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Web Police: Google Toys With Penalizing Slow Websites

Fabric and E-Commerce Sites Could be Especially Vulnerable

January 28, 2020

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 By JOE DYSART

Google is toying with the idea of shaming slow-loading websites by displaying a "Usually loads slow" splash screen in place of a homepage when someone is trying to visit a textiles business site.

The move, which Google detailed in a recent blog post (https://blog.chromium.org/2019/11/moving-towards-faster-web.html), would have a chilling effect on any website Google deems as slow-loading.


Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin is policing the security of websites.

Essentially:  A "Usually loads slow" splash screen posted by Google could hurt fabrics and furnishings businesses, encouraging a web surfer to move along to an alternative website with better performance.

"Internet users are less tolerant of slow websites than they’ve ever been," says Marcus Taylor, founder, Venture Harbour (https://www.ventureharbour.com/), a digital marketing firm.  "And the shift towards Internet-enabled mobile devices means that if you’re not fast, you’re not going to be seen."

While Google was careful to word its new policy as a possibility rather than an inevitability, it's no secret that the search giant has been campaigning hard for a faster web for decades.

Moreover, the search titan has demonstrated that it has no qualms about stepping in as officer-on-the-beat when it comes to exposing poorly performing websites.

Indeed, since the summer of 2018, Google has been branding websites exhibiting poor security by displaying an “insecure website”' icon in a browser's website address bar.  Secure sites are rewarded with a padlock icon – the sign of a correctly secured site.

No one asked Google to do that.


"Many companies find that YouTube is a fast and effective way to disseminate all kinds of information,” says Michael Miller, author of the guidebook,  "YouTube for Business."  

More than a few website owners have been vexed by the branding.

But like it or not, Google has already set itself up as the arbiter of web security. 

Now, it's looking to expand that policing role to include rating the speed of sites.

Bottom line:  Many Google watchers see the Google post on shaming slow websites as a trial balloon – a probe to see if there is significant backlash to the idea or widespread acceptance.

Either way, the prudent move is for textile businesses to up-their-game on their site's download speed now.  As many of us have learned over the years, more often than not, what Google wants, Google gets.

THE FIRST STEP: SEE HOW FAST YOUR WEBSITE DOWNLOADS

Interestingly, you can get a quick look at how fast your website downloads, courtesy of Google.  The reason:  Given that Google has a vested interest in a fast web seeded with its advertising, it's no wonder it offers free tools you can use to quickly assess the speed of your site.
Simply type in your site's web address at Google's Page Speed Insights (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/, and you'll see in a matter of seconds how fast your site's home page downloads.

Besides offering you an instant rating, Page Speed Insights also offers you extremely detailed, specific suggestions for speeding up your site, such as changing the format of your images or eliminating unnecessary coding from your site.

Similar tools you can use to quickly analyze the speed of your business website include Lighthouse (https://developers.google.com/web/tools/lighthouse/), Yslow (http://yslow.org/) and Google Analytics Site Speed Page Timings (https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1205784?hl=en).

Once you've got an idea of how much faster you'd like to have your site download, here's a game-plan for speeding it up and avoiding the loads-slow stigma.

10 TIPS TO SPEED UP YOUR WEBSITE 

*Pay extra for faster hosting:  Investing in premium web hosting is one of the easiest ways to speed-up a large site.  While smaller websites may be able to get away with cheaper host, larger sites often benefit from premium, usually faster hosting on a virtual private server or dedicated server.
Unlike cheap hosting, which houses numerous websites on a single server, a virtual private server solution actually uses multiple servers to distribute your site content across the web.

For the highest-priced, potentially most powerful alternative, consider a dedicated server.  That features a single website on a server that is maintained by a dedicated system administrator.

*Ask your web host for help:  Web hosts have a number of simple, free solutions fabrics and furnishings businesses can use to speed-up their sites – such as clearing their website's cache. 

Plus, web hosts can advise you on a number of other actions you can take to increase speed.

Chances are your web host will also try to pitch you on additional services and options that cost money.  But it's worth calling them and sorting through what's free, what costs, and what makes the most sense for you.

*Use Low-Resolution Images Wherever Possible:  Bloated, extremely high-resolution images are one of the major causes of slow-loading sites.  And in most cases, they're completely unnecessary:  Generally, low-resolution versions of images look exactly the same on the web as high-resolution versions of the same images.

"One of the biggest drains on your site’s resources is its images," says Ellice Soliven, content and social marketing manager, Dreamhost (https://www.dreamhost.com/), a web hosting company.

"They’re great for making your site look amazing and for supplementing your text content," she says.  "But they also require server space and bandwidth. This is especially true if your site contains high-quality images -- such as in a portfolio, gallery, or online store."

