How to Improve Your Website’s Page Speed
“Designers put together a website, and the traffic did not come. They told us to write stuff for the web pages, and the traffic did not come. We published blogs, and the traffic did not come.
We went to some SEO dweebs who told us that the traffic would never come if we didn’t make some changes. They told us two things. 1.) Our website is way too slow and 2.) Our taste in fashion was bad. They insisted that one did not correlate to the other and that they were just here to state the facts and give some advice.”
The tale above is an unfortunate tale. An unfortunate tale from a company struggling with something sinister, something complicated, something downright evil… page speed.
Okay, we appreciate you reading that mini creative writing project. You are the real MVP for sticking around.
Also, just know that we were not the company that said people had poor fashion taste. We would NEVER do that.
Anyway, the Google Page Speed indicator isn’t actually sinister or evil, but it can be complicated, and it can really mess up your traffic and conversions if you aren’t paying attention to it.
The Importance of Google Page Speed
Whether we like it or not, page speed has a pretty big effect on how your website performs. You could write NYT-worthy content, but if the page is slow to load, people will never read it.
Google has indicated site speed, a result of page speed, as one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages.
Slow page speed means that search engines crawl fewer pages on your site using their allocated crawl budget, which is bad news.
That means those beautiful blogs and landing pages are not even being seen by Google.
Page speed is also important to user experience. Pages with a longer load time usually have higher bounce rates (more bad news) and a lower average time on page. Poor load speeds also negatively affect conversions. Now, that’s really bad news.
Running a Page Speed Test
To run a website speed test for specific pages, you will want to use Google Pagespeed Insights. It is super simple to use.
Just add your site URL to the page and hit analyze. You will get a score from 0-100 and find some issues that are common on both mobile and desktop views. You will also receive detailed recommendations to help resolve the problem.
Now, this is helpful for website developers and technical SEO pros, but the tool itself is a bit intimidating for beginners and non-developer users. You may want to consult with a team who knows what the report is saying–like us!
How to Improve Page Speed
After running your page speed test and evaluating the report, you can start making moves to optimize and maintain the speed of your website.
1. Embrace Compression
Whoa! Wait! What does that mean?
Remember that old college textbook you had that weighed 40 pounds? Remember how your professor told you that you needed to read every single word of the textbook? Remember not reading every word of said textbook and taking notes on the information you knew was important? Yes. Yes, you probably do.
Think of an uncompressed file as the whole textbook and the compressed file as your notes. Everything you need is there, just in a more efficient format.
2. Use Redirects Wisely
Ahhh redirects, they are a necessary evil. Redirects take one page’s URL and say that it needs to go to a different URL.
Redirections are usually done when there are duplicate pages or when pages have error messages. There is a slew of other reasons why we redirect pages, but those are the most common.
This sounds like a good thing, right?
Well, it isn’t a bad thing and a few redirects can help keep your site healthy. However, every time a page redirects to another, site visitors face additional time waiting for the page to load (or in fancy terms: the HTTP request-response cycle to complete).
So, the point is to keep redirects to a minimum by having a website that is solid and well-built.
3. Make Sure Your Site Has the Right Hosting
Web hosting is a service that allows companies like yours to post a website or web page, so it can be viewed online. Websites are hosted and stored on computers called servers.
There are three main types of hosting:
- Shared hosting
- Virtual Private Servers (VPS) hosting
- Dedicated server
Shared hosting: This is the cheapest way to get your site online quickly. With shared hosting, you share CPU, disk space, and RAM with other sites that also use the server. Shared hosting isn’t quite as fast as VPS or dedicated server, but it can definitely get the job done!
Virtual Private Servers (VPS): A VPS uses multiple servers for content distribution, which we will talk about in the next section. VPS shares a server with other users, but you have your own part of the virtual server where your configurations aren’t affected by other clients. VPS will be faster than shared hosting. If your website has average or slightly above-average traffic, VPS will be the optimal solution.
Dedicated server: This is what companies that get A LOT of web traffic use. Think Amazon, Facebook, etc. This is a physical server that solely belongs to the company with no other users or clients and is the most expensive. Companies not only pay for the server but also need to hire a system administrator to maintain it.
Okay? So, how does this affect page speed? Well, if you are using shared hosting, get an average amount of traffic, and it takes a while for pages to load, that could mean that it is time to look into VPS to resolve the issue.
4. Use a Content Distribution Network
Content distribution networks (CDNs) are networks of servers that distribute the load of delivering content.
Now, prepare to have your mind blown.
Copies of your site are kept in multiple, geographically diverse data centers so that your site visitors have faster and more reliable access to your site.
5. Pay Attention to Your Plugins
Plugins are fantastic for those of us who aren’t exactly skilled at hand-coding webpages. They are great for optimizing image sizes, building beautiful pages, and much much more. It almost seems like there is a plugin for everything these days, which is great, but plugins can slow down page speed.
The more plugins that are installed, the more resources are required for them to work, causing the website to work more slowly. Check out all the plugins you have installed and delete unnecessary ones.
You can also run a performance test to see which plugins are slowing down your site and decide if there is a better tool that can do the same job without slowing down the page.
6. Don’t Go Too Crazy with Your Fonts
Web fonts are obviously an extremely important part of web design, but using too many can slow your site down. Web fonts add extra HTTP requests to external sources. We know fonts are fun, but you should keep it under control and use only the styles needed. This is also important because having five different fonts on one page could look too busy and make a site visitor hop off of the page.
7. Optimize Image Size
Be sure that your images are not larger than they need to be.
They should also always be in the right file format.
- PNGs are usually better for graphics with fewer than 16 colors
- JPEGs are generally better for photographs
- Make sure that they are compressed for the web (see above).
There are image compression plugins that will automatically compress your images into sizes that will not slow down web pages.
It is important to make sure that the quality of your images or formatting of your page isn’t compromised when using these. A large picture of a beautiful beach could go from being impactful and pleasing to grainy and off-putting really quick if you aren’t paying attention.
Page speed is extremely important to Google, but it is also extremely important to people visiting your site. If your competitor’s product page is lightning-fast and your product page takes a few seconds to load, that could result in losing a potential customer.
According to a Kissmetrics infographic, if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load, over a quarter of users will leave the page. So, it is very very important to pay attention to page speed and test it often to ensure your website is top-notch and ready to drive leads.
If you are interested in learning more about search engine optimization, check out this blog post we wrote about using SEO to generate leads!