The first digital impression your business makes depends on the speed of your website. User experience is one of those qualities of a company that creates an indelible mark in the customer’s mind. You do not get a second chance to impress a customer once they have tried to access your website and left because the pages were loading too slowly.
Fast loading websites have higher traffic than slow ones. They also have higher return visits, and their bounce rates are very low. When your website is slow, you will have to deal with lower conversion rates, lower ranks in organic searches and a damaged reputation.
So, how can you change the status of your slow loading website to have a fast loading and more efficient one? Well, here are the 12 steps which SEO experts recommend to boost website loading speed.
The Importance of Page Speed Optimization
Before launching into the 12 step process that will speed up the performance of your website, it is crucial to understand why you need a faster loading website. These are the three main reasons:
Conversion is a crucial factor in the development of your business. You want to a website that will make it simple for your visitors to do what your call to action directs them to do. For instance, if you want customers to register for a webinar, and they cannot access the landing page that allows them to fill out their details fast enough, they will get bored and abandon the mission. Lower conversion rates mean less success for your business.
Hubspot research shows that one-second delay in website page loading speed reduces conversion by 7 percent. Now imagine a situation where your site is taking five or ten seconds to load and the amount of loss you would incur as a result.
Visibility is the second reason behind the need for a fast loading website. Websites that load fast are easier to find and follow. Google also considers the speed of the website when doing their ranking. In December 2017, Google introduced an algorithm which looks into both the desktop and mobile versions of a website and their loading speeds before ranking them. The step was taken to protect users from sites which are low in performance and aren’t equally responsive on all devices.
Usability is the third crucial reason to improve page speed. Website responsiveness has a direct impact on customer loyalty. Excellent user experience is the best way to get current customers speaking positively about your business and your brand, and it is also the best way to ensure that existing customers bring others on board.
How You Can Assess the Speed of Your Website
The first thing to do before starting the website optimization process is assessing the current state of the website, and figuring out what slows it down. When you have identified the problem areas, you can sit down and set realistic goals for the optimization process. Experts recommend that the ideal website page loading time should be three seconds or less.
The loading speed depends on the type of website. If your website ranks within the recommended timelines in your industry, you are likely to rank well above your competitors. You can use one of the following performance assessment tools to help you get the best results:
- Google’s Page Speed Insights: This is a free speed assessment tool from Google. It assesses the current performance of your website and gives you suggestions to increase speed on both the mobile and desktop versions.
- Yslow: The tool analyzes your website and all of its components, and recommends the changes that will improve speed and performance.
- Pingdom: The tool has several useful features. It looks into your entire website data, history, and other factors and generates reports that you can easily read and understand.
- Performance budget calculator: The tool focuses on recommending the type of content that you need for your site to keep running at optimum speed.
You should hire an SEO expert to handle the assessment process and come up with the right measures to speed up the site. Here are the steps to follow to increase the speed of your web pages.
1. Making Use of a Content Delivery Network
The first step you can take to make sure your web pages load faster is getting a content delivery network. The network is a set of web servers distributed across different locations around the world. The problem with using the same network is that when all users send a search query, it goes to the same hardware. It means that the hardware will take longer than it should handle all the requests. When you use a CDN, the requests are sent to different servers, which speed up the delivery process. The presence of many servers also means user requests are redirected to the nearest server, and the content is delivered faster. While the method is a little costly, it is very effective in reducing the content delivery time, increasing page speed.
2. Migrating your Website to a Better Hosting Service Provider
Several options are available when you are looking for a hosting service provider:
- Shared hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- VPS hosting
Shared hosting is the most popular because it is affordable for everyone. However, with shared hosting, you are getting shared CPU, disk space and RAM. As a result, the website hosted on a shared server is a little slower than those hosted on other hosting alternatives.
VPS stands for virtual private servers. Dedicated servers on the other hand, only handle your website’s content. Both hosting options involve having a content distribution system and a virtual server where your configurations are different and do not influence the other clients. Dedicated servers are the most expensive because there is no sharing, which optimizes speed and performance.
