Do you remember the age-old saying, first impression is the last impression? It couldn’t be more true for web page speed optimization.
Back in 2010, Google announced the desktop site landing speed as a new ranking factor for search results. The operation ‘speed up the Internet’ has been underway since then. During the decade, it has rolled out several algorithms to contribute to the same. Now, it is introducing new factors in their algorithm called Page Experience that includes the site’s loading speed metrics.
The search engines keep webpage speed as the focal point of website designs. The reason behind this is simple – impatience is a digital virtue. As the human attention span keeps decreasing, Google recommends page load time to be under two seconds for an eCommerce website. The platform aims to keep it under half a second!
Businesses know it is best to adopt search engine algorithms to provide a better customer experience. However, most of them are failing to keep up with page speed optimization. In an analysis of 5.2 million pages, the average time a webpage takes to fully load was found to be 10.3 seconds. This page speed can cost you your potential customers who retreat to the search page from your website due to the long waiting time.
In this article, we will explain page speed, how its optimization affects business, and what you can do to maintain a good page speed.
What is Page Speed?
The term page speed refers to the length of time web pages take to be downloaded from website hosting servers and displayed onto the requesting web browser. It is essentially described in two aspects –
- Page Load Time – The length of the time a webpages take to fully display the content on it.
- Time to First Byte – The length of time your web browser takes to receive the first byte of information from the server.
Several factors can affect the page speed of your websites, such as mediocre web hosting service, too many widgets or plugins, too many ads and external services, incompatible multimedia. To evaluate your page speed, you can use page speed tools that offer website speed tests and performance monitoring. Google’s Page Speed Insights is a favored option for businesses.
Why Does Page Speed Matters?
Engineers at Google have discovered that for impatient customers, even an eye blink is too long to wait. Hence, anything slower than 0.4 seconds is long enough to cause users to search less. Harry Shum, a Microsoft speed specialist, and computer scientist believes 0.25 seconds of faster load time can dictate competitive advantages for online businesses.
The page speed is a part of website performance that impacts rankings in search engine results and customer experience. Anything that loads slowly loses your customer’s attention contributing to poor website performance.
Think of page speed as a sliding scale – every second adding up makes a difference –
- Web pages loading in five seconds find their average bounce rate to be 38%.
- 1 in every 4 visitors abandons a website that takes more than 4 seconds to load.
- A delay of 1 second in load time reduces customer satisfaction by 16%.
- 46% of users never visit poorly performing websites again.
- 64% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with their site visit the shop from your competitors next time.
The critical principle to maximize website performance is to improve page speed optimization from the ground up. Even minimal tweaks create noticeable impacts on page speed and load times. Here’s what happens when websites speed up –
- Web pages that load within two seconds find their average bounce rate reducing as low as 9%.
- The downloads of Firefox rose by 15.4% when Mozilla increased page speed by 2.2 seconds.
- For every 1 second improvement in page load time, Amazon witnessed a 2% increase in conversion rates.
How Does Page Speed Impacts Business Success?
Decreases Sales and Conversion of Your Business
The power of page speed translates into a convenient shopping experience affecting the sales figures positively. However, if the page speed is slow, it can increase the bounce rate and reduce web page views by 11% and conversions by 7%.
While the product and service quality plays the most important role in impacting sales, the online impression of customers towards your business is also crucial. Ultra-fast page speed provides a rapid checkout process encouraging customers to choose your business over your competitors for their next purchase.
Decreases the Intensity of SEO Efforts
There is less probability of customers not purchasing while visiting an offline store than visiting an online store. Search engine optimization makes the effort to keep your website top-ranked, engaging, impressive, and functioning so that the visitor feels motivated to make a purchase.
Google has now confirmed page speed as a ranking signal. Low speed affects not only the rankings but also the time a user spends on a website. While users visit 3.3 pages when the load time is 2 seconds, they visit 8.9 pages when load time is two seconds.
How to Improve Website Page Speed?
1. Optimize Your Images
As a general rule of thumb, images make up the majority of page weight. High-quality, bulky images are the largest contributors to web page size that increases the page load time.
