or .css and link to in the head of the page e.g.

5. Get a decent server

Yes it costs money but if you’ve spent time on the last 4 points they might have no effect if your server is slow. To get a good indication of speed ask the company for some high traffic example site and go on them at peak traffic times. Ask if any are “digg proof” and the specifications of the server.

Over all these 5 points might make a difference but the objective is to make improvements to lots of different areas, added together they will make a difference to the speed of your site.

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