The SEO community usually focuses on content strategy and backlinks to power their way through web optimization. The trend is an outcome of the continuous and ceaseless exposure to Google, which emphasizes content over everything else. However, SEO is certainly not all about content. This is not to ignore the essential and fundamental truth about SEO but to expose you to some subtle factors which have a bearing on SEO.
LTFB or lower time-to first-byte is the time taken for the first byte of a web page to begin loading on a browser window after a request is made to the server. A visitor to your site has to wait for at least this time before browsing. It’s different from the page load time which is the time taken to load a complete web page. Many experts have claimed that LTFB is a more critical factor effecting overall SEO than page load time.
LTFB is dependent on two factors – latency and server infrastructure. Latency is the time taken for a data to travel from the browser to the server which hosts the website. Naturally, if the browser is in New York and the server is in Sydney, the time taken would be longer. You must therefore try and get the browser closer to the server. One of the ways to achieve this is by using CDN or content delivery network. CDN providers have their servers located all over the globe. The websites is cached or duplicated in each of these locations reducing the distance between user and server.
The second factor which affects LTFB is your server infrastructure. The operating system, the tools used to configure your website, database connectivity and internet backbone are some aspects which you must look into.
Page download speed
In 2010 Google declared that page download speed will be a factor in their search ranking algorithm. Since then a lot of water has flowed down the bridge. Content has been important and so has user experience. Slow download speed leads to high rate of abandonment – means that visitors get fed up of waiting for a page to download and move away to another website to find information. This also leads to higher bounce rate, lower time on page and eventually results in lower user engagement. These factors directly result in poor SEO.
Search engines use bots to crawl a website for indexing purposes. Faster download speed would directly cause faster indexing. This is more important for e-commerce sites which have many web pages.
User engagement and better browsing experience are two issues which Google search has always emphasized. With the Panda and Hummingbird updates, there is a strong tilt towards factors which not only inform users but also makes browsing a superior experience. Higher page load speeds would definitely lead to better SEO.
CDN, GZip and network
From the above, it’s clear that you must improve both LTFB and page download speed for better SEO. CDN or content data network consists of a cluster of dedicated servers located at various geographical points. When a website utilizes the services of a CDN provider, the static files like images, graphics and media are cached at several nodes. When a user calls for a web page, these files are loaded directly from the nearest node which speeds up the total time taken for download. CDN providers claim to double the download speed, which also depends on several other factors.
GZip is a fairly simple process of compressing files at the server end and decompressing them when the files reach the browser. Since compressed files are smaller in size they can be delivered faster. GZip has to be enabled at the server end where the website files are located.
Quality of website host
Your choice of web host can have an impact on SEO. In case of shared hosting, your server may be located in some remote corner of earth which would have a direct impact on the speed of page download. Moreover, a shared server may be overloaded with thousands of websites which would in turn slow down the server response. Too many requests to a server have a dampening effect and may even lead to interruption in services. All these factors result in poor website availability and therefore lead to poor search optimization. You tend to ignore these issues simply because of cost considerations. A small website cannot afford a dedicated server. However, it’s best to avoid shady web hosts who have no known address and those who seem to work from places like Ethiopia.
Social media engagement – Facebook, Google+
Social media is much bigger than Facebook and Twitter. When you engage with other platforms, the traffic to your own site invariably increases. This translates into better SEO. Engagement is critical to your online success in more than one way. There is a trickle down effect of social media. You create followers and friends on Facebook, who in turn visit your site or seed a back-link on their own blog, which makes your website popular. This sends a strong signal to search engines that you have something interesting to say. This elevates your search engine results. Your site gets more organic visitors which once again bolsters your SEO.
The latest entrant in social media mix is G+ or Google plus. There can be no doubt that Google will try its level best to promote their new social platform, especially when they have closed the doors on Orkut. Google plus, along with authorship and related tools are likely to overwhelm search optimization. It’s therefore reasonable to pay attention to what is happening to G+.
Good onsite content and reputed back-links form the foundation of good SEO. However, once you have reached a certain level of search optimization with these two methods, you must refine and polish your SEO efforts using above mentioned lesser known SEO parameters. These five factors will certainly have a positive effect on your SEO, though not as dramatic or as big of an impact as other well-known techniques.