How Heavy Is Your Web Site Code?

Hostway Tech Team - May 11, 2010

By Monique Martin

Lean and mean isn’t just the smart way to run a business, it’s the smart way to run a Web site. The more cluttered and bloated your code, the slower your site, and the less attractive it is to both users and Googlebot. Luckily, Google has some tools that can help. Google’s Webmaster Tools gives you insight into where your site is bogging down and how to clean it up.

Crawl Errors

First things first. When Googlebot crawls your site, it updates any new or changed pages in the Google index. It looks at every link you have in your site. When a link has an error, Googlebot can’t follow it and index that page. To clean up your crawl errors, sign into your Google Webmaster Tools account and click on “Diagnostics.” Then, click on “crawl errors” and you’ll see a list of URLs with errors.

Site Performance

How well your site performs isn’t just a matter of cleaning up dead links. It’s about making your site as lean and clean as possible. How quickly your site loads is more important than ever. As of mid-April, 2010 page load speed is part of the PageRank algorithm. That means that the time it takes for your Web pages to load can directly affect your PageRank.

The latest and greatest Webmaster Tool is Site Performance. This handy feature not only diagnoses performance issues, but recommends solutions too. To give your Web site the once over, go to the Labs section of Webmaster Tools.

You’ll see the average load time of your Web pages over the last few months and what percentile that puts you in.

Using the same criteria as their new Page Speed tool, Google creates a list of sample pages that are slowing your site down and suggests ways to speed them up. Click on the plus boxes to drill down and see the details for each URL. Here are some examples of suggested resolutions to common performance issues.

  • Gzip compression — In the same way you zip a big file when you email it, Gzip sends compressed files to browsers, saving bandwidth and load time.
  • Combine external JavaScript — Combine your JavaScript files into as few files as possible
  • Combine external CSS — Same idea as the combine JavaScript. The fewer external files you have, the faster the page will load
  • Compress JavaScript — You can use Google’s Closure Compiler to make faster, smaller JavaScript code.
  • Minimize DNS lookups — Consolidate as much as possible. If you keep resources on several domains, it slows the load time
  • Serve resources from a consistent URL
  • Avoid bad requests 404/410 “page not found” errors are no one’s friend. If you’ve taken care of the crawl errors, you shouldn’t have any broken links left.

These are just a few of the ways Google Webmaster Tools can help you clean up your site. By following site performance best practices, you’ll have a leaner, meaner site and that means better indexing and happier customers.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as chief operating officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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