Google recently announced that its algorithm would factor in page load speed beside the other 200 ranking factors used. This move, broadly welcomed by web developers and users, means it is now more important than ever to optimize the speed of your websites.

Speed optimization will not only keep Google happy, but it will also keep visitors engaged, increasing user retention and activity, and reducing your bandwidth and hosting costs. It’s a real win-win situation.

Using the tools explored below, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what’s slowing you down and get advice and recommendations on how to make the improvements. Each tool is slightly different, but you need not use them in isolation.

SEMrush

The best results come from using a portfolio of speed optimization tools to ensure you’ve got all the bases covered.

Still, remember the WordPress web optimization article? If you are a WordPress user, I believe both these articles will bring benefits to your blog’s loading speed, and your page rank.

Sometimes, the best way to speed up your website is through your hosting provider. Something like Cloudflare’s content delivery network (CDN) can reduce your website’s load time by reducing the distance that requests have to travel. You can read more about Cloudflare’s CDN on this blog post by 101domain.

Yahoo! YSlow

YSlow is perhaps the user-friendliest of all the speed optimization tools, useful for beginners and experts alike. It analyzes web pages and suggests ways to improve the performance of your website based on Yahoo!’s 34 best practices. It divides these into seven categories: content, server, cookie, CSS, JavaScript, images, and mobile.

YSlow, which is a Firefox add-on integrated with Firebug (which you have to install first), judges web pages according to one of three pre-designed rule sets or a rule set of your own making. Besides advising you on how to improve your website’s speed, it also summarizes each page’s components, displaying in-depth statistics.

Web Page Analyzer

This free tool couldn’t be easier to use. Enter a URL to diagnose and press ‘Submit.’ Web Page Analyzer then calculates page size, composition, and download time, providing you with a report. In this report, you’ll get various stats, including the size of each of your site’s components, download times at a range of connection rates (14.4k to T1 1.44Mbps), and recommendations for how to improve performance. It will tell you what your site is doing well and what your site is doing poorly.

Google Page Speed

Like YSlow, Google’s Page Speed is a Firefox/Firebug add-on. Again, like YSlow, Page Speed performs a series of tests based on a set of best practices, this time divided into five categories: optimizing caching, minimizing round-trip times, minimizing request size, minimizing payload size and optimizing browser rendering. Once you’ve run the tests, you’ll get a set of scores for each page and advice on how to speed things up.

Google Webmaster Tools Site Performance

Site Performance is an intuitive tool that tells you how fast your pages load, how this speed has changed over time, and how these loading times compared to other sites. It will then give you Google Page Speed suggestions for how to speed up your site for improved user experience. Google gathers its performance information from your site’s users, specifically those that have installed the Google Toolbar and use its enhanced features. This means that if your site doesn’t get much traffic, the data you receive might be incomplete or lacking invalidity.

SmartSprites

A little different from the other tools in this list, SmartSprites lets you introduce and maintain CSS sprites in your designs. Using CSS sprites dramatically reduces the number of HTTP requests made for image resources referenced by your site, improving your site’s performance. CSS sprites are useful when lots of small images, like menu icons, are used. The Yahoo! homepage, for example, uses CSS sprites to speed things up.

Pingdom Tools Full Page Test

Pingdom’s Full Page Test imitates the way it loads a page in a web browser, giving you a visual representation of how long it takes to load each object on each page, including images, CSS, JavaScript, RSS, Flash, and frames. View the objects in load order or rank them in terms of speed to highlight potential problem areas.

WebPagetest

AOL initially developed Webpage test for use on its sites, but it is now available for everyone to use online for free. Once you’ve entered your URL, you’ll be presented with a waterfall-like graph of your page load performance and an optimization checklist.

The advice given is rather hard to digest for all but the most experienced web developers: your given as a series of ticks, crosses, and warning signs rather than the user-friendly sentences you’ll get from YSlow and Google Page Test. It does, however, allow you to test from various locations and with different browsers.