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This week’s #searchdrop looks into page speed improvements, the recent news that Googlebot is able to add products to the cart of your e-commerce site and finally the usage of voice search slowing down, for now.

Page speed is crucial, so how do you improve it?

Page speed is vital to the usability and performance of a site. As such, there are hundreds of different tips, tricks, and tools for improving your site performance with regards to speed.

Moz’s Whiteboard Friday covered a variety of aspects of page speed today, with information into the most common issues with page speed, how a page is loaded, and tools you can use to improve things.

With the below, we’ve tried to breakdown some of the key actionable information for page speed on a page and arm you with everything you need to know to improve your site’s page speed.

Most common page speed issues

  • Images – large images and images not using the correct formats etc, are often clear culprits of page speed issues
  • Hosting – if you’re on a shared server or an old/slow server, this will impact the speed in which users can request information
  • Third-party scripts – chat functionality, YouTube embeds and other third party scripts impact the way and the speed in which it loads
  • Your theme – if you’re using a bulky content editor in your WordPress install or a custom CMS that runs a lot of JS to load content, this all plays into the performance of pages
  • Redirects – every redirect is a step that a user or a bot has to take and the more steps, the slower the process
  • Javascript – JS can deliver so much to a site in terms of functionality, user experience etc, – but this is often at a cost of page speed

All of the above can be tweaked and improved on, but some aspects are much more difficult to the action than others. For example, changing your theme may be more difficult than compressing imagery.

Quick ways to improve your page speed

  • HTTP/2 – this is something you can enable on your server to speed up the request process for users. It also has benefits for security. HTTP/2 is an update to the transfer of information and focuses on efficiency
  • Preconnect, prefetch, preload  – these simple meta tags can improve the time between connection to a resource and the load of the resource. For example, prefetch will collect a resource the user may use later in their journey on site
  • CDN and Browser Caching – a CDN can support users by housing your content physically closer to their locations. For example, if you’re based in the UK and serving content to a US audience, if your content was available in the US (via a CDN) it’s quicker to load just because of the distance for data to travel. Browser caching supports returning users by storing resources from this site in browser
  • Image Compression / Formatting – straight forward but big images take longer to load, so compressing images is probably the easiest win in page speed improvement
  • Resource Minification – removing the white space within files seems odd, but each space is something that needs processing and those white spaces add up when working with a lot of javascript
  • Asynchronous loading – although this doesn’t lower the amount of code being requested, it changes the way it’s collected so you can prioritise the order in which things load, improving your content load

Tools for page speed analysis and review

  • Google Page Speed insights – provides valuable insight into areas of improvement for the page you put into the tool
  • Google Lighthouse – as with the above, you receive information on performance, best practice or SEO
  • Pingdom and/or GTmetrix – both of these tools highlight page speed issues with the scanned page

Tools for page speed improvements

  • TinyPNG (Online) or ImageOptim (Application) – tools for bulk compression of images
  • JSCompress – a tool for minifying javascript
  • WP Rocket or WP Super Cache – plugins for WordPress for improving page speed
  • Your developers – seems like an obvious one but the team that built your website might be one of the best assets you have for improving page speed

The above is just a number of the key useful tips and tools you can use.

Googlebot can add products to the cart!

Following complaints from sellers online of random abandoned carts from a ‘John Smith’, a Google spokesperson announced to the Wall Street Journal that this is in fact Googlebot!

This seemingly spammy abandonment is actually Google’s way of checking that the prices advertising on-site and in ads, Google shopping and merchant centre are correct. This crawl from Google is part of the terms and conditions of signing up to the platform but is no different from a normal crawl, excluding the obvious impact on e-commerce metrics.

What should you do about this?

If you want to continue to use Google Shopping then you’ll need to allow the crawl. The main thing to do would be to review your abandoned carts and look for odd data in there and caveat anything you do when using this metric with the inclusion of Googlebot traffic.

Voice search usage is slowing down

Voice search was the poster boy for a revolution in the way we were supposed to search. A lot of businesses put time and money into the production of more ‘conversational’ content to try and capture these longer tailed more unique searchers by users speaking to their various devices.

This effort meant users received better content generally speaking, but it seems that the original goal of capturing voice search traffic has taken a knock with the results of a recent survey by Perficient. The survey found that the use of voice search has hit a plateau against the results of last years survey.

What does this mean?

  • It’s not the end for voice search – a plateau isn’t a decline (yet) but the sophistication of voice search has improved over the years and will no doubt continue
  • Keep it in mind – voice search is still used by people, more broadly by users with a higher education according to the survey results. Therefore you should still consider the user experience for voice searchers and ensure they’re catered for
  • Voice is important to many devices – a majority of internet-connected devices (77%) are something other than a phone or tablet. For example, smart speakers, so bear these in mind when considering your voice search approach.

For more on this check out this article from Greg Sterling