When it comes to your user’s site experience and position in search engines, your website load speed matters and is a vital factor.
Internet users today expect a website to load as fast as possible. High quality content, inbound links and easy navigation are not enough to make your blog or website successful. They really feel cheated by blogs that take a very long time to respond to their web requests.
Why speed matters
It’s a well known fact if a website takes too long to load; a visitor is more likely to move on to other website (most likely competitors). With the increased internet speed, usage and accessibility, today’s users expect the fastest and most reliable online experience. Everyone has “very limited time” to surf the internet and no one likes to wait on a web page to load.
So, what’s the time limit for a visitor to wait for loading a web page? Previously it was considered that maximum waiting time should be less than seven seconds. But today, in the world of improved technology, users expect a web page (with simple content) to completely load within two seconds or less. And if a web page takes more than two seconds to load, chances are up to 40% of users may leave your site.
AdWords quality score:
Maybe you’re not aware of this, but the speed of your website can actually impact your Quality Score. Google knows very well that customers are likely to convert on a faster website, so they’ve put more emphasis on the landing page loading speed. If the performance of your landing page is dull, then your Quality Score will suffer.
Apart from this, Quality Score drives your CPC campaigns. It means faster loading speed can help you reduce your advertising costs. In short, faster page load speed results into higher quality score, and higher quality score leads to enhanced spending efficiency and more reach.
In 2010, Google announced that page load speed would be an important factor in determining the ranking of websites in search engine results. Google algorithm makes use of multiple factors to determine where to rank your website in search engine result pages. Some of these factors are evaluation of the legitimacy of the website itself (like number of quality inbound links and age of the domain name), while others are related to a webpage content itself (like title, description, text, URL etc.).
However, after the announcement of Google, it became crucial for website owners to improve their page load time. So if you care about getting ranked higher and more traffic from Google, you should improve your website website’s performance. Though fast load time isn’t a huge ranking factor, but it’s quite important.
Generally, it is considered that mobile users have more patience than desktop users. The reason is that they use a slower internet connection. But in the present scenario, while the internet connection speed is very fast, page load time became an important factor for mobile users.
Therefore, website owners should keep in mind this factor while using tools to manage mobile versions of their websites. Also, designers and coders should create simple and lightweight mobile version of a website in order to avoid server overload and make sure that the website will load quickly on mobile devices.
Competitors cash in:
When a user clicks away from a web page on your site due to slow load speed, your competitors benefit from it. In traffic rush hours, 75% of online consumers move to a competitor’s site rather than having the patience to wait for a website to load. Hence, if your site is slow, you’re not only going to lose your visitors and money, but also indirectly handle your valuable customers over to your competitors.
Free tools to test your site’s speed
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool lets you test the performance of a web page both for desktop and mobile devices. It fetches the URL of a web page twice, once with a desktop user-agent, and once with a mobile user-agent. It measures how the page can boost its performance on: time to full page load and time to above-the-fold content load. After analyzing the content of a web page, it generates “consider fixing” and “should fix” type recommendations, which you can use to make your web page faster on all devices.
YSlow, developed by Yahoo, analyzes a web page and accordingly gives you suggestions to improve its performance. All the generated suggestions are based on a set of 23 web performance rules, which are defined by Yahoo’s Performance team. Additionally, it gives your web page a Grade that is based on one of three predefined rule set.
GTMetrix is another popular and effective website performance testing tool that helps you optimize your website’s speed and give your visitors an all-around improved experience. Using Google Page Speed and YSlow, it grades the performance of your site and makes actionable recommendations available to you. In addition, you can also set up monitored alerts and view your page load in a filmstrip view.
Pingdom offers a wide range of website speed testing tools that enables you to monitor the performance of your website and provides invaluable insights to help you make it faster. Using Pingdom, you will be able to monitor individual files and requests on your site and can know the reasons which cause poor website performance. From page analysis to a performance grade, they provide quite useful information related to your website.
MaxCDN recently released their set of testing tools through which you can test your website’s performance at 12 different locations around the globe. Performing Ping test, you can compare the ping speed of two domains and know how your site performs against your competitors. Finally, the HTTP Speed Test enables you compare the speed of first and last byte of two websites.
Quick tips to speed up your site
Upgrade your server:
The connectivity and speed of a website depends on the type of server being used for hosting. If your site is hosted on a shared hosting server, upgrade it to a VPS or dedicated server that allows your website having more server resources available. Hosting your website on a shared server may result in web pages being load slower.
Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network):
One of the best ways to decrease your website’s page speed is to host your media files on a content delivery network. Using a CDN, you can save up to 60% bandwidth and halve the number of requests made by your website. Some of the popular and reputed CDNs are MaxCDN, CloudFlare, and Amazon CloudFront.
Minimize HTTP requests:
According to Yahoo, up to 90% of the end-user response time is tied up in downloading the different components – like images, scripts, flash, style sheets etc. – of a web page. When someone land on your website, an HTTP request is made for each one of these components. The best practice for minimizing the number of HTTP requests is to eliminate all unnecessary things from your site.
Enable Gzip compression:
Nowadays, Gzip is the most used compression method that doesn’t only save bandwidth, but also speed up web page load time. A web page containing high quality content is often bigger than 100kb and this result in slower page load time. By compressing your website’s content, you can reduce the response size by about 70%. To check whether your site is Gzip enabled or not, you can use Gziptest.
There are two important things that you should keep in mind while uploading images to your website: size and format. As large images take much longer than expected time to load, so it’s crucial to crop your images to the correct size before uploading. For the format of your images, .jpg and .png are best options. Use GIFs for small graphics, and also avoid using .bmp and .tiff formats.
Put scripts at the bottom:
If you want to get your content delivered to your visitors as fast as possible, it’s highly recommended to put scripts as close to the bottom of your page as possible. The reason behind this is simple: visitors would not like to see a blank page while the browser is busy in loading different script related files. Also, put your CSS at the top of your page since browsers would render the CSS file before rendering your page.
Though sometimes it is necessary to redirect a visitor from one URL to another, but if you have a lot of redirects on your site, your site will suffer delay in page load. Redirections lead to additional HTTP requests, which increase web page load time. So minimize the number of redirects even though you have a responsive version of your web site.
Enable browser caching:
Monitor & improve:
One of the best ways to make your website super speedy is to monitor its performance on a regular basis and make necessary improvements accordingly. Furthermore, always run some quick tests especially when you make any changes in your website’s code or content to see the results.