Since installing the Pagespeed module on one of our webservers following the big migration late in the spring, we’ve steadily made noticeable and scalable improvements in the area of website performance. Here we’ll explore mod_pagespeed, how it works and how it’s being deployed to supercharge our clients’ website speed and improve user experience. 

What is mod_pagspeed?

Developed and maintained by Google, the PageSpeed modules are open-source server modules that optimize your site automatically. The module features versions for both Apache and NGINX webservers and offers a robust set of filters that help streamline the performance optimization process.

The Pagespeed Module is effectively a filter that resides between the webserver and the end user. It outputs optimized versions of your web documents and resources based on Google’s Pagespeed guidelines.

Although mod_pagespeed works towards the end goal of making your website faster, it works a bit differently than some of the common caching and web performance protocols.

mod_pagespeed vs. Caching

Caching simply creates static copies of files on the webserver and/or the user’s browser so that those assets don’t have to be served freshly on each page reload. Caching can alone provide a modest website performance benefit, but it does not generally modify the structure of a web document or the implementation of its assets on pageload.

Google’s Pagespeed service extends our servers’ basic caching functionality by completely rewriting the web page document and its assets to satisfy performance best standards. For example, if your site contains several CSS files used to style different elements of your site, mod_pagespeed contains a filter that dynamically and automatically concatenates & removes whitespace from these assets. Is this particular example, there are two benefits:

  • The user’s browser only has to fetch 1 resource instead of 5 separate ones. This positively impacts performance across all browsers but is especially beneficial for mobile Internet connections. where the number of HTTP requests is generally more impactful than the size of the web document.
  • Although the single filtered CSS file will obviously be larger than any of the individual original files, the minification (i.e. removal of whitespace) acts to reduce the total size of assets, making it far less laborious for a user’s browser to load your webpage.

Using just this CSS example, you can see the cache-extending capabilities of mod_pagespeed. There are dozens of ways to dynamically apply changes to other areas of your documents in order to boost overall performance , and we’re striving each day to implement those to benefit our clients and their users.

mod_pagespeed vs. CDN

A content delivery network – or CDN – simply distributes cached files over a network of computers so that they can be accessed when they’re requested by a user in close geographic proximity. Mod_pagespeed runs as a service on the origin webserver. Unlke a CDN, which can serve content from a different URL so as to minimize domain traffic, the Pagespeed module must be run on the site’s origin server.

With mod_pagespeed, we identify & Fix the Performance Issues Google Cares About

A Universal Language for Identifying Website Performance

With Pagespeed Insights, webmasters no longer have to guess at what performance best practices Google is suggesting. The tool is actively developed and maintained by Google to help webmasters and business identify and remediate the performance metrics that are pertinent to facilitating a positive experience on the web. Since SEM is a huge component of how ClickGiant delivers value for its clients, we use Pagespeed Insights both to evaluate site performance on a case-by-case basis and to communicate internally about our website performance optimization projects.

With a universal language for detecting website performance issues – along with guidance from Google on how to best implement fixes – ClickGiant doesn’t play the guesswork game anymore when it comes to web performance. Because Google and its users are our core audience, we’re committed to using the tools that Google has provided us for serving websites in the most efficient way possible.

Optimize On-the-Fly Without Dev and Production Versions

Most web designers & developers are aware of the virtues of having both a “development version” and a “production version” of their projects. However, the vast majority of web implementations we deal with on a day-to-day basis have been deployed in development form. This means that while all the files that are needed to run the website are in place, they have not been optimized to deliver the best performance and browser experience for the user.

Mod_pagespeed is essentially an ongoing build process that prevents the need for maintaining strictly versioned development and production versions. While maintaining separate versions is still a best practice that has plenty of it’s own benefits, it’s nice knowing that you can fix the vast majority of website performance issues without having to move the site between stages for every minor revision.

Target Client-Specific Issues Using Custom Pagespeed Filters

When you have a roster of clients who rely on you for performance optimization, it can become overwhelming to test and maintain different caching configurations on a site-by-site basis. Mod_pagespeed removes much of the guesswork from the debugging and optimization process by providing the ability apply domain-specific filters to address.

With Pagespeed filters, a site with unoptimized CSS and loads of javascript, for example, can take advantage of filters that explicitly target those particular performance metrics. Furthermore, almost every one of the issues identifiable through the Pagespeeds Insights tool contains a correllary filter that can be use to tweak output of the website at the server level.

With Pagespeed filters, we can do x to fix x rather than having to ask the question “which x changes on the backend will bring about y changes on the front end.”

Moz published a blog in the spring that explains how to take advantage of the power of Pagespeed filters to target website-specific performance issues.

Is Your Site Running Pagespeed?

Ready to kick up your website performance a notch? Our servers are optimized for website performance and our developers live and breathe it on a daily basis. Contact ClickGiant today to learn more about mod_pagespeed and take advantage of the better rankings & conversion rates of a lightning-fast website.

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