Speed for Rank

Speed Optimization
Speed Optimization

It’s official, Google has stated that load speed is a part of the 200 or so ranking factors within their ranking algorithm. This is not a surprise as the new algorithm seems to be very tuned for a very wholesome set of factors. Factors such as relevancy, quality, usability, freshness, uniqueness and now speed are on the rise. Some more historical elements such as inbound links and meta tags are gone or carry significantly reduced weight. While the speed influence is small now, you can expect it to become more weighted as Google continues to develop Caffeine.

This is really a positive thing for Google and for most shop owners, as Google is in essence leveling the playing field. Those large budgeted, link buying stores that have traditionally outranked you with cash, will now have to start dancing to a new tune…. Just like you.

So even though the weight is small now, there are other even more relevant reasons to optimize your site’s load speed. Proper speed optimization increases the usability of your site, reduces shopper frustration and improves conversion rates. Good enough for me!

So how do I make my Zen Cart faster?

  1. This post will help you tackle some very specific Zen Cart performance optimizations, How to Make Your Zen Cart Cook
  2. Reduce the size and number of images in your template. Opt for a lighter CSS solution whenever possible for backgrounds and template images
  3. Optimize your CSS and JavaScript. This is really huge, you will be surprised when you see the improvement. Combine some of those stylesheets as well for another speed boost. Remove CSS styles that do not pertain to your custom template as well.
  4. Reduce line breaks in defined html code and clean it up
  5. Optimize your product images, they can still be large and descriptive…. But there is no need for them to be any larger than your largest display. Checkout image handler to cache them as well
  6. Choose a webhost that can properly host your Zen Cart. I know this is a touchy subject, but there are some very popular hosts out there that just have NO BUSINESS hosting Zen Carts! Ask in the forum and someone will advise you =-)
  7. Converting your database to InnoDB over the standard MyISAM will allow you much faster query processing in most hosting environments. Additionally, caching queries in your database as opposed to none or a file will greatly improve your cart’s speed
  8. Even if you lack a great deal of skill you can remove some weight from your .htaccess by removing commenting and unnecessary line creaks from it
  9. Converting your Zen Cart to use compressed CSS stylesheets is an advantage that is possible, but involves some more technical knowledge (we are actually looking at this for a module release once fully tested and will inform you here)
  10. Become a minimalist…. Display what you need, when you need it and turn everything else off. A great example of this the the download module, if you aren’t using it, turning it off will increase your speed. In your layout boxes controller, turn off unused sideboxes for another speed boost

This is not really designed to be a tutorial, but rather to get your thinking speed for rank! Suggest you checkout Page Speed for FireFox as opposed to using external tools, as they will all vary due to hops and different network connections. Also, SiteReportCard does a great job of telling you where you have slow images, JavaScript and errors causing slow speeds.

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