For years people have tried to figure out how Google manages to produce lightning fast search results from the huge amount of data that they have to work with. They are still not giving away all of their secrets, but they have a released a free tool and a set of web site develoment "best practices" to help web site owners improve the performance of their web sites.
The new Google tool is called Page Speed. Page Speed was introduced in Google’s Webmaster Central Blog. Page Speed is a free downloadable tool that works in conjunction with the FireFox browser (sorry, no IE version) and the free FireFox Add-On called Firebug. You must have a current version of FireFox and Firebug installed before you can use Page Speed. The tool can be downloaded from the Page Speed web site. There is a learning curve with this tool and Google has provided Page Speed documentation that explains how to use it.
The second part to this tool is the release of a series of documents detailing Web Performance Best Practices. This is a pretty comprehensive group of instructions for improving web site performance through reduction of server requests, consolidation of external files, proper use of images and other coding and server configuration techniques.