You’ve probably heard many times that you should optimize website speed. But most often this is such a complex topic as presented by experts, that you assume it’s for people who’ve been doing this for ages. Or for those with coding skills, or who have a budget and can afford a developer. It doesn’t need to be that way. You can speed up your site yourself and boost its performance by doing a few little tweaks this week.
However, it all begins by understanding why site speed matters.
Here’s a short list of the main reasons you need to optimize website speed:
Major search engines consider this one of the top factors when ranking pages. So whether or not your site loads quickly, is directly related to how much traffic you’ll have from search engines too.
The Web today is all about user experience. Site owners want to give every visitor the best of the best so they can come back. And the easiest way to do that is to make sure a user opens a page quickly and is taken to other pages as fast as possible.
Did you know that every second online user expects a site to load in less than 2 seconds?
That means the moment you optimize website speed, you make your visitors happier too.
And what about bounce rate? That’s the metric showing how often users abandon your site right after they’ve clicked on it.
Well, it will be lower because no one would impatiently wait for a page to load and decide to leave if it’s too long.
Nearly 80% of people doing their shopping or other activities online share that they won’t come back to a site if their user experience wasn’t great.
What’s more, half of them will also tell their friends about this. So that’s word of mouth marketing gone wrong.
You might have quality content and all the elements on your site that are essential. But if you don’t optimize website speed, you won’t give visitors a chance to get an idea of what you’re all about.
Site speed is something you simply cannot ignore. Especially in today’s digital age, when it’s a matter of a click to find another blog like yours on a similar topic.
You want to grab interest, but also keep it. And for that, you need to balance fast-loading pages and great user experience.
It’s been known forever that even a second saved in load time for your platform, can lead to higher conversions of around 7%. How awesome is that!
But the opposite is also true. If you accidentally install something on your site that slows it down with 1 second, have too many images that aren’t optimized, or simply don’t monitor your site to see what’s slowing it down, then you’ll lower your conversion rate.
Now that you know why it’s key to optimize website speed, let’s move onto the steps you can take to handle that issue.
How to Optimize Website Speed
A content delivery network, or CDN, is a system of servers distributed in different places around the globe, that deliver web content to each user based on their location.
The usage of CDN will, of course, make it faster for visitors to see the page, wherever they are in the world. And that usually comes with your hosting provider.
But if you don’t have it set up, make sure you ask your host about it.
Caching is storing data in a temporary storage area (known as a cache).
Browser caching is the process of storing data files on your computer when visiting sites. These files are downloaded from your browser and delivered to you in the form of a web page. But in reality, it’s a ton of images, CSS, scripts, html files, and more.
That process of storing happens so that you can save bandwidth and reduce server load.
And that’s why we are often prompted to clear cache. Over time a lot of it is stored and we need to get rid of the old one, so the browser can perform more efficiently.
To leverage browser caching on your platform so that you can optimize website speed, means to identify how long browsers should keep all these files locally.
By doing this you will make sure each user’s browser downloads less data and thus opens up your site quickly.
We see a redirect when we visit one page that gets us to another.
Basically, we don’t get to the final destination directly, but are redirected there by the browser. It first needs to connect to another page, before it takes us to where we want to land.
As you can guess, having many of these makes a page load slowly. Even one redirect isn’t good for site speed for that matter.
The simple rule of thumb when looking to optimize website speed is to avoid redirects, always.
Sometimes, they might be necessary, though. As is the case with telling search engines whether to consider our main domain the version with www, or without it.
Whatever we choose, when a visitor types the other one, they get redirected to the original. And that’s okay.
But using redirects for standard posts of pages, and many of them, is bad for user experience. So make sure you monitor these with one of the many tools available online, and do something to remove redirects.
No need to delve into what these 3 are exactly, but it’s important to know that when not taken care of, the size of these files is too big and slows down your site.
You need to use some kind of compression software to reduce them.
It’s recommended to enable gzip compression (the most popular option) so that you can compress web pages, code, style sheets and other elements, and then send them to a browser.
For a start, ask your host if it’s enabled on the server already. Or you can run a test online to see if that’s active on your site.
What we talked about above doesn’t concern image files. These should also be optimized with compression, but in a different way so that we don’t ruin their quality.
A few important things to watch out for when having too many images on your site, are the following:
Make sure they are one of the 2 most popular formats – jpeg and png.
If possible, use images with smaller bandwidth.
Give them alt text containing your keywords so that search engines can read them. They use text to understand image and video files too.
Now, the fastest way to compress all your current images at once on your website, and to make sure new ones are automatically reduced in size, is to install and activate the necessary plugin or application for that.
You can also find a ton of free resources online offering to quickly save you bandwidth by compressing images.
Doing this one thing will help you optimize website speed significantly.
There’s another solution that you can use together with compression. It’s the so-called lazy loading of image files.
That simply means an image will be loaded for a visitor only when he gets to that part of the page. Makes sense, right?
As a non-tech savvy blogger, you probably rely on plugins that are already coded for you and which you simply install and use.
However, each of these makes our site heavier and affects speed. And it’s easy to start feeling comfortable with installing new ones regularly, without removing old ones.
So take a closer look at all that you’ve got on your site right now. Remove what’s not essential, as it will help you optimize website speed.
Some design elements aren’t necessary too. And if they make the user experience worse, it’s much smarter to prefer a minimalistic look.
There are also online checkers that will tell you which plugins use the most bandwidth.
Some additional services you’re using for which you placed code on your pages might also lead to a slower site.
Above-the-fold content is what you see when you open a page, without the need to scroll down.
Of course, that’s also the most important part of any page and where you have a chance to convince a visitor to stay in a matter of seconds.
It’s never a good idea to have too much code or additional elements there that might lead to increased loading time.
To optimize website speed, make sure you reduce what’s visible above the fold. Do that by limiting the files there and fixing render blocking of scrips and style sheets.
The more content you publish on your site, the more drafts and other unnecessary files you get stored on the back-end such as tables and indexes.
Just like you need to clear out a recycle bin on a computer, so do you need to clean your database every now and then and get rid of those extra files that take up space and affect website speed.
Most of the websites out there are using custom fonts. While these look good, they also lead to more HTTP requests to other resources.
To avoid that, make sure you don’t use more fonts than you need.
Have your fonts delivered by a service, or load them locally.
Some font types aren’t automatically compressed, so you’ll need to take care of that by using gzip compression again.
Last but not lest, keep in mind that your host has a lot to do with the speed of your site.
After all, you’re relying on their server and content distribution network. And it makes all the difference when there are reliable, secure and fast.
If you’re willing to invest a bit more in this, I’d suggest upgrading your package to one that uses dedicated hosting. This means you’ll be having one server for your website.
While with shared hosting, you’re using one with many other web site owners. Which is not only affecting performance and load time, but also increases the chance of someone hacking you through the server.
All that might sound like a lot if you never considered site speed an important component. But if you take a look at each action separately, you see it as one step of a bigger journey.
The good news is that there’s a little something you can do about all of the items on the list on how to optimize page speed.
Begin by taking a speed test now. See the overall score.
This goes together with finding out exactly which aspects you haven’t taken care of. Go from there and decide what you need to optimize for better performance.
Such monitoring should be done on a regular basis, as your site grows and you remove old elements from it and add new ones.
You never know what might be causing more redirects, whether a new script has appeared that isn’t minified, and whether your browser is storing files locally.
Now that you know what a difference it can make to optimize website speed, and how exactly you can do it on your own, there’s no excuse not to take action no later than tomorrow.