Tracking metrics is an integral part of website management. However, some figures matter more than others. Website speed is a crucial factor in your overall success, influencing your visitors and the Google algorithm significantly. Neglecting it could mean the end of your online endeavors.
With over 10.8 billion websites on the internet, the battle for visibility is a tough one. If your site doesn’t run smoothly, the quality of your content becomes irrelevant. We’ve listed the essential elements to ensure fast load times and minimum latency.
Why Website Speed is Important
Google is usually the primary source of traffic for any website. Using SEO to rank well is essential for success. Studies suggest that at least 75% of Google’s traffic is shared across the first page of results. If you rank first for your keyword, you enjoy 33% of clicks. Alongside optimizing your content for search engines, website speed is another significant factor in the algorithm.
If your site is slow, it will perform poorly on Google. Some website experts suggest that sluggish pages are de-indexed altogether; others conclude they are banished to the end pages of search results. Experiments have also investigated the repercussions of this demotion. Increasing web search latency 100-400ms reduces the number of searches by 0.2%-0.6%. Furthermore, for more significant speed delays, the drop in clicks actually continue after to problem is resolved – which means effort is required to regain those numbers.
SEO is essential for ensuring your site receives relevant and organic visitors. If the speeds are slow, then any other efforts you make in this area will be futile!
Downsides of a Slow Site
It’s not just the Google penalties that should encourage you to optimize your site speed. The effect it has on visitors is significant, no matter what marketing channel they use to find you. Here are just a few examples of other disadvantages:
- Reader’s Attention. Today’s reader has a shorter attention span than ever before. Users want information quickly and aren’t prepared to wait around. If your site has consistent loading issues, they may very well bounce to a different website.
- Mobile Networks. Mobile traffic now accounts for over half the world’s internet usage. Unfortunately, wireless hotspots aren’t guaranteed the same speed as a home or office network. Because of this, if your site is already slow, it may become unusable for those visiting from mobile devices.
- Images and Aesthetics. We invest so much into the overall design of the website. When loading issues occur, it’s aesthetic aspects, such as images and banners, fail to captivate the audience. It may seem like an insignificant issue, but changing the user experience in this way could discourage visitors from staying and exploring.
The web is flooded with sites, and there’s always another domain competing for visibility. If your website is weak in any aspect, it will send traffic to your competitors and give them a boost that could result in them outranking you.
Speeding Up You Website is Easy
Fortunately, optimizing your site for speed is a relatively easy pursuit. Although it does take a variety of tactics, many tools and resources exist to support your efforts. The following are some of the main ways to decrease latency and create a streamlined user experience.
Choose Your Host Wisely
Hosts should advertise the speeds available on different price plans. Unfortunately, cheaper companies tend to exaggerate or come with fine print that means you rarely reach the promised metrics. It’s worth your while to invest in a well-reviewed and trusted web hosting provider to avoid these problems. Also look for hosts that offered tiered price plans, which mean you can upgrade as your website grows in size – ensuring you maintain top speeds!
When data is cached, it means it can be easily accessed without having to load from scratch again. This process drastically increases site speed for return visitors.
To maximize the benefit of this tactic, try the following:
Cacheable Redirect: Some redirects – such as those to mobile pages – are unavoidable. By creating a cacheable link, you can drastically decrease load time for subsequent visits. A common suggestion is to use a 302 redirect with a cache lifetime of a day to streamline this issue.
Expires Header:These headers tell the browser if information needs to be found from the source or not. By creating expires headers for images, graphics, etc. it stores the file in the browser and, when a visitor returns, it automatically appears from the cache rather than loading from scratch.
Compression is one of the most popular tactics to increase site speed. By reducing the amount of data that needs to be loaded, the overall latency will decrease. The most used compression method is Gzip, which is free and notably effective. It’s estimated that 90% of web traffic travels through Gzip-supporting browsers. The process works by zipping larger files into a small format, which can be quickly loaded with the HTTP request occurs. It can reduce the size of your site by approximately 70%.
Unfortunately, certain website features result in high latency no matter what you do. While some of them are necessary to keep the site running, others are often superfluous. Scrutinizing your domain to reduce the amount of high-latency elements will decrease the overall load-time. Some examples include:
- If you can’t eliminate redirects completely, use the caching method mentioned above to reduce their influence on site speed.
- HTML Comments & CDATA Sections. Comments within your site’s code take up unnecessary bandwidth. Delete them wherever possible.
- Whitespaces & Empty Elements. Although these features are sometimes necessary, reduce the use of them as much as possible to streamline your site.
- Broken Links. URLs that cause 404/410 errors are wasted requests that add latency for no reason. Regularly checking for and updating broken links will decrease overall load-time.
- Unique Hostnames. DNS lookups take time to process, affecting your site’s speed. Each request searches for the correct hostname, before loading the page. Reduce the number of unique hostnames in your domain to minimize latency.
- Ads and Plugins. Plugins are infinitely useful to customize your site, and ads are a necessary feature for those trying to monetize. However, too many of these elements will weigh your site down. Only keep where absolutely necessary.
All images on your site should be high resolution and clear, but this means taking up valuable space. Considering this, finding the balance between quality of images and latency is essential. You can achieve this in a few ways:
- File Type. JPEG, PNG, and GIF are the most popular web files. They afford different levels of clarity and size, so experiment to find the most appropriate.
- Save for Web. Photoshop offers a ‘save for web’ option that will automatically optimize some aspects of your image.
- Image compression tools remove unneeded data from the file to make it as small as possible. TinyJPG, Image Optimizer and Kraken are all easy-to-use apps for this purpose. Check out the Website Planet Image Compression Tool here!
Test & Review
The factors that affect speed often change, therefore inputting a regular review process is essential for minimizing load-time. One of the best ways to do this is by undertaking routine tests. Ping tests work by firing elements on your site and measuring the time they take to respond. They are straightforward to perform and provide instant results. Try resources like Pingdom and PageSpeed Insights, which are specifically designed for this purpose. If your site is showing speed problems, you will be alerted and can work quickly to find a resolution before Google penalizes you.
Don’t Let Loading Speeds Harm Your Brand
Site speed can be a frustrating metric to get your head around at first. However, once you’ve taken the time to create a dedicated scheme, it’s easy to make sure your website is smooth and streamlined for users. Once you’ve input the above tactics, all that’s left is to review regularly to maintain the top speeds.
With so many helpful tools and resources out there, optimizing your site’s speed is more straightforward than ever!