Infographic: The Google Page Rank Race – What’s Slowing Down Your Site?

In 2011 the need for speed is evident in every area of life, especially for our web browsing experience. Google recognizes the faster pace we all crave and has modified its Page Rank criteria to reflect this, while also providing a detailed tool, Page Speed, to help us decipher the extra baggage (aka JavaScript) slowing us down. This study examines 3 popular site elements, Toolbars, In-Text ads and Social Buttons and how they are affecting your speedy ways. Read on for some practical tips to keep your site in the fast lane.

Google’s Need for Speed

In April 2010, Google finally made official what many suspected for some time, website load time has a direct impact on Google Rank. In other words, the longer it takes your page to load, the lower rank you will receive from Google – the Mecca of online search.

The reality is, the slower your internet moves, the less time you will spend surfing. Its common sense and also proven from Google’s own research. These “surf laws” dictate that quickly returned results and speedy browsers equal a heightened user experience and therefore a higher Page Rank from Google.

On March 31st of this year, Google not only made the importance of load speed clear, they also went a step further to help site owners decipher the factors impacting the speed of their websites. Google Lab’s new web performance tool Page Speed breaks it down by category and exposes each element on the site that is having an impact on the load speed.

JavaScript Puts on the Brakes

Among these categories, JavaScript empowered elements can potentially have a very negative impact on the speed of a site and bottleneck the loading. Many websites implement third party empowered JavaScript external code for services such as: advertising, dynamic graphics, widgets, etc. There is an art to JavaScript writing and unless the code is short and masterfully written, it will make your browsing experience lethargic and less pleasant.

In this study we will investigate one of the main variables related to JavaScript that if not implemented correctly, is one of the culprits in delayed surfing: Defer parsing of JavaScript The browser must parse the contents of all <script> tags, which adds additional time to the page load. So the less there is to “parse” in the JavaScript, the faster the site will load.

In order to better illustrate impact on load speed we will investigate three common JavaScript plugins: In-Text Advertising, Toolbars and Social Sharing Buttons. Because the JavaScript for each element is identical amongst the sites in which they are hosted, a random site was chosen to test each – which means that the results would be the same regardless of test site.

Choose the Fastest In-Text Network

In-Text Ad Networks correlate specific keywords (often double underlined) within the content of a web-page to relevant advertising which appears in a bubble. Infolinks and Kontera are two of the most popular In-Text ads networks in the industry. Let’s see how each performed at Defer Parsing.

*notes: JohnChow.com was used for Infolinks.com and gayot.com for Kontera/

We see a vast contrast in performance between these two networks. Infolinks only affected the defer parsing of the JavaScript with the low-weight and very fast score of 346B, as opposed to Kontera’s much heavier load of 17.9KiB.

This discrepancy in speed between these two seemingly identical ad networks can be attributed to the timing of the upload of each algorithm. Infolinks’ new technology and algorithm uploads the ads once the page is fully loaded, unlike the older JavaScript empowered Kontera, which uploads all of the information whilst the page is loading, which in turn slows down the speed of the site load.

This answers what feels like a never-ending debate amongst publishers as to whether In-Text Ads slow down websites. Technology analysis with Google’s own tools reveals that Kontera slows down page load time which lowers Google rank, while Infolinks is 50 times faster and so a much better choice for website publishers who seek Google traffic.

Winning the Toolbar Race

Toolbars are a great instrument for publishers to centrally locate relevant widgets and applications for their visitors. Wibya and Meebo are two of the hottest toolbars available, but do they cause your website to creep? Let’s see what Google Says:

*notes: Walyou.com was used to test Wibya and CafeMom.com to test Meebo.

We can see that Wibya impacted the test site by 21B of inline JavaScript while Meebo a whopping 6.2KiB of inline JavaScript. That is a pretty big variance in speed. As far as Google’s Lab is concerned Wibya is definitely the safest choice when it comes to your site’s Page Rank.

Social Buttons and Speed

Social Sharing Buttons are a great tool for publishers to help make their content more viral via shortcut buttons configured to the user’s social media account. One press of a button and voila -more exposure for your content! AddThis and ShareThis lead the social button industry, but do they prolong browsing time for your visitors? Let’s look.

* http://www.cosmopolitan.com/ was tested for Sharethis and PerezHilton.com for AddThis.

Defer Parsing was impacted the most by Social Sharing buttons. AddThis showed 53KiB of parsing and ShareThis 31.3KiB. AddThis is obviously almost twice as fast as ShareThis, but both scored substantially lower than the other plugins in this study.

Publishers should keep in mind that although Social Sharing Buttons are extremely valuable in the social/viral sense, you will have to make a sacrifice of page load speed when adding their JavaScript to your site. This my friends is what we call a “catch 22,” leave them off and make it harder for your readers to share your content, or add them and slow down your site and lower your page rank. What to do? What to do?

Keep Your Site Fast and Page Rank High

Faster is better, that’s the bottom line according to browse speed. It’s important for website owners to investigate what add-ons are slowing things down. But you can rest assured when adding these Google Race Winners: Wibya, the best toolbar for speed, Infolinks, the fastest In-Text ad network and ShareThis, the lesser of two “speed evils” for Social Buttons.

Investigate these results yourself by simply entering a URL into the search bar here: http://pagespeed.googlelabs.com. The “speed sinners” may surprise you!

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