Your website speed makes a lasting impression on your business, so make sure it’s fast. It’s important to understand that you won’t get a second chance when you come to user experience. Low web page speed is one of the biggest frustrations that will turn people off your resource.
High-performance websites are the result of high return visits, low bounces, higher conversions, engagement and higher ranks in organic search, and better user experience. Slow websites will cost your business money and damage your reputation. By reducing the page loading time, you will positively impact marketing processes. You’ll attract more traffic and attract more qualified customers that can be converted into leads. We will give you recommendations about what you can do to improve your website’s performance and page load time in this article.
Importance of website speed optimization
Page load time is an important web performance metric that shows how long it takes for a page to show up on the user’s screen.
Let’s take a look at how web page speed optimization affects the key factors of website performance.
Conversion. Website conversion is an essential factor in your business success, which means obtaining your visitors to do what you want them to do. For instance, they will buy your product, subscribe to newsletters campaigns, register for a webinar, or download a guide.
Visibility. The load time of your website also influences how easily users can find your website. Website speed is one of the factors that Google takes into consideration when ranking sites. A low-performing website has a poor user experience and as a result, gains less promotion in search results, the Google search engine has started ranking also based on mobile versions of pages, even for desktop searches. The goal of this decision is to protect users from websites that have low performance and aren’t responsive to all devices.
Usability. Website usability like website page speed and load time, and website responsivity to user request directly impact customers’ loyalty. The better your website’s performance, the more satisfied a customer will be. A great user experience can help you build a large customer base and build a strong brand.
Ways to assess your site’s speed
Before starting your website speed optimization, you should first determine your current load time, and define what slows down the website. Then you should set goals for your website’s performance. According to the Google study on the average mobile speed, only a fraction of the websites is even close to their recommended mobile speed.
So, if you make your website speed acceptable, you will get a major ranking advantage over competitors.
The ways of website optimization listed in this article can be very different and sometimes the solutions to one problem can have negative effects on another aspect of your website. That’s the reason we recommend analyzing the website’s speed after each change to identify what actions deliver the best performance.
Guidelines to speed up the website
Once you have tested your website’s speed, you can start optimizing its performance. There are a lot of different ways to make your site work faster, and we created a list with the most effective ones.
1. Use a Content Delivery Network (or CDN)
A content delivery network (CDN) is a set of web servers distributed across various geographical locations. When you host the site on a single server, every user request is sent to the same hardware, which can cause problems. Because of this, the time needed to complete each request increases. On top of that, the load time increases when the users are physically far from their server. With CDN, requests are redirected to the closest server. As a result, content is delivered to a visitor quicker and a website works more quickly. This is a rather costly, but quite effective way of optimizing the load time.
2. Move your site to a better host
There are three possible types of hosting:
- Shared hosting
- Virtual Private Servers (VPS) hosting
- Dedicated server
The most popular type of hosting that is used all around the world is shared hosting. That’s how you can get your website online in a short time for a low fee. It’s important to choose a fast web hosting provider to ensure better optimization. With shared hosting, your website shares CPU, disk space, RAM, and other resources with other websites that are also hosted on the same server. The main reason why shared hosting is not as fast as VPSs or dedicated servers is that shared hosting is shared.
Virtual Private Servers and dedicated servers are much faster than shared hosting. VPS uses multiple web servers for content distribution. You can have a VPS where you share the server with other users and have your part of the virtual server with your own configurations. If your website has the average traffic or you have an eCommerce site with traffic spikes in some periods, VPS will be the optimal solution for you.
The most expensive hosting options are to use a dedicated server, which can be your own physical machine. You pay a server rent and pay a system administrator to maintain the server.
Serverless architecture is yet another option that removes maintenance and server setup procedures altogether. Consider reading our separate article covering serverless architecture specifics and benefits.
3. Optimize your website’s images
Everyone loves eye-catching images. In the case of successful eCommerce sites, images are a vital part. A lot of photos, images, graphics on your product pages improve engagement. The negative side of the image use is that they are usually large files that slow down a website.
