In the three years since Google rolled out their “Caffeine” update way back in June 2010, site speed has been high on the priority list of site owners and SEO’s alike. For the first time, the speed of your website could directly influence your rankings.
Clearly Google wants everyone to have a fast website, something they consider especially relevant in the multi-screen, multi-platform world we now live in. The “Caffeine” update was a clever way of forcing webmasters, designers and developers to pay more attention to the speed/weight of the sites they produce, something that historically was somewhere near the bottom of the list of priorities.
The urgency for faster sites is further compounded by the fact that we’re moving away from our desktop PC’s onto a range of mobile devices that typically have a slower internet connection and less processing power. Sites need to be faster and lighter to compensate.
And as always, Google have their own reasons for wanting the average speed of websites to improve. They’ll say it’s just about usability and accessibility on a wider range of devices but let’s not forget that faster sites have higher conversion rates and can afford higher Adwords bids!
Google wants us flying round the web clicking on lots of ads each hour and buying more on our various devices.
Whilst their motives might be questionable I’ll be the first to admit that I hate slow sites and have minimal patience when I’m surfing, so anything that results in faster sites is a good thing in my book.
Enter The Google PageSpeed Service
Current hosting solutions aren’t ideal. You’re forced into one of two categories, cheap shared hosting (including VPS’s) or expensive cloud/dedicated server solutions.
My view is that with its Pagespeed Service, Google are hoping to bridge the gap between the two by providing the tools needed to speed up sites running on modest hosting.
To achieve this the Pagespeed Service performs two primary tasks, firstly it’s rewriters optimise your code and configuration for speed and secondly they’ll serve all of your static assets (html, images etc) directly off the Pagespeed Servers, taking the load off your own server.
By combining a relatively inexpensive hosting package with the Pagespeed service you’ve potentially got the best of both worlds, you can keep your costs down and significantly improve page load speeds.
Sounds Complicated, Is It Easy To Setup?
In a word, yes! In fact, it’s extremely easy to setup and involves changing a single DNS Zone entry. Something that’s particularly easy if you’re existing hosting comes with CPanel.
10 minutes after starting the setup process our site was running off Google’s servers.
It’s a case of adding your domain to the Pagespeed system, changing the record detailed in the image above and then waiting for it to kick in.
But, Does It Actually Speed Things Up?
We’re pretty good when it comes to optimising for speed and already had decent figures:-
Our site is considerably quicker now it’s running on the Google Pagespeed Service. As you can see below, the page size has dropped but in our case it’s the improvement in initial server response time that has made the biggest difference.
We’re impressed, the Pagespeed service was extremely easy to setup and has significantly improved the performance of our website.
But.. there’s still one potential elephant in the room, the Pagespeed Service is free for now but won’t be indefinitely. We’ll revisit this post when Google have worked out their pricing structure and feedback on whether the Pagespeed Service still represents good value.