website speed

Reduce the number of HTTP requests and speed up your WordPress site

Although all it takes to load a website is a click of the button for you, there’s much more for computers to handle. That one click and one second that will take until a page is displayed in front of you may hide dozens if not hundreds of HTTP requests to the server. Obviously, the more information goes back and forth, the longer you will have to wait for a site to load.

One of the easiest things you can do to speed up your site is to have a good hosting company. But when you decide to go even deeper to speed up your WordPress website, you should take care of HTTP requests.

For starters, you should test your website to see how many requests does it take to load a particular page. There are different ways of testing that. Instead of showing you all the possibilities, it will suffice to enter an URL in the HTTP Requests Checker. You will get the results immediately, and hopefully, you won’t have more than 30-ish requests. If you do, it’s time to reduce the number of HTTP requests and speed up your WordPress site.

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The winning formula: how data analytics is keeping football teams one step ahead

When Simon Wilson first arrived at Southampton football club he was a consultant for a technology startup called Prozone. Prozone had developed a proprietary player-tracking software which, fed by eight cameras around the pitch, would output a two-dimensional bird’s-eye animation of a football match. The machine could track each player’s movement every 0.1 seconds, registering an average of 3,000 touches of the ball per game, and provide an answer to a range of statistical questions. Southampton adopted Prozone and later hired Wilson to work as a performance analyst for the first-team manager.

“Prozone wasn’t part of the culture of the game and most managers weren’t used to it,” Wilson says. “I was naïve but I couldn’t understand why they didn’t want this kind of information.” Once, just before an August 2005 football league Championship game between Luton Town and Southampton, Wilson gave a pre-match briefing to the team and the manager, at the time, Harry Redknapp. “Harry was more intuitive than analytical,” says Wilson. “He was nervous about overloading the players with information.”

Southampton lost 3-2. On the team bus, Redknapp turned to Wilson and said, “I’ll tell you what, next week, why don’t we get your computer to play against their computer and see who wins?”

Some managers, however, did get it – and one in particular was Clive Woodward. He had been the coach of England’s World Cup-winning rugby team in 2003, and in 2005 had been offered a one-year contract to serve as Southampton’s director of football. He had been the first coach to adapt Prozone to rugby, installing it at Twickenham four years before the World Cup, which allowed him to collect data on how England and its opponents played.

“When I first saw it I was fascinated because I’d never seen a game where you’re looking down and just see dots and data and movement,” Woodward says. “It removed a lot of the preconceived notions we had about how other teams played. It made a big difference when we started to see them as data, as opposed to teams we had never beaten before.” Once, after his players insisted that there was no space on the field to run into, Woodward took a printout of a Prozone freeze-frame taken 24 seconds into a match against France. It showed both teams around the ball in a small area on the pitch and acres of unoccupied space everywhere else. He stuck it on board with the message: “The space is the green stuff”. “Clive would challenge me at every level,” says Wilson about Woodward’s time at Southampton. “He would ask questions about every aspect of the game: why do we spend so much time working out how to score goals and not how to stop them? I would try to explain to him what they’re doing and he’d just keep asking why.”

Woodward and Wilson tried things such as filming players striking the ball, to study technique from a biomechanical perspective. Those initiatives, however, never had much impact. Redknapp left before the end of the year and Woodward departed at the end of his contract. Wilson had left the club shortly before Woodward, convinced that there was a better way of running a club. “Woodward believed that evidence, be it video or statistics or any kind of data, was fundamental to how you prepare a team,” Wilson says.

Woodward remains his biggest influence. “He taught me that we didn’t have to do things just because they had always been done in a certain way.”

Today, 19 of the 20 Premier League teams use Prozone. Each has its own team of performance analysts and data scientists looking for the indicators that quantify player performance, the events that determine matches and trends that characterise seasons.

They are scientists dissecting the world’s most popular game, looking at data from Prozone and other sources to understand what dictates the difference between winning and losing. In the environment of the multimillion-pound Premier League, clubs don’t just want a competitive advantage, they need it.