You – or your web designer -- can use a photo editor like Adobe Photoshop (https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html) or Adobe Photoshop Elements (https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop-premiere-elements.html) to change an image from high resolution to low resolution with a single click. 

Or you can use other tools like TinyPNG (https://tinypng.com/), Microsoft Paint (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4027344/windows-10-get-microsoft-paint), Microsoft Picture Manager (https://www.experts-exchange.com/articles/33247/How-to-Install-Microsoft-Office-Picture-Manager-in-Office-2019.html), Pixlr (https://pixlr.com/), Shrink Pictures (http://www.shrinkpictures.com/) and Smush for Wordpress (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/).

*Host your company videos on YouTube:  Hosting the promotional videos for your fabrics and furnishings business on YouTube enables you to offload all the heavy bandwidth transmission involved when someone clicks a video link on your site to view a video. 

Why draw resources from your own webserver – which may be hosting hundreds of other web sites – when you can have YouTube's ridiculously fast servers handle all your downloading requirements?

To use YouTube as your free video hosting provider, the easiest solution is to simply post your video on YouTube, and then post a link to that video on your website.

Or, you can embed a YouTube player (https://youtubevideoembed.com/#!) in your website that will display your video on your site while YouTube's servers handle all the processing.

"Many companies find that YouTube is a fast and effective way to disseminate all kinds of information,” says Michael Miller, author of the guidebook "YouTube for Business."  “Done right, it gets information out there.” 

*Consider using a caching plugin: Websites based on PHP code (such as Wordpress) need to convert that programming to HTML before displaying a web page in a user's browser.

A caching plugin eliminates that conversion wait by generating an HTML version of each page of your website ahead of time in a cache – so it's there for your visitor's browsers to access as soon as he/she arrives.

There are risks to using a caching plugin:  Some plugins you're already using on your textiles site may not be compatible with a caching plugin. That can lead to less-than-desirable performance – or a complete crash of your site.

Caching plugins are also sometimes vulnerable to hackers.

And caching plugins can sometimes store older versions of your website pages longer than you'd like.  In that case, someone visiting your site might not see the latest updates – or corrections -- you've made.  (This problem can be solved by simply clearing your site's cache.)

Even so, caching plugins can speed-up your site considerably.  So, they may be worth the risk.

For more information, search for "caching plugin" along with the name of your website's content management system (such as Wordpress, Drupal, etc.)

*Minimize your use of plugins:  While extremely handy, any plugin you add to your site to perform a specific function – such as analyzing your website's data, creating a firewall for your site and the like – represents a drain on your system's resources.

Expertly coded plugins generally mute speed loss.  But some less-than-artfully-coded plugins are written so inefficiently, they really slow down your site.

Rule of thumb:  Take a few minutes to inventory all the plugins on your site and completely delete any plugin that is not absolutely crucial or truly beneficial to your site's operation.

*Compress your site's files with Gzip:  "Gzip works by compressing your files into a zip file, which is faster for the user’s browser to load," says Venture Harbour's Taylor. "The user’s browser then unzips the file and shows the content. This method of transmitting content from the server to the browser is far more efficient and saves a lot of time."

*Use a Premium Domain Name (DNS) System Provider:  Basically speaking, DNS providers help a computer browser quickly navigate to your business website address.  Premium DNS providers offer faster connections for that task.

*For large sites, consider a content delivery network (CDN):  If you have a lot of content to move around the web – especially to distant points on the globe – a CDN will help speed up your site significantly.

CDN's essentially store copies of your site on various computer servers around the world.  The result:  Someone from Hong Kong typing in your site address will be served your site's content directly from a computer server in Hong Kong, for example – rather than waiting for the same content to be served from say, Miami.

"Using a Content Delivery Network can help you create a consistent and faster experience for visitors, regardless of their geographic location," says Dreamhost's Soliven.

*Consider Using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Heavily promoted by Google, AMP's are near replicas of regular website pages, which are specially designed to download quickly on mobile devices. 

Essentially, you create a page for your website.  Then you create an extremely mobile-friendly, near-replica of that webpage in AMP format.
The result:  When someone visits your fabrics and furnishings business Web site with a mobile device, their smartphone or similar mobile is served faster-loading AMP pages.

Many popular content management systems, like Wordpress (https://wordpress.org/plugins/amp/) and Drupal (https://www.drupal.org/project/amp), offer plugins to help you – or your web designer -- easily create AMP pages.

For a complete rundown on how AMP works and how to get started with AMP, check-out Google's free tutorial on AMP (https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/enhance-amp).

*Check-out still other techniques:  There are scores of more ways to speed-up your website.  Type "website speed optimization" into any search engine for more ideas.
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Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan. Email: joe@dysartnewsfeatures.com.

 


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