Website performance seems to be the latest tool to get bloggers in a spin. The Story Reading Ape reblogged an interesting post by Jean at Jean’s Writing asking Do you know the visibility of your website?
Naturally, I spent yesterday evening checking out the answer, instead of what I was supposed to be doing.
Check your website performance
Among many tools on the internet, Website Grader provides an assessment of how your website performs against various criteria.
- Performance: how quick is it to load
- Mobile: is it responsive and does it have a good ‘viewport’
- SEO: is it easy for viewers to discover, and for search bots to, well, search
- Security: does it pass the standard security tests?
I tried it for this site and got the following report.
Well, that’s a relief.
My security is fine. The combination of Wordfence and Akismet for spam, seem to do the job just fine. Interestingly, my security on the Princelings website was not fine. I must check whether I have a Wordfence update due, or something. Viridian Series and the others on WordPress were fine. More on Blogger below.
My Mobile is fine everywhere. I deliberately chose a Theme that is optimised for mobile devices. Blogger seems mostly fine.
I only have Yoast SEO running on this blog. I didn’t see the need to go through it on the others. Now I think it might help people find the books. The mark down from 100% is due to the way you have to write ‘snippets’ containing the key words in your post. These are what the search engines display in searches. I have learnt from this exercise: instead of just repeating my first paragraph, I should slide in other phrases or keywords that people would search for, relevant to the post.
Instead of repeating the first line for this post in the ‘snippet’ section, I now have….”Website performance seems to be the latest tool to get bloggers worried. I checked Website Grader; reducing http calls & page size improved my loading speed.” But to really change the rating, I need to go back and amend the ‘snippets’ for my other posts. Is that worth it? Well, with well over a thousand posts on this blog, no. I haven’t gone back on the others to do their keywords with Yoast, let alone anything else. But… maybe I should do it for posts that I think might help people discover me.
This is the biggie. Everyone wants their blog to perform well, don’t they? And it looks like they have tips to improve your blog’s performance.
- Having lots of things on your website that aren’t loaded from your internal files slows things down.
- Twitter feeds, Facebook page signup widgets, Goodreads ‘I am reading’ widgets; these all go to the relevant media site and load up what you have been doing lately. Yes, they make the blog look good, but they also slow it down. So my Goodreads ‘currently reading’ has gone from the sidebar, the Facebook pages for my book pages have gone to a new Contact page sidebar, along with a Google+ follow widget. I decided to keep the Twitter feed and the Pinterest display for now. I also took away the social media buttons from my Gravatar display on the blog menu page here, as they are duplicated top right. Once I did that, I found my loading speed and particularly my Page Requests had improved
- I also took Sumo out of my site. It’s been irritating me, I can’t work out how to make it useful, and the only person it has helped has been the Story Reading Ape. I’m sure there must be something else to offer the Reblog facility without such a lot of effort (and probably page requests)
- Uncompressed images make my Page Size too large.
- I went through about two years of media, checking any that were over about 300 kb, and reducing the size of the pictures. There are other ways of doing it, but I found that for some pictures, changing the size from e.g.900×900 to 800×800 reduced the file size from 550kb to 75! Obviously there is some form of compression with WordPress, although it doesn’t work for every file format.
That took me the rest of yesterday evening, and brought me to the results you see above. It’s only improved my Performance by 1. Underneath that, though, it has improved:
Page Size: from 2.8 Mb (heavy) to 1.2Mb, described as ‘so light’
Page Requests: from 162 (appalling) to 92 (that’s a lot of requests)
Page Speed: from 6.5 (slow….) to 4.2 secs (might try speeding it up a bit)
A word of caution
I tried the Checker before I logged in to do this post and got a different report. Overall score 74, with my Security down to 8. Page size was 442kb (so it’s gone up since I logged in). Page Requests were down to 44, which I was delighted with. And Security was different because it told me I wasn’t caching, which I know am without doing anything different. Maybe Wordfence was running a cache when Checker was checking?
I’m just going to run it again, to see what happens. Page size 1.1Mb, Page Requests 89 and Page Speed 5.1secs (it was 4.3 before I finished this post). I suspect some of this ‘performance’ is down to what is happening at the servers where my blog is located. The time of day could well affect the test, so I’ll try it again at other times.
Don’t take what it says for granted, in other words.
My Blogger blog
Princelings Publications rates 72, OK, overall. The Performance is better at 17/30, despite having huge 6.4 Page size and 134 Page requests, the Page speed is excellent at 1.9 secs. Mobile rates a full 30/30 as with the WP sites, and SEO the same at 25/30, although I don’t know of anything they do to help my SEO over at Blogspot. Security, though, is a big fat zero. There is no SSL certificate, and that gives it a zero rating. Well, we know that Blogger has not been good at cleaning spam for a long time. Giving an SSL certificate is probably completely down to them, not the user.
The Page size and Page Requests are something I could do something about, though. It’s about the design used, the compression of the images, the number of other sites being pointed at to get the loading done. There are lots of widgets for Smashwords books. There are RSS links, Goodreads widgets, you name it, they all make page requests. And I’ve never been over fussy about compressing images for Blogger because they didn’t set limits (WordPress refuses to load anything much over 2Mb).
Should I care about Website Performance?
I don’t know, is the short answer. I want people to enjoy the experience of my blog, and there is more to blogging than pages loading fast. But Hubspot, the company behind the Website Grader, says that people will give up on slow loading websites – and on mobiles the time allowed is as short as four seconds. The cynic in me says that Hubspot just make the Website Grader (which doesn’t seem to have very good reproducibility) so that you click to lots of information posts on their site, all of which suggest other tools you can use to improve your ratings.
But I’m an author, not a blogger, and definitely not a web guru. I want to know how to present myself as well as possible within limits. And really, I could have written a bit of flash fiction in the time used on talking about website performance. But then, I’ll do that anyway, after I’ve done some gardening.
I think it is worthwhile checking your website’s performance and then doing the easy things to help it perform better. But don’t lose the things that make it attract to your readers, and a useful marketing tool for your books (if you’re an author). As with all things, keep your target in sight, and enjoy your blogging adventures.