Other options to explore include server-less architecture, which eliminates server maintenance processes.
3. Reducing the Number of Plugins on your site
Plugins are a critical component of a website’s architecture. People install them to serve various functions such as SEO optimization, spell checking, and to chat among others. The longer you have used a website, the higher the number of plugins it is likely to have. You should run a performance test and see which plugins are slowing down your website. Delete any obsolete or unnecessary plugins.
4. Check and Optimize Images on Your Website
One of the factors that draw people to a website and make them stay is the quality of images that you have on it. Engagement, especially on commercial websites, depends on the quality of images found on it. The problem with excessive image use is that it slows down the website because of the large size of the image files. You can use image compression and resizing software to help you reduce image size and optimize loading speed.
6. Make use of Website Caching
A lot of people will be trying to access a single page of your website at the same time. It slows down the website when it has to deliver the same page to each user separately. Caching is storing a current version of your website and letting the visitors access this version till when you update the website. The website, therefore, does not refresh over and over again when someone tries to access it because cached websites do not need database requests every time.
There are several ways that you can perform the caching process. Plugins such as W3 Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are ideal for the job. People with a VPS and the dedicated server can set up caching under the general website settings. Caching is not available on most shared servers.
7. Making use of Database Optimization CMS
Another way to increase the speed and performance of a website is through optimizing the database. Sites whose content management systems are packed with complex plugins increase in size and slow down the website’s functionality. If you are using WordPress, for instance, CMS, blog posts and comments are stored along with a lot of other older information. The information takes up a lot of space and slows down the entire website. You can get reliable optimization tools such as WP-Optimize to speed up the page loading time.
8. Speeding Up G-Zip Compression
All files are compressed effectively using tools such as G-zip. The use of G-Zip minimizes the number of HTTP requests to a website and reduces the server response time. The files are sent to the browser after compression, but the browser has to unzip them before they can be accessed. Adding G-Zip speeds up the unzipping process.
9. Regular Detection and Resolution of 404 Errors
Error 404 means that a page could not be located on the server. This message is usually given by the hosting browser or the search engine when certain page content is not accessible or for some reason, no longer exists. 404 error detection tools find and resolve all of these issues. Some resolve the problem by redirecting users to the current version of the page. A few redirection tools that you can try include: Sleuth, Google Webmaster Tools and Redirect Plugin for WordPress.
10. Minimizing the Use of Web Fonts
Web fonts are growing in popularity in web design. While they are great for branding and creating a unique look for individual websites, they also slow down page loading speeds. When you add web fonts to your website, you are adding HTTP requests to external sources. As mentioned, HTTP requests slow down the website a great deal. A few great ways that you can optimize loading speed while still using web fonts are as follows:
- The use of modern formats such as WOFF2 for modern browsers
- Making use of only the character sets which are currently in use on the site
- Picking the styles, you need only
11. The Use of Pre-Fetching Techniques
Prefetching is reading and executing specific instructions even before a user initiates the process. It works well with certain aspects of the website. For instance, modern browsers use user previous behaviour patterns to predict what they would do next and prefetch the links and other pages they are likely to click on when they visit a website. There are several types of prefetching such as DNS prefetching whereby the browser resolves domains and IP addresses beforehand. The second type is the link prefetching where the page connected by a link is prefetched. Last is pre-rendering the contents of a page in advance.
12. Reduction of the Number of Redirects
Website redirects create additional HTTP requests. These have to be addressed individually, which really slows down a website. SEO experts recommend that HTTP redirects be kept at a minimum or completely eliminated if possible. There are tools which can help you determine whether the redirects are serving a fundamental purpose or they need to be scrapped entirely.
These are the 12 things that you can do to make sure that your website is loading all its pages in less than three seconds. As you make the changes, remember that the final functionality of the website should be the determinant of the changes that you make. Take time and consult an SEO expert to help you handle the page optimization process.