This post was submitted by a TNS experts. Check out our Contributor page for details about how you can share your ideas on digital marketing, SEO, social media, growth hacking and content marketing with our audience.
Web page loading speed is a crucial part of a site’s usability. Having fast page load time can also boost your website’s crawl rate. Learn the tips to optimize your page load speed.
You've spent thousands of dollars building the perfect website, laboring over user journeys, crafting beautiful imagery, and getting the copy just right. So, why do you have such a high bounce rate?
Your beautifully crafted site isn't generating the traffic you'd expected, and it's all down to page load speed. It's one of the fundamentals of growth marketing, yet so many companies forget to do it correctly. Hope is not lost! We've identified a few critical optimizations you can make to increase your load speed, and of course, your organic traffic.
[Read more: 5 Ways To Reduce Bounce Rate And Boost Conversion]
What is Page Load Speed?
Page speed is the measurement of how fast the content on your page loads in a browser. Try to imagine the whole journey. Essentially, a timer begins when a user makes a request or clicks on a link to your page.
Within seconds, the browser requests the server through the network, the request is processed, the web server sends the response back, and the browser starts receiving the requested page, a journey known as the time to first byte (TTFB). Once the browser has rendered the page, it becomes visible to the user.
To put it into context, the goal for page load speed is 3 seconds or less. Google found that a mere 0.5-second increase in page load time caused a 20% drop in traffic and revenue. Websites and web services that load quickly have better engagement and higher conversion rates. There is a direct correlation between page load speed and traffic.
Why Is Organic Traffic Important?
Traffic is a fundamental metric for any website. It’s probably the figure you look at most when analyzing conversions and user journeys. The phrase “build it, and they will come” doesn’t apply to a website.
You need web traffic to increase your visibility. Without visits to your website, you won’t gain any leads. And without leads, you won’t earn any new customers. While you can spend big budgets improving your visibility online, you’d be silly to discount the value of organic traffic.
Organic search brings in highly qualified prospects. It delivers users who have intent, allowing your website to satisfy it. Unlike PPC, it’s sustainable. It may take some time to build, but once you’ve got your momentum, it’s not going anywhere. Of course, this also makes it cost-effective, giving you the competitive edge over brands who’ve pushed all their focus onto paid media.
How To Diagnose Your Page Load Speed
Several factors contribute to slow load speed. Before you embark on critical optimizations, spend some time analyzing where your site is falling short. You can do this all through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
All you have to do is enter your website URL and click “analyze.” Google will run a quick test on your site, sending you a report outlining everything you need to know. You can test for both desktop and mobile.
The report includes “optimizations found,” a comprehensive list of what you’ve done right, and “possible optimizations” you can implement to increase your load speed. Remember, your goal is going to be a 100% rating on the insights tool.
Top Tips To Optimize Your Page Load Speed
1. Enable compression
You can also utilize tools like Tiny PNG, JPEG Optimizer, and Ezgif to optimize your imagery. If you're working on WordPress, you'll automatically have access to free plugins like WP Smush Image to optimize in bulk. Whatever you decide to go with, be sure to use a program that doesn't affect the quality of your images.
2. Reduce redirects
Every time your site redirects to another page, it adds time to your visitor's journey. Think of it this way - when you're booking a flight, it's easier to fly direct to your destination, right? The same goes for onsite linking.
A few tips for reducing your redirects include:
- Never link to a page that you know has a redirect on it - this will only compound.
- Clear out your plugins. Often they include redirects you don't need.
- Scan your website regularly for old redirects, deleting ones that are no longer relevant. It's best practice after switching hosting providers.
3. Use browser caching
When you click on a URL, the browser requests a page from the server. With this page comes all the files required to display your content. Every request comes with specific browser instructions. When you open a session onsite, your browser checks whether your local file copies have expired. From there, it decides what to do next. It either loads new files or uses existing ones, dictated by the headers you choose to use.
You can select the following properties for your site's cache behavior:
- No-cache - this prohibits caching.
- Public - this enables caching on proxy servers.
- Private - allows caching for local usage.
- Max-age - this sets the expiration time in seconds.
- No-store - this means your page contains personal data that can't be stored.
If you set up browser caching effectively for your site, you'll improve your page load speed twofold. Go for public or private wherever possible.
4. Minify your HTML
Minimizing the space your HTML code takes up is a great way to get that perfect score on the Google Insights tool. It's the process of removing or fixing redundant or duplicated data without impacting how a web browser processes the HTML.
You can do it by reformatting your code. Namely, fixing or updating old code, removing unused code, and shortening code wherever possible.
The following resources may come in handy:
- Use HTMLMinifier to minify HTML.
- Try CSSNano and csso to minify CSS.
5. Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages
Accelerated Mobile Pages, otherwise known as AMP, is a project introduced by Google to help mobile pages load faster. It's a web component framework you can use to create user-first websites. Essentially it enables you to curate web pages that are compelling, smooth, and load near instantaneously.
How? By making an open-source format, stripping away the unnecessary content for your mobile pages. An AMP-based article appears in the "Top Stories" section of Google search results, offering customers a simplified version of the real website. It allows for better scrolling and interaction.
By investing some time into AMP, you'll improve your users' mobile experience along with your click-through rate, increasing traffic to your site. Companies like Gizmodo saw conversion increase by 50% after implementing AMP.
Render-blocking often occurs when developers are using an external script, incurring more network round trips. Ultimately, this affects the first render of the page.
You can avoid this using several methods:
- Keep the inline scripts small to improve performance.
- Make the scripts that are not critical asynchronous.
7. Improve server response time
Reducing server response time should be one of your primary goals when it comes to optimizing page load speed. By definition, server response time is the time that passes between a user requesting a page in a browser and a server responding to the request.
Google recommends a response time of lower than 200 milliseconds, anything over 500 milliseconds is an issue.
Here are a couple of ways you can improve your response time, aiming for that 200 ms mark:
- Use a reliable and fast web hosting provider. Usually, this means investing in a high-performance server.
- Spend some time optimizing your database using a query checker.
- Monitor your PHP using ensuring it’s not using up vital resources on unnecessary tasks.
8. Use a content distribution network
Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) are a network of proxy servers that distribute delivering content. Geographically they're spread out to provide content to users as quickly as possible. If your website has a global audience, it'll require a provider who has distributed assets to various nodes worldwide. In doing so, you'll always ensure a fast load speed.
You need to identify your target audience, to do this effectively. It will help you choose which data center to use. As simple as it sounds, by physically minimizing the distance between your hosting servers and your users, you can improve latency issues and improve your response time.
You can’t implement solutions without identifying the problem, so before you do anything, run your website through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Don’t be deterred if your results aren’t what you’d imagined. There’s hope!
There are countless optimizations you can implement to chip away at Google’s recommendations. Start by analyzing your scariest stumbling blocks. Address those piece by piece, and before you know it, you’ll build that perfect rating.
Subscribe to weekly updates
You’ll also receive some of our best posts today