Page Speed: Why it Matters and How to Optimize Yours


  • More than half of visitors to a site expect it will load in less than two seconds, and 53% of site visits are abandoned if they take over three seconds to load.
  • While page speed can directly affect your prospects by annoying visitors, it also forms part of Google’s technical SEO checklist.
  • From caching to compressing images, there are a number of options that can be implemented depending on the time, resources, and expertise you have available.

 

When it comes to browsing the web, speed matters. After all, nobody wants to just browse – they want to be delivered at warp speed from one domain to another. It doesn’t matter if the destination is actually important (it probably isn’t). They just want to be there, and they want to be there five seconds ago.

Google’s own research on the matter is telling. More than half of visitors to a site expect it will load in less than two seconds. So, forget pleasant fables of the tortoise and the hare. When it comes to page speed, the citizenry demand jet propulsion – otherwise, they’ll simply quit and go elsewhere. In fact, 53% of site visits are abandoned if they take over three seconds to load!

To get to the point, page speed equals money. Google has even set up a site tester which, along with measuring your load speed, can tell you how much more money you could be making if you knew how to increase page speed (or conversely, how much money you’re losing by not being up to speed, but we prefer to take a positive outlook on life).

How to Increase Page Speed

For Google, it’s all about the happiness of its users. While page speed can directly affect your prospects by annoying visitors, it also forms part of Google’s technical SEO checklist.

Clearly, page speed matters, but what can you do about it? Fortunately, there are a number of options that can be implemented depending on the time, resources, and expertise you have available.

  1. Cache, Cache, Money Y’all

A cache, in both the original and current sense, is like a treasure chest. Just as pirates would have been delighted to come across a cache of eye-patches or talking parrots, desktops or smartphones love it when they come across the cache of a website that has been visited by the user before. Since a cache is essentially a store of the information that was previously sent, it greatly increases load times.

To get the biggest pay-offs from your caching, set a long minimum cache time, which can be anywhere from a week to a year (especially if your site does not change very much).

  1. Watch What You Send

A website loading is basically your server sending information to your visitor, so the logical info to pull from that is that the less there is to send, the less time a site will take to load. For example, some user interfaces can be a lot heavier than others, which might look great when you’re getting the site built but has negative implications in real-world settings (e.g. getting a lead to visit your site who’s never heard of you before, but then they jump ship because it’s loading as if they’re on dial-up).

Anything that adds mountains of CSS to your site should be queried as to how essential it is.

  1. Images, Images, Images

While landing pages, content in general, and your technical SEO all need images to add some life and color to a page, they also slow pages down to glacial speed. We don’t suggest stripping out the images completely from your site, but rather making some changes to ensure they’re working as smoothly as possible. This can include:

  • Delaying the load time of off-screen images (i.e. below the fold)
  • Ensuring that they are in easily rendered and compressed formats
  • Encoding the images correctly
  • Sizing your images to suit the space and device that will be accessing them
  1. Drop the GIFs

GIFs are fun; they are part of modern meme culture and can brighten up any bit of content with their random loops of hilarious human fails or cute animal weirdness. Unfortunately, they are also absolutely huge and take ages to load. They’re fine for ultra-high-speed home or office connections, but absolute buzzkills for anyone checking your site on the move, who are increasingly in the majority. Videos of the exact same thing, in the same quality, can be about 80% lighter (though are definitely slightly less fun).

  1. Jettison the Java

Google recommends minifying all CSS, JavaScript, and HTML, but as Java is also the most expensive transfer method used on the web, it is particularly egregious when it comes to finding areas to start cutting down. It is also recommended to reduce the amount of JavaScript render blocking, which slows your site down.

  1. Trim the Fat

Rather than being some insensitive diet advice, this is technical SEO advice from people who know how to increase page speed. The fat, in this case, being raw, yet surprisingly tasty, megabytes. A 1.5 MB webpage takes about seven seconds to load using a fast 3G connection, which is about four seconds over the recommended load time.

The problem is that most likely your page isn’t anywhere near 1.5 MB (relatively at least), coming in at around 1/3 larger than that at 2 MB. It’s easy for it to happen; a few extra sprinkles here, a dash of something sweet there, and next thing you know you’re taking 10 seconds-plus to load. The good news is that getting your site back in shape can be quite simple, with Google believing that the majority of sites can benefit from simple compression. Reducing image sizes slightly can also be a major MB burner.

No matter what the industry, page speed matters. The BBC in the UK reported losing 10% of visitors for every extra second of load time, while in retail the same figure is up to 20% every second. Knowing how to increase page speed is just one element of the in-depth package that we seek to deliver to all of our partners. Get in touch with us today to find out how we put the work in to help you get success.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David is the former lead member of an enterprise digital team, where he managed clients across a spectrum of industries. He’s been perfecting search engine optimization for years and specializes in technical SEO and local strategy.
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