Tag Archives: Google Webmaster Tools

Experiment:
To determine if hosting impacts site speed according to the Site Performance feature in Google Webmaster Tools.

Hypothesis:
Hosting can impact site speed.

Background:
"80% of the end-user response time is spent on the front end." The preceding statement could be interpreted to mean that back end hosting has little impact on front end site performance.

Procedure:
To test this experiment, an existing site was replicated at a new and separately hosted IP address. DNS was changed from the original host IP to the new host IP. A few days later, DNS was changed back to the original host IP. A few days after that, DNS was again changed to the new host IP from the original host IP.

speed graph illustrating hosting impact

Result:
According to Google's Site Performance tool, pages at the new host IP (dashed line) loaded much faster than pages at the original host IP (solid line). There appears to be an obvious and immediate improvement of more than 50% when DNS was initially pointed from the original host to the new host. Similarly there appears to be a decrease in speed when DNS was pointed back at the original host IP from the new host IP and increase when pointed back at the new host IP again. Since DNS was pointed at the new host IP, site speed and performance have continued to improve according to Google Webmaster Tools.

Conclusion:
This experiment seems to indicate a strong correlation between changes in hosting and changes in site performance. This correlation is no real surprise given, the new host is highly rated as fast and reliable. Conventional wisdom is that "hosting" doesn't impact site performance but, I think it's worth testing just in case your site is one of those rare exceptions. :)

 

JohnMu aka Googler John Mueller, confirmed Google's use of sitemaps on Sunday and suggests using only quality meta data in xml sitemaps.

In his Google Groups post, John Mueller goes on to mention specifics as to how Google uses meta data in xml sitemaps submitted via Google Webmaster Tools :

URL - According to Mueller, it's best to list only working URLs in xml sitemaps and only the correct version for canonical URLs. For canonical URLs, he suggests providing the "/" version and not "index.html" in his example. He goes on to point out the importance of using the same URL found in the site's navigation and if necessary to use 301 redirects to that same URL when necessary. The navigation issue if important especially if something other than a crawler creates your sitemap. Either way, it's worth testing to be sure your Sitemap URLs are identical to those in the user path (I've actually had near knock down drag outs over this issue). JohnMu suggest only including URLs to indexable content like (X)HTML pages and other documents. In addition he points out, it's best to only include URLs webmastes want indexed.

Last modification date - In his post Mueller points out the difficulty Google can have with determining a "Last modification date" for dynamic sites due to their dynamic nature. He suggests either using the correct time or none at all. John suggests using a "Last modification date" but not "Change frequency" unless webmasters can establish a consistent frequency.

Change frequency - Like "Last modification date", Mueller suggests not using a date/time if the actual one isn't available.

Priority - Mueller suggests not including "Priority" meta data in xml sitemaps unless webmasters feel they can provide accurate data.

In summary, JohnMu suggests sitemap.org XML files that contain URLs for inclusion in Google's index and only those found in the site's navigation. He suggests "Date or change frequency" and "Priority" as optional meta data.

UPDATE: JohnMu has posted additional information over at Search Engine Roundtable in response to Barry's post.

- beu