The speed at which your site loads is essential for a good ranking in Google.
In April Google posted on their official blog that website speed has become one of their 200 signals it uses in its search engine ranking algorithm. This has huge implications for Search Engine Optimisation, web design and web hosting, and means that choosing the right hosting and system is more important than ever before. Research conducted by Google shows that even a few tenths of a second in page load times can produce a significant drop in user activity.
The rub of this is that this will mean that slick looking but bloated and slow-to-load websites may counter-productive to search engine optimisation, and reduce search engine rankings, so why is it that so many websites feature home pages that require the user to "wait while loading". Flash websites, or websites that feature lots of flash are most guilty of this.
By using a fast hosting plan and optimised content management or ecommerce system, the operating costs can be significantly lower in other areas. For example, site speed has been used by Google to determine landing page quality for some time, so by increasing the quality score of your pages using faster loading times, you are reducing the cost per click of your PPC campaigns which can translate to vast savings in your PPC spend.
Website owners can directly influence their chances in the rankings by thinking carefully about the type of system and hosting plan they will deploy for their website. By understanding why websites perform and what the bottlenecks are, you are better equipped to make crucial decisions.
By far the most critical consideration in influencing site speed is bandwidth. This is affected by the infrastructure upon which a hosting server is mounted, but more importantly, how many sites are sharing the same resource. Cheap or even free web hosts use sub-par servers, usually past their sell-by date with minimal processing power, but even worse is the number of sites they host on each server. Finding a server with 1000 or more websites is not uncommon.
Imagine, 1000 websites are competing for the same resource as your site, that resource is a cable that connects the server to the Internet. Whilst links between hosting servers and the Internet are fast, only one can pass through this bottleneck at any one time, so your site may be forced into a queue just to get through. To make it worse, other resources on the server, such as database calls and processor actions are also part of this resource. With fast modern servers this would never be a bigger issue than the bandwidth, but then cheap hosting plans never run on fast modern servers.
- Database access
Most modern systems require calls to the database for their content and settings. In most cases this is a really fast operation, databases are highly optimised and increasingly sophisticated. However, there are certain operations carried out by databases, such as large "table joins" that are inherently slow, and some systems insist on using hundreds of these operations slowing a website down considerably. In addition to this, many large hosting providers provide a seperate database server, meaning that the server where your site is hosted often isnt even in the same city, or even country as the database that controls it!. This results in not only slow database operations, but then compounds that with the problem of bandwidth as the data has to travel hundreds of miles over the internet. When considering your hosting plan, ensure that your database is on the same machine as your website.
- Disk access
The fastest operation of all when it comes to influencing site speed is disk access. This is much faster than either of the other two, and so an intelligent system should use this advantage at every level. For example, a slow database operation can be carried out once and then "cached" to disk. The next time this operation is required, the system can call on the cache rather than run the query again.
So how do we compare
We spend a lot of time benchmarking and optimising our CMS so that bandwidth is minimised, and database calls are cached. Every website we produce has a "benchmarking" panel attached to it during the build, where we monitor not only every database call, but every disk call too. Database calls are cached to disk so that next time the page is called, no database operations are carried out, unless of course you have made changes in the CMS. Because the system keeps track of any changes in the backend, the front end knows to refresh the cache by calling upon the database again.
The number one problem of bandwidth is alleviated significantly by using GZip compression on all request. This means that your web page is compressed (zipped) by the server before it is sent to the browser for display, resulting in a significant decrease in page size. Sometimes a page can be compressed by 80% depending on the number of images displayed in the page (images are usually already compressed so cannot be squeezed any more).
The effect of zipping up your page creates an additional overhead on the hosting server, in that the processor has more work to do (it has to compress your page before its sent). However, because we use the latest dual and quad core processors this is never an issue.
Because our CMS backend is cloud based, this doesnt figure at all in the disk space calculations. The frontend then, is made up of highly optimised code. If you discount the images, the total disk space occupied by the core files is around 800k, and that includes the ecommerce, news, events and downloads applications!. Compare this to say, wordpress, which weights in at a mighty 20Mb. Even without the backend files (3.5Mb) its still quite hefty. You can fit 20 Lynk CMS applications into the space of just one wordpress installation. Figure in the caching, HTTP compression and tight code operations and thats a significant saving on page load times.
If you are interesed in hosting with us, we offer a range of options from single website hosting, discounted multi-domain hosting (eg: buy 10 hosting plans for a discounted fixed cost), managed and dedicated server hosting. All hosting plans come with a Plesk interface, Roundcube webmail, POP3, IMAP and SMTP email with SpamAssassin, PHP5 and unlimited MySQL databases. We also offer Tomcat based Java/JSP hosting.
Contact us to discuss your requirements.