To ensure images do not get in the way of page speed, you need to optimize your images in a balancing act of using the lowest file size with the most acceptable quality. Here are a few tips for image optimization –
Quality is a high priority to provide a good user experience. Upload an image in a JPG or WEBPs format when you need to make limited modifications, as it does not degrade image quality sharply. If you have an image with icons, logos, illustrations, signs, and text, use PNG format. Avoid BMPs or TIFFs and go for GIFs for small images.
Match the dimensions of the image with that of the web page template. It saves valuable bytes of image payload. Using browser resizing capabilities set a fixed width and auto-height instructions to make images responsive.
Do not add images where it’s not needed. It not only affects page speed but also breaks the flow of reading content.
Keep a compression of 60-70% for JPG images. For retina screens, increase the image size by 150-200%, compress by 30-40% and scale it down again as per the required dimensions.
2. Update the CSS Code and Delivery
Fewer the codes of line, the lesser the processing cycles, and the more efficient the delivery of website files to requesting browsers. Therefore,
cut down the size of your code by using fewer declarations and operators.
Axe Browser Specific CSS Hacks
Do not add unnecessary weight to CSS script files. To create a speed-optimized CSS code, keep it light and simple for servers to process efficiently. It speeds up downloading, parsing and drastically reduces page load time.
CSS Delivery Recommended Practices
- Do not use @import call.
- Remove unused CSS.
- Do not use CSS in HTML, such as H1 and DIV tags.
- Use inline small CSS.
3. Decrease the Number of Plugins
Plugins are an effective way to add functionality to your website. However, it comes at a cost of degradation of website performance, if done the wrong way.
Businesses often end up adding too many plugins in an attempt to avoid manual coding. Most of them are unnecessary, such as gravatar, profile tools, website stats, font tools, too many social media integrations, etc. However, the number of plugins might not be as big of a concern if they are developed to avoid complex actions and expensive server processing.
Therefore, before deploying a myriad of plugins, ensure that –
- They do not perform complex actions.
- They do not load many content assets and scripts.
- They keep the number of database queries to each page request at a minimum.
- They do not perform requests to external APIs.
As far as the number of plugins is concerned, you are good if you are using multiple plugins for simple and unique tasks. One low-quality plugin used for complex actions can cause your page load time serious harm.
4. Optimize Databases
If you are using WordPress as your Content Management System ( CMS ), you need to optimize your database. Everything at WordPress is stored within a single database, including posts, comments, pages, and other forms of textual and encrypted data. Just images and videos are stored in another folder. This results in a database crowd that contains
- Unnecessary content and post revisions
- Comments in the spam queue
- Unapproved comments
- Post revisions
Trashed items such as posts and pages
Clearing your database is a part of the optimization process. Get rid of the useless and garbage data or make them smaller in size. It makes it easier for website hosting servers to fetch requested content efficiently, within minimum processing cycles.
5. Include Content Compression
Misconfigured hosting servers, web proxies, old or buggy browsers, and antivirus software do not compress the web content. It results in slow interactions with web pages ruining the customer experience, especially for the bandwidth-constrained users.
Therefore, use the following content compression methods to avoid lengthy page load times –
Specify CSS key-value pairs in the same order by alphabetizing them.
- Do NOT GZIP (already compressed) images, PDF, or other binary data.
- GZIP data in the range of 150-1000 bytes in size only.
- Do not compress content for old browsers.
6. Cache Optimization
A code that is easier to create, read and maintain leads to efficient website development processes. However, if you’re adding too many loops and unnecessary code lines, it’s decreasing the page speed load time.
The solution here is to deliver the cached copies every time the server receives a user request instead of rendering it repeatedly. Web cache temporarily stores copies of web content from the cache database when specific conditions are met. It results in reducing the number of client-server round trips taken in delivering (static) website content to requesting browsers.
You can also use fragment caching to cache smaller elements of non-cacheable dynamic website content. It provides maximum page speed even for ecommerce and membership-based websites that need to handle intensely dynamic content.
A fast web page load speed has always been crucial to the success of a website. With it being Google’s essential component in ranking factors, page speed is critical to keep the website functioning to its full potential and delivering scaling results.
Therefore, keep testing the page speed of your website regularly. It shows the length of time files take to load. If you find the page speed beyond acceptable standards, use these actionable tech strategies to bring improvements in page speed and climb the search engine rankings.