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IT Services

IT services: the coming storm and why India needs to be worried

The IT services industry is facing significant headwinds of late. This is no secret. Most people tend to attribute this to the advent of “automation and artificial intelligence.” But that is a bit of a red herring and the technology industry should really be the last to use it. Automation and technology have consistently replaced low skill, repetitive jobs in industries across the ages. Agile businesses don’t shut down because of automation. They move up the value chain.

What we see here is the industry itself is getting disrupted and there seems to be little that the big players are able to do about it. This is something that India should worry deeply about.

Over the last few decades, the IT services industry has soaked up young, employable talent emerging out of engineering colleges like a sponge. But this scenario may not last long. We may soon be faced with serious challenges set off by rising rates of unemployment among the middle class.

Faced with a crisis of growth and profitability, the big offshoring firms are quick to point out that they have the perfect get out of jail card. “Digital,” they exclaim in unison, whenever asked how they plan to salvage falling fortunes. The reality, though is that most of the large players are poorly positioned to take advantage of the digital opportunity.

The poisoned pool
There was a time when they could have spent their large reserves of cash on serious upskilling and building future ready business models. Instead, most of them continued playing the labor arbitrage game and amassed fat margins at the expense of the future. After all, who wants to break a highly successful model when it seems to be working fine?

The downside was that the industry was constantly forced to “down-hire” for decades. Starting with talent from the elite IITs and top engineering colleges, they moved to just about any engineering college and then to regular graduation colleges, colleges from smaller cities and so on. Soon they were hiring droves of people almost blindly. Entire batches passing out were hired on the basis of rudimentary tests. Higher “volumes” and lower productivity became the de-facto business strategy.

The problem with this strategy is that it poisons the talent pool over time. Businesses end up employing masses of average talent with no one to inspire or direct them. They end up creating a culture of mediocrity. Over time, the same talent becomes mid and senior management. They have no incentive to change the status quo and actively resist any change that discomforts them.

The other casualty tends to be front line sales. When the central promise of a business becomes mere predictability and scale sales folk also slowly become slothful order takers because there is really no extra edge that they can deliver or play on.

Over time this strategy simply stops working as smaller, nimbler firms start snapping at the heels of big firms. Customers learn the game and start setting up captive delivery centers. Technical disruptions inevitably came by and customer expectations start to shift. This is when the industry looking for the next tide to lift all sinking ships finds “digital”.

There is only one problem though.

Unlike earlier tides, digital is complicated, layered and difficult to manage because it integrates so many diverse competencies. It places little value on the ability to deliver predictable outcomes at scale. That can well be left to the bots and AI. Customers now require a zesty soup of innovation, creativity, design, marketing, data sciences, emerging technologies and high-end coding to come together and deliver transformational solutions. What most large services firms have on the table instead, are masses of mediocre talent and managers who simply cannot see beyond the mundane.

One way to fix this broken engine is to fundamentally re-imagine future business models and start rebuilding for the same. This means a lot of pain in the short run, though. Accepting a few years of flatlining or declining revenues as new leaders and practices find their feet and steer the ship on a new course. This is a near-impossible task for firms that are answerable to Wall Street every quarter. So far, only one giant has shown the willingness to try and take this pain. The rest continue to pay lip service to digital, innovation etc while showing no inclination to make bold, decisive moves.

So what can the industry do differently, if it is unable and unwilling to disrupt the existing cash cows? There are two significant steps that are still eminently doable, given the strength of this industry, which are its cash reserves.

1. Acquisition, acquisition, acquisition
The industry needs to stop believing that it can learn how to fly to the moon just because it has successfully driven a bus for 50 years. Everything cannot be achieved organically. Especially because the skills and the environment required to deliver new capabilities in the digital world may be in complete opposition to existing core values.

For example, innovation and creativity are rarely process driven, cost-optimised team sports. They tend to be driven by stars. Quite often by prima donnas who will refuse to fit into the brick wall. How can an industry which has operated in a factory model, even hope to attract and retain such talent? The alternative is to start behaving like a holding company and acquire strategic capabilities through acquisitions. Let the acquired companies and talent flourish without trying to integrate them into the existing culture. Hold them as separate entities. Let their innovators and sales team be the tip of your arrow. Use them to sell the ideas and push the innovations. Make money off the long tail of execution work that inevitably follows through.