The best way to reduce the image size without compromising its quality is to compress images using such tools as ImageOptim, JPEGmini, or Kraken. The procedure may take a bit of time but it’s worth it. Another way to reduce the image size is to use the HTML responsive images <secret> and <size> attributes that adjust image size based on user display properties.
4. Reduce the number of plugins
Plugins are common components of each website. They add specific features suggested by third parties. Unfortunately, the more plugins are installed, the more resources are needed to run them. As a result, the website works slower, and also security issues can appear. As time passes, the number of plugins grows, while some of them may not be used anymore. We recommend checking out all the plugins you have installed and deleting unnecessary ones. First, run the performance tests on your page to find out which plugins are slowing down your website. Not only does the website speed depend on the number of installed plugins but also on their quality. Try to avoid plugins that load a lot of scripts and styles or generate a lot of database queries. The best solution is to keep only the necessary ones and ensure that they are kept up to date.
6. Use website caching
In case there are a lot of users accessing the page at one-time servers work slowly and need more time to deliver the web page to each user. Caching is the process of storing the current version of your website on the hosting and presenting this version until your website is updated. This means that the web page doesn’t render over and over again for each user.
7. Implement Gzip Compression
Gzip compression is an effective way to compress files. It minimizes the number of HTTP requests and reduces the response time. Gzip compresses files before sending them to a browser. On the user side of the browser, a browser unzipped the files and presents the content. This method can work for all files on your website, including images, videos, and other files. You can enable GZip on your website by adding a few lines of code or by using a utility called gzip.
8. Database optimization in CMS
Database optimization is an effective way to increase performance. If you use a CMS that has a lot of complex plugins, the database will increase and your website will work slower. For example, the WordPress CMS stores information such as comments, blog posts, etc. that takes up a lot of data storage. Each CMS requires its specific optimization measures and also has its own specific plugins. For WordPress, for instance, you may consider WP-Optimize.
9. Reduce the use of web fonts
Web fonts have become very popular in website designs. Unfortunately, the use of web fonts has a negative impact on the speed of page rendering. Web fonts add extra requests to external resources. The following measures will reduce the size of Webfont traffic:
- Use modern formats for modern browsers.
- Include only those character sets that are used on the site;
- Choose only the needed styles
10. Detect 404 errors
A 404 error means that a “Page isn’t found”. This message is provided to browsers or search engines by the hosting when the accessed content of the page no longer exists. You can use error detection tools to detect and correct 404 errors. As we mentioned, it’s important to run the resource through external tools to check for errors. For example, Xenu’s Link Sleuth, Google Webmaster Tools (GWTs), and 404Redirects Plugin For WordPress.
Once you’re done detecting all 404 errors, you should assess the traffic that they’re generating. If these dead links do not bring any visits and thus do not consume your server resource, you may leave them as is. If these pages still receive some traffic, consider setting redirects and fixing the link addresses of the internal ones.
11. Reduce redirects
Redirects create additional HTTP requests, which negatively impact performance. We advise keeping them as few as possible or eliminating them entirely. First, you should run a site scan to identify all redirects on the page. Then you must check to see if they serve a necessary function and leave only the critical functions.
12. Use prefetching techniques
Pre-fetching entails reading and pre-processing instructions before a user initiates them. The technique is fairly common. It works well if your website can anticipate user actions and load content or links in advance, for instance. Usually, modern browsers assume that users will prefetch by default as they assume that users will behave in a certain way. However, UX specialists, engineers, and designers are more likely to understand the user behavior and make ‘hints’ for browsers to do prefetched work.
There are three main kinds of prefetching:
DNS-prefetching. The practice entails resolving domains into their IP addresses in advance.
Link prefetching. If you are sure that a particular user will click on a particular link to navigate to a particular page, you can apply link prefetching. The method is useful to track user actions that are stable and predictable, like moving to the checkout page after one or several products were added.
Prerendering. This approach means rendering an entire web page or some elements of the page in advance.
While prefetching can be effective, it requires deep user behavior analysis to make precise predictions.
A typical user expects web pages to load in less than 3 seconds. If you don”t meet this expectation barrier you lose a lot of traffic and, as a consequence, your revenue.
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