You’ve spent months planning, designing, and implementing your new website, and now it is up and ready for customers to explore. The design is simple yet attractive, and the text is engaging and crisp. You can’t wait to see how users react. Before going live, you run a test and realize the pages load slower than you had hoped.
Not to worry; something is just wrong with the site speed or page speed. However, these metrics are crucial to the performance of your site because the wait time will discourage visitors and damage your SEO. The faster your page loads, the higher it will rank with Google. Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to evaluate and optimize your website’s speed.
All About Page Speed
Page speed refers to the time it takes for content on a webpage to load. It differs from site speed, which is the average loading time of more than one sample page on your website. Page speed deals with the time it takes to load a single webpage. Factors such as server quality, image compression, file sizes, and more determine page speed.
You can measure page speed in different ways. Three of the more common examples are:
- Time to First Byte (TTFB) measures the time it takes for a page to begin the loading process.
- First Meaningful Paint/First Contextual Paint assesses the time required to load a sufficient amount of content on a webpage to read it.
- Fully Loaded Page measures the time required for 100 percent of the page to load and is the most direct method of assessing page speed.
These distinctions are important because they offer insight into how website visitors experience and interact with the page. For example, page speed insights might show that a page takes 20 seconds to load, which is a lot of time. However, this metric might not provide enough information on its own. Perhaps users have the first meaningful paint in only three seconds, which would allow them to interact with the page very quickly.
SEO and Page Speed
Page speed insights can provide a snapshot of how well your website will perform with Google. The search engine values page speed because it helps determine a site’s quality and user experience. If your site performs well with this metric, Google will reward you with a high ranking—hopefully on the first page of results.
To determine what makes a website perform well, Backlinko conducted a study that examined the metrics of the top 10 pages of 11.8 million Google search results. Researchers found that page speed is crucial in ranking sites and that the faster your page loads, the higher it will rank. All the pages that ranked highest had quick page speeds, and these website owners had clearly optimized their sites’ loading time.
In addition, researchers found a connection between the top-ranking pages and lower bounce rates. In fact, the results on the second and third pages experienced higher bounce rates.
While many website owners fail to understand the importance of site speed for SEO, those who do take the time to speed up loading times should be able to achieve a coveted spot on the first page of Google.
Page Speed Optimization Techniques
Now that we’ve looked at how web page speed affects SEO, let’s dive into some optimization tips and tricks that will have your website ranking higher in search engine results while improving your user experience.
Perform a Page Speed Audit
The first step toward better page speed is to audit the performance of both your desktop and mobile sites. Testing website speed provides a benchmark to use when conducting optimization. Google’s PageSpeed Insights offer a quick and simple tool for benchmarking so that you can discover what needs to happen to decrease page load time.
Simply enter your website’s URL into the search bar, and Google will respond with a speed score between 0 and 100 for both your desktop and mobile sites. This smart test tool also identifies ways to decrease your load time so that you can resolve issues quickly. Google even tells you how many seconds you could save by making the recommended changes.
Remove Unnecessary Images
Once you’ve conducted the audit, the easiest way to cut down loading time is to eliminate any unnecessary images. Do a thorough image audit of your entire site and get rid of images that don’t serve your brand.
Reduce and Compress the Sizes of Your Images
Now that you’ve removed unnecessary images, it’s time to focus on optimizing the remaining ones because images are the biggest page speed offenders. You can shrink an image file size by compressing it. Plenty of image compressors exist, including Compressor.io, which allows you to drag and drop images and reduce the size by as much as 90 percent. Kraken works well for WordPress and Magento. Another effective compressor tool is Jpegmini.com, which can be added to your web app to optimize images before they even upload. If you’re looking for a free tool to compress your images, check out JPEG Optimizer or Optimole.
Reduce Your Custom Fonts
These graphic elements add visual appeal to your website and can help text pop on the screen. However, custom fonts add weight to your site and slow down loading times. If users don’t have your site’s custom font installed on their devices, they’ll have to download font files, which slows down viewing speed. So, ditch the custom fonts, and give your customers a better user experience.
“What is minifying?” you might ask. Google Developers define it like this:
“Minification refers to the process of removing unnecessary or redundant data without affecting how the resource is processed by the browser—e.g., code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and so on.”
Clean Up Your Apps
Running numerous apps or plugins on your website could be causing a slower page speed. Perhaps you installed and forgot about some unnecessary apps. Social media integration apps are a big culprit.
Perform an app audit and remove any apps that aren’t serving you. Just be sure not to uninstall any plugins that are improving user experience and site performance.
If you have a WordPress site, you can use a plugin, such as WP Rocket. Simply select the box next to Render-blocking CSS/JS.
If you have another type of website, we recommend enlisting a web developer for help with this tactic.
Reduce the Number of Redirects
Redirects add loading time to your web page speed. Permanent (301) and temporary (302) are the most common redirects, both of which are server-side redirects that use HTTP to indicate that a file or page has been moved.
To correct the problem, you can redesign your site to use Responsive Design instead of using redirects to guide mobile users to your mobile site. You can also avoid redirects in resources that are necessary for your Critical Rendering Path. Finally, you can remove redirects unless they are critical to user experience.
One of the biggest SEO mistakes you can make is ignoring page speed, as it is a key ranking factor for Google. Slow websites provide a poor user experience, and people hate slow websites. Visitors are less likely to stay on your site long enough to move through your marketing funnel if pages take too long to load. Slow sites mean lower user engagement, higher bounce rates, and lower conversion rates.
While not the sexiest topic, website optimization is crucial to the success and growth of your business. Use these proven website speed optimization tips to speed up your site and make it more enjoyable for visitors and more attractive to Google.