Like many of you reading this, I have struggled to maintain any sort of decent ranking since Google’s Penguin update on April 24th & the reason for this continuous struggle appears to be that Google now expects the impossible. Now unless you’ve been marooned on some small pacific atoll lined with coconut palms, you will be aware of Google now using page load times plus social signals as ranking factors. This has put quite a bit of pressure on a great number of blog owners, to keep their sites as fast as possible & yes ok, on the face of it this would appear a reasonable request, especially when the big G reasons that it is designed to improve the end user experience..?
Yes ok what reasonably minded blog owner could argue against such reasoning and I along with many other blog owners, set about tweaking my theme, optimizing my images & generally streamlining my website, in the hope it would get an acceptable page loading time & then rank well having got the nod of approval from the Google God!
Unfortunately this was not the case & after doing a routine speed test on 1st December I was completely gob smacked to find that my page load time had climbed back up to a sickening 8.6 secs. (See image Below – Click for larger image)
1st Speed Test
Now it is plain to see that “Time To First Byte” is a major problem here but also there appears to be a problem caching certain content, so this definitely needs further investigation.
Waterfall of Repeat View
After scrutinizing the above image, it suddenly dawned on me that what Google expects of us is virtually impossible unless you happen to be one of the lucky few that can afford a dedicated server. Every single one of the items shown is either Google’s Adsense or Plus One, Twitter, Facebook or the AddThis plugin that I had recently added because Google now says that unless you have social signals relating to your site, then you will not get a decent ranking..?
So here we are in a catch 22 situation, it’s now a case of heads Google wins or tails YOU lose! We are repeatedly told since the Penguin update that backlinks are all but worthless & that Google now focuses on social signals and in order to try and improve our site ranking we then add social plugins that include Facebook, Twitter & of course Google +! It is laughable to think that by doing so we actually harm our site ranking rather than improve it. Ok you want more proof, no problem, I would be equally sceptical, at least initially.
Waterfall of Initial Page Load
Ok now looking at the image above, everything marked with a red asterix is either Google’s Adsense or Google’s Plus One, those marked with a blue asterix are all related to the AddThis social script & those with a green asterix are either Facebook or Twitter. Now we had an initial load time of 8.6 sec and I think we can see exactly why..? So in order to prove the point let’s remove all Adsense, AddThis, Twitter, Google & Facebook scripts & then try a re-test.
Page Re-test After Removing Junk
Well that’s what I call a huge difference, dropped from 8.6secs to 3.6secs, but we are not finished yet, we still have an issue with “Time To First Byte” & after a little checking I found W3 Total Cache had developed a problem, so rather than waste time messing about I uninstalled it and then installed Hyper Cache, which I had read some good reviews on.
Final Page Load Test
Well there’s the proof, a decent Page Cache plugin will cure the problems of “Time To First Byte” and removal of all Adsense, social plugins & scripts will greatly reduce your page load times, in particular the removal of Facebook & Google + as these two appear to be much slower loading than Twitter. So having dropped our page load time from 8.6 secs to 2.5secs how do we now maintain any social signals without the use of social scripts & plugins..?