In this growing digitized landscape, SEO is increasingly becoming a crucial technique to attain a top ranking on search engines, achieve better conversion rates, and maintain a strategic advantage over competitors. But a slow website speed can spoil your SEO efforts, which in turn can negatively impact your site’s usability and user experience.
If you are running an online business, page speed is a highly critical factor of its success. Since your e-commerce website contains plenty of product images and videos, it will be of no use if your visitors have to wait for too long until your page is completely loaded. Therefore, having an optimized, updated website is essential to reach a wider audience that may eventually become your customers. With the advancement in communication technology, internet speed is becoming faster and faster, while the patience of people seems to be running out easily.
Impacts of Slow Websites
In 2010, Google decided to factor in web page speed into their SEO algorithm; as a result, slower websites have been punished with lower ranking on search results since then. In general, search engines compare your website against your competitors on certain aspects and rewards it if it’s fastest.
The biggest impact of a slow page load speed is on user experience (UX), meaning a website that loads faster leads to happy users and vice versa. It was found that almost half of users expect pages to load within a maximum of 2 to 3 seconds. Also, a 1 second delay in page response time can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Research by Akamai in 2006 revealed 75% of users will not return to a page that loads for more than 4 seconds; a fact that is still more than relevant today. In light of this fact, Shopzilla, an online shopping company, increased their site’s loading speed that resulted in a 25% rise in page views and about 7-12% increase in revenue.
How to Optimize your Page Load Speed and Fix it Once and for All
The slow speed of your website can be a result of various factors; for example, poor hosting, large image size, unoptimized browser, plugins & apps, huge volume of ads, external embedded media, themes, and widgets, etc.
Thus, before fixing your website’s speed, it is pertinent to know the causes that make it slow. There is an important metric called “time to first byte” (TTFB) that determines the responsiveness of your website to the web server. In other words, TTFB helps you figure out where the slow part of your website is coming from.
The following steps will help you optimize your website’s speed:
1. Pick a Fast Web Host
To begin with, your website’s speed can be greatly boosted by choosing a fast and reliable web host. You have to make sure that you are not over-utilizing the resources that you have limited. If you are using a slower one and you start getting more traffic, you will need to upgrade your hosting sooner or later. Make sure to opt for the appropriate host that’s suitable for your business needs, as it will help optimize the inherent problems that come in dynamic content in general.
2. Use a CDN
CDN or Content Delivery Network is another way of increasing page speed. A CDN stores your files on different servers around the world, which allows visitors to see your pages much faster because they can receive files from servers closer to their physical location. CDNs are an effective solution when your users are spread around the globe. For instance, if your visitors are located on the West Coast of the United States and you are hosting on the East Coast, a CDN will help you replicate your webpage content to multiple locations so that the visitors can easily get access to the content. It is a good idea to choose a CDN-enabled CMS platform for faster content delivery. Thus, you will have better reliability and response times and improved SEO ranking. There are various CMSs available for web development – WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are most popular ones. You can compare these CMS solutions and decide which platform is right for you.
While discussing CDN, it is also pertinent to understand “latency” here. It is the total time taken to transmit a single data packet from location to another. This means it is a measure of how far a data packet has to travel, which is why even higher bandwidth internet connection doesn’t guarantee you low TTFB figures. So, latency is characterized by two factors. One, the physical distance from A to B. Second, the number of hops between them since the internet redirects them using routers and switches. Therefore, using a CDN can decrease your TTFB by 73%.
A significant increase in your webpage speed can be achieved in your website is by caching the dynamic pages. This step could likely be the most effective one you can use to speed up your site and free your web server from unnecessary work. Caching your webpages makes them “pre-built” with HTML ready to go as soon as your browser requests the pages. To this effect, WordPress plugins such as “WP Super Cache” can help you cache your dynamic pages. The plugin tracks saved dynamic pages, while serving the freshest copy possible.
4. Reduce HTTP Requests
When your browser makes a request to the web server in order to fetch data, it does so using HTTP, which is a form of a request/response between a client and a server. This essentially means the more HTTP requests your page makes, the slower it will load. Here are the ways with which you can reduce HTTP requests:
- Use CSS Sprites
- Reduce unnecessary third-party plugins that make a large number of external requests
- Reduce the use of third-party frameworks unless absolutely needed
- Combine your CSS and JS files
5. Compress your Images and Files
You can reduce the amount of traffic for HTTP objects by compressing images and files before they are sent. Optimus WordPress Plugin developed by KeyCDN recently focuses on the advantage of combination of lossless and lossy image compression, which you can use with any platform. By using this tool for compression, you can save 4.7KB (30%) without losses. According to Google, WebP lossless images are 26% smaller than PNGs and 25-34% smaller than JPEG images.
6. Install a Plugin
Plugins for your website can be helpful for many ways. For example, installing a website speed optimizer plugin can give a significant boost to your website’s speed. There are many plugins being designed to increase the load speed of your webpage through a variety of mechanisms. Which one you need depends largely on the structure, design, and reach of your page. From extremely high traffic sites to image-heavy ones, you can choose the plugins as per your requirement.
Sometimes HTTP requests that aren’t needed can slow down the rendering of your page. In such moments, you need plugins that allow you to disable these scripts on a per-page basis. This means you can use plugins to prevent loading code where it isn’t needed.
Tools to Measure your Page Load Time
The following are some of the most widely used tools to measure your website’s performance:
WebPageTest is a highly effective tool that allows you to see where your site performance stands. In order to measure your website’s speed, you just need to visit the site, select a location that fits your profile, and run the test. After a few moments, you will see results in “Waterfall View”, somewhat like the following:
In the above particular test, the blue part indicates downloaded content, while the green area indicates the time to first byte, which is 313ms here. According to WebPageTest, the target time is the time needed for the DNS, Socket, and SSL negotiations, which is +100ms.
Pingdom is one of the widely used website monitoring and speed testing tools currently available. Though it initially seems like a simple testing tool, there is a whole gamut of features available to you once you register. The analysis done by the Pingdom tool offers a great overview with crucial information like size analysis, size per domain, and number of requests per domain, etc. You will get the result like this:
3. Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights is a potent tool used for testing speed by grading your website on a scale of 1 to 100. The higher the number, the more optimized your site is. So, if this tool is indicating 85 or above, this means your website is performing well. In addition to the desktop, PageTest gives reports for mobile versions of websites as well. This tool measures how a page can improve its performance on time to above-the-fold load and time to load the full page.
A slow website can be one of your biggest nightmares if it starts hampering your business. There could be few or many factors for a website to be slow in loading, but the impacts are far-reaching: Your SEO efforts could suffer a huge setback, your users might abandon your website before making any transaction, or your website won’t be visible in search engine results at all. However, there are many options available to you to fix this menace.
About the Author
Smith Willas is a freelance writer and loves to write about business and marketing topics. He currently writes for a few seo companies.
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