2. Set up aggressive venture capital units with long horizon investment objectives
Instead of trying to foster innovation within choking environments through so-called self-directed teams etc, simply identify talented start-ups. Take a stake in them and support them through funding and access to markets only. When it reaches a stage where the model is proven and ready to scale, then and only then, step in and get involved in management.

The above actions should not be difficult to execute. But it will require a willingness to step out of comfort zones and take risks. Leaders will need to stand up to boards and shareholders and justify why investments are being made into areas that don’t fit with traditional business models. Pulling off this change through vision and conviction will perhaps script the success stories in the next chapter of this industry.

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The Ultimate Guide to Multilingual and Multiregional SEO

When you begin to get into multilingual and multiregional SEO, you know that you have taken a step forward as an SEO expert. Why? Well, because you are probably dealing with a large, complex site that demands the expertise of someone who knows what they are talking about. If you are dealing in multilingual or multinational SEO, then you are managing a complex website strategy that serves multiple locations and languages — not just one.

Lucky for you, most everything you need to know about multilingual and multiregional SEO is listed in this post. So, even if you are a first-timer, you now have a cheat sheet that can guide you down the right path. Please keep in mind that multilingual and multiregional SEO are always changing — so, make sure to verify your strategy with the most up-to-date materials before making any drastic decisions.

What Are Multilingual SEO & Multiregional SEO?

Multilingual SEO is the practice of offering optimized website content in a variety of languages. Multiregional SEO is the practice of creating optimized website content that is tailored specifically to multiple geographic regions.

These two strategies often have overlap, which is why we are covering them both in this post. They also tie in with other aspects of online marketing, such as conversion rate optimization, pay per click and content strategy.

First, Ask Yourself: Where Are You Targeting?

The first thing you need to do is determine what regions you are targeting. Next, you need to decide which languages you are going to make available to those regions. This is critical, because it allows you to lay out the entire project.

Domain & URL Structure

After you determine the language and regions, you need to choose your domain and/or URL structure strategy.

Google’s Official Webmaster Central blog states, “It’s difficult to determine geotargeting on a page by page basis, so it makes sense to consider using a URL structure that makes it easy to segment parts of the website for geotargeting.”

I strongly agree with this — if you can map out the right location structure first, the rest of the project will be much easier. But, before we start to map website architecture, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each URL or domain option. (Note: The information below is taken directly from Google.)

ccTLDs
(e.g., example.de, example.fr)

Pros (+)

  • clear geotargeting
  • server location is irrelevant
  • easy separation of sites
  • legal requirements (sometimes)

Cons (-)

  • expensive
  • potential availability issues
  • more infrastructure
  • ccTLD requirements (sometimes)

Subdomains With gTLDs
(e.g., de.site.com, fr.site.com, etc.)

Pros (+)

  • easy to set up
  • can use Webmaster Tools geotargeting
  • allows different server locations
  • easy separation of sites

Cons (-)

  • users might not recognize geotargeting from the URL alone (is “de” the language or the country?)

Subdirectories With gTLDs
(e.g., site.com/de/, site.com/fr/, etc.)

Pros (+)

  • easy to set up
  • can use Webmaster Tools geotargeting
  • low maintenance (same host)

Cons (-)

  • users might not recognize geotargeting from the URL alone
  • single server location
  • separation of sites is more difficult/less clear

URL parameters
(e.g., site.com?loc=de, ?country=france, etc.)

Pros (+)

  • none (not recommended)

Cons (-)

  • segmentation based on the URL is difficult
  • users might not recognize geotargeting from the URL alone
  • geotargeting in Webmaster Tools is not possible

We’ve now outlined the pros and cons of the most popular methods for geotargeting in a URL or domain; but, which is the best option for you?

The answer to this question always depends on the goals of the website and who you need to target through SEO and other integrated marketing methods to reach those goals. Top-level domains are a strong indicator to Google, so they can be a good option. However, subdomains and subdirectories have their advantages, as well. We’ll explore those in a moment.

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