In a world of instant gratification, with access to anything you can imagine just a click away, it’s no surprise that page speed has become a critical element of website design and development. Brands are starting to take notice of their site load times and speed scores and wondering how to make the necessary improvements to keep their Google rankings favorable and to prevent the loss of conversions or customers.
How to test your page speed
There are many resources available to test the time it takes for your website to load, but a great place to start is heading to Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Not only will they provide a score for your overall site speed on both desktop and mobile, but they will also tell you where your site is falling behind, making it easier to know where you’ll need to address your attention.
Often times you will find that your mobile speed score is significantly lower than your desktop speed score. There are a few reasons for this but mainly it’s due to the fact that mobile visitors tend to have slower Internet connections. Likewise, phones in general have less power to execute backend codes and scripts compared to say a laptop.
Regardless, it’s essential that your company take the time to run your speed scores and begin the process of improvement. Why? As Google has cited, even a one-second delay in mobile load times can impact conversion rates by up to 20%.
How to improve your site’s speed
One of the biggest factors in load times comes down to size. If there are large images and endless scripts and styles in the site code, it’s quite likely that your speed score is going to be disturbingly low. Here are a few ways to optimize your website and increase your site speed for improved search engine rankings and an enhanced user experience:
Image optimization – If you are using professional photos on your website (and we highly recommend that you do!), you want to make sure that you are scaling the image size down prior to uploading the images to your website. Even if your website design shows a thumbnail size image, if it was uploaded as a really large image, a browser still has to load the full image size, thus taking way more time than necessary to display the photo.
Caching – Browser caching is a great tool that can be enabled on your website to help reduce load times. Essentially, when you enable caching data is stores on the visitors’ browser so that when they access your website again, the site doesn’t have to load from scratch. The only down side is that if you are making regular changes to your website (as you should be!), your visitors may not see the most up-to-date version depending on the cache settings and how long the data is stored on a browser. Caching can be enabled through a plugin like W3 Total Cache or in some cases can be set up with your hosting provider or through your firewall if you are on one.
CSS optimization – Another major factor in site load times is the amount of CSS files that have to download before someone can view your site. In order to reduce the time it takes for the CSS to download, you’ll want to first remove any unnecessary code in your site files. Next, you can minimize the CSS files, which remove the spaces from your code, and helps reduce load times. The best way to go about this on your own would be to use a plugin for WordPress or an online service like CSS Minifier to do the work for you. You may consider reaching out to a web developer with extensive knowledge with CSS files to help optimize your site.
Lessen redirects – Every time a page has to redirect, it means that your site has to trigger an additional request. If possible, you want to decrease the number of redirects on your site. A great place to start is making sure you have a fully responsive website that does not require a redirect to a mobile version if someone is trying to access your site via their phone. While you may encounter instances in which a redirect is required, like a page that has moved, it’s important to pay attention to nonetheless.
Switch to a CDN – A content delivery network (CDN) is essentially a network of servers around the globe that will help your website visitors, no matter where they are located, enjoy faster website load times. Although it seems like websites are somewhere in the Internet “cloud”, all of your website content and assets are in fact located somewhere. Typically, a server is based in one location thus making site load times vary depending on where the visitor is trying to access the site from. If the server is in Boston and the visitor is in Sydney, Australia, you can expect it to take some time for that Boston based server to deliver the website content to Australia. With a CDN, your website would instead pull from the server closet to the visitor’s location. If you’re interested in having a CDN for your website, you’ll need to reach out to your hosting provider to see what your options are.
Feeling the call to ramp up your company’s website speed? As always, be sure to reach out to our team of web development and SEO specialists to optimize your site and keep your customers happily (and quickly) surfing your online space! Give us a call at 508-652-0012.