In January 2018, Google made the momentous announcement that mobile search algorithms will take page load speed into account starting July 2018. According to Google, the site speed is a crucial touchstone for the algorithmic site ranking purpose, and Google meticulously charts the site’s loading span. Google does this for a simple reason: if search engine crawlers take too much time to access pages, they give up on you, and your pages don’t get indexed properly.
Experienced SEO strategists know that visibility, credibility, and brand awareness are critical goals for any business, and the site’s user-friendliness and ability to deliver a great user experience are vital for achieving the three goals. Because of Google’s growing emphasis on user experience, companies can no longer ignore SEO best practices, one of which is site speed.
When it comes to site speed, consider these 4 inputs:
– It takes a high-end sports car roughly 3 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph, and that’s all the time visitors allow a page to load.
– Even if you’re loading in 3 seconds, customer satisfaction is down by 16%, and you’re likely to suffer a 7% loss in conversions.
– If loading takes 4 seconds, you’re likely to face a 25% spike in page abandonment, and you’ll be rated poorly for user experience.
– Retailing giants like Amazon and Walmart found that fast-loading pages improved sales, and every 100 milliseconds of additional loading time costs the company a 1% dip in sales.
So, if grandpa is moving faster than your website, you’ve got a king size problem that reflects poorly on your results.
“I’ve done everything possible to optimize my page, but it’s still too slow”
The problem starts at the stage of conceptualizing the website. You’re so focused on the design, the presentation, and the layout of the site that you tend to ignore how you’re performing at the backend level.
The other issue is that Google is more focused on giving users the best search results, and your slow-loading site won’t look pretty hogging space in top page rankings.
There you have it – an inefficient backend job and Google’s insistence on topnotch loading speed are relegating your slow-moving site to the graveyard of invisibility. As far as potential customers are concerned, you’ve ceased to exist.
Consider the following drawbacks and assess where you stand
– You haven’t enabled the URL redirect function, and visitors are being redirected to no man’s land.
– Your typography is off base: you need to break the tyranny of text and create a visual flow in a page to make it SERP-friendly.
– You haven’t prioritized visible content: the content above the fold that the visitor sees at the entry point doesn’t capture or fulfill the visitor’s intent.
– Mobile users have a viewport issue with your site: users see only a tiny font on their mobiles and need to zoom and scroll up and down, which becomes annoying.
– The script you’re using is in a synchronous version: the problem is that once a function is called, the program waits for one code to finish before tackling the next code lining up in sequence. This slows down the rendering of any page.
3 Steps to load web pages faster than a Ferrari – in less than 3 seconds
Before we go around tinkering with the site’s speed statistics, you need to base your action plan on what you know about your typical customer. Knowing the visitor is important. Google Analytics is a great starting point for researching your customer. Find the content on your site that hooks customers, then probe where they’re browsing from and from which device or platform they’re keying in. This kind of data helps us flesh out the following action plan.
1. Sorting out the image conundrum through file compression
Visit any website, and you’ll be inundated with images and graphics of a mind-numbing variety. These visuals are necessary to display, explain, and convey specific messages targeting the visitor. But the very same images tend to slow down the site’s loading speed.
Imagine you’re a travel blogger avidly taking snaps with your digital camera and loading them directly on your blog. Each snap that isn’t downsized or optimized beforehand uses up at least 3 to 4MB of additional space. This means that it will take a long time for mobile users to download your page.
The good news is that you don’t need to waste substantial dollars hiring the best web designers and developers to optimize images – the net is awash with tools that are free and easy to use. Some of these services do a neat job compressing the most complex images without compromising the picture’s quality. The images will be cropped and styled, stripped of unwanted data, and reduced to a manageable file.
2. Controlling add-ons, reducing file bloat, and limiting HTTP requests
To grapple this issue, you need to figure out how many requests each page is generating. Let’s assume the end user is using Google Chrome. Open Chrome’s Browser Developer Tools and click the “inspect” and “network” tabs. You get neat tabulated data that names the files, shows the size of the file, and mentions the time it takes to make an HTTP request for each file.
Here, it becomes easier to identify and remove the files that are dragging down your loading speed. Even seemingly innocuous widgets like the Google+ button and the Facebook box can add a 40+ HTTP request burden which is not ideal.
Creating the right ambiance and enhancing the user experience for the visitor demands the use of add-ons, plugins, and third-party scripts, but all these features take a heavy toll on website speed. These scripts are implementing their predesigned functions and gathering information regarding each visitor. This could bloat the site and make it perform sluggishly. Internal conflicts and plugin errors add to the problems.
3. CDN – the smart answer to hosting media-rich content
Images and videos are the heavier elements that burden the server and hosting them on your private server may not be the most efficient way to improve load speed. If your organic traffic is bouncing off slow-loading pages, your cost of hosting will be further stressed. As a solution, you could consider shifting to a CDN or Content Delivery Network, which is tailor-made for hosting media-rich content at an affordable cost.
Consider a service such as Amazon CloudFront that is integrated with AWS. The immediate benefit is that your data, videos, applications, and APIs get delivered to customers wherever they may be, with lower latency, and with faster speeds. For example, a visitor based in Washington receives a copy of the file hosted on an American server, and the same applies to servers in locations elsewhere on the globe, thus creating faster load times.
Another new service that take care of everything image related is ShortPixel Adaptive Images. Short Pixel Adaptive Images uses a CDN service with a global presence and provides fully optimized pictures for best performance use on your website. It’s a fully convenient and simple way to optimize all of your site’s images with just a few clicks. This open source plugin saves you a lot of trouble and time.
Enabling website caching effectively reduces the time a page takes to load on the server. Through browser caching, a website’s resource files can be stored on a user’s local computer so that on a subsequent visit the server doesn’t struggle to compute the page the visitor prefers. This enhances the end-user experience.
Through caching, the user’s browser remembers the website’s logo, CSS files, and features that were loaded on the first visit, avoiding the need to reload all these elements. For this reason, each repeated visit takes lesser time to load and enhances the user experience. After enabling caching, the webmaster needs to guide the browser in tapping into the website’s resources.
A fast loading website is of critical importance when you’re focused on SEO optimization. It’s vital because visitors are coming to you with high expectations, and if you’re not faster than a Ferrari, you risk losing potential customers, loyal clients, and a healthy revenue stream.
Your goal should be to deliver a seamless browsing experience that encourages the visitor to stay with you, commit to you, and develop a relationship. Improving your website speed is one of the ways you can stand out from the crowd and be seen as the best in the game.
Obviously, there are many ways to boost your speed statistics but what we’ve outlined is a checklist highlighting the best and most effective options that you ignore at your peril. Never sacrifice speed for the sake of looks and styling. You could design the most beautiful and awe-inspiring pages with mind-blowing images, but your site could sink like a brick, instead of sail like a fast boat. Speed makes a huge difference. Period.
Author’s bio: Joseph Harisson (Josh) has 10 years of experience in the IT industry as a web developer and cloud computing expert researching extensively for techendo.com. He frequently writes about IT and branding efforts. In his free time, you will often find him taking a walk, or playing video games.