In 2012 Google Developers published their beta version of a curated collection of tools that can be placed inside popular web server environments to optimize the delivery of web content. In most cases the individual underlying tools are not actually developed by Google, but rather, represent part of a collection of third party utilities that Google believes would improve the delivery of your content. Broadly speaking, these utilities intercept and manipulate your html, css, js and media content so as to minimize size and reduce the overall number of http requests that are required to render each page. In the case of Apache web server Google provides this collection in the form of Mod_Pagespeed, an Apache module that you can freely download and install using yum. Installation takes as little as a couple of minutes, providing instant tangible performance improvements.
It behooves you to seriously consider installing Mod_Pagespeed for a few reasons. First, to make decisions on what utilities to include in Mod_Pagespeed Google has followed a methodical discovery process involving unvarnished feedback from hundreds of thousands of web sites. This provides a high level of assurance that each utility really provides improvement to the end use experience in every possible use case. Second, Google has at least indirectly taken into consideration its own page ranking factors, thus, including Mod_Pagespeed in your architecture helps to ensure that you’re at least competing on a level playing field in terms of SEO. Lastly, Mod_Pagespeed is virtually guaranteed to identify a noticeable set of content delivery improvements in every case, so if you’re not currently using it then your sites visitors’ experience is not as optimal as it could be.
Getting The Most from Mod_Pagespeed
The single most important success factor to leveraging Mod_Pagespeed is having a clear understanding of what it is doing to your content, and why. If you currently use a WordPress performance plugin like W3 Total Cache then you’ll definitely want to review your settings to ensure that anything that can be done by Mod_Pagespeed is not being done repetitively by your plugin.
Additionally, the Mod_Pagespeed Apache module includes a set of admin and analytics pages that you can and should periodically review to keep a clear understanding of the extent to which Mod_Pagespeed is manipulating your content, and why. Often, the best way to manage contents is inconsistent with the best way to deliver it. This is especially true with image data, and Mod_Pagespeed provides an excellent suite of tools for optimizing, reformatting and resizing images based on real-time information that it gleans from http request headers.