Basic Steps for a Speedy Website

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You’ve spent top dollar on the design of your company logo, you’ve integrated it seamlessly into your online platform to make for a breathtaking online presence, and you’ve optimized your SEO such that prospective clients will be driven to your page. Sure, your website speed might not be up to par, but who cares if your page looks good, right? 

Wrong. Even the fanciest of websites won’t succeed if they are not performing at top rates. You can even take the exact same steps as your competition, but if you don’t watch your load times they will leave you in the dust in terms of Google rankings. In this article, I walk you through why these speeds should always stay on your radar. Then I break down some of the best steps you can take and tools you can use to improve your performance and hopefully boost your overall business. 

Lost Seconds Mean Lost Business

The aesthetics of your website and your SEO optimization are both important, but all of that design work will be for nothing if your site visitors are forced to wait too long to enjoy it. It takes only a matter of seconds of load time to irritate visitors and lose traffic. Market research shows that even a one-second delay will result in: 

  • Fewer page views
  • Diminished client conversion rates
  • Reduced customer satisfaction

In addition to yielding such declines, increased load times can also increase your long loading times is your bounce rate. This, though, is not an increase you want to see. Bounce rate measures the number of single interactions (e.g., executing a transaction or submitting a form) a consumer has with a given site. While interactions might seem positive, a single-serving engagement is not desirable as the goal is to ensure ongoing business with that consumer. If your page takes more than 3 seconds to load, statistics show that your bounce rate can skyrocket to 90%. 

That means virtually no repeat business, which in turn means lost sales. What does this look like in real numbers? According to Amazon’s estimates, a one-second lag time in their page load could result in the loss of $1.6 billion in sales in a given year. Another prime case is that of Walmart, who noted that an increase in load times on their ecommerce page resulted in a steep decline in client conversions. For every second they shaved off that load time, they witnessed a proportional 2% conversion increase. Given this, it is clear that your best bet for online success is to have a fast website that is optimized for ideal performance. 

Speed and Visibility

Beyond the on-site experience that can be marred when your pages are slow to appear, your sluggish online presence can also impact your ranking within search engine results. Google, for example, has since 2017 operated on a mobile-first index, which ranks websites based on their appearance and functionality on mobile devices, not desktop or laptop computers. If your mobile site doesn’t have the stamina to load fast across internet-connected phones and tablets, your site’s ranking will only continue to plummet. This descent means lower visibility online and your ranking in returned search results will continue to fall lower. 

Simple Steps to Superior Speed 

If you weren’t convinced before, hopefully now you are on board with the fact that a faster site can bring only positives for your online presence. How, though, to maximize that speed? Let’s look at some of the best tips to speed up your site: 

First: Test Your Speed

Before you start to make adjustments to your site, it is best to have a baseline for your website’s speed. Depending on what you’re building, you should adopt at least one of the many tools out there to help improve performance using sites like:

Google Mobile-Friendly Test

Straightforward and to-the-point, Google Mobile-Friendly Test asks only one question: “Is your web page mobile-friendly”? It is a simple query that can mean the difference between the success and failure of your brand. Simply plug in your URL and you get immediate results.

GTMetrix

This site is a veritable one-stop-shop for assessing the speed of your website. You can do a quick scan using their free features, or you can sign up for their professional accounts to gain access to features like essential toolkits, nonstop monitoring, and specialized reports tailored to your needs. 

Pingdom

An industry leader in an already crowded field of website performance monitoring platforms, Pingdom is incredibly reliable in its around-the-clock observations on your site. As it tracks your website’s performance history and produces the data necessary to make essential decisions. Three different packages – Starter, Standard, and Advanced – allow you to select the features and reports that will best suit your specifications. 

New Relic

Setting itself apart from the competition with its level of professional insights, New Relic is taking the website performance industry by storm. They offer an incredible level of data that is easy to understand so that you can make the changes your site needs to excel.  

Once you’ve had the chance to analyze your site and you are sure that speed is a factor, it’s time to look at ways to limit that loading time for optimum website performance. 

Limit the HTTPS Requests

Think of your webpage and all of its components: images, scripts, and so on. Each of these elements makes use of an HTTPS request to load (remember that HTTPS format has replaced HTTP for major networks like Google) , so the more material you have the more requests will be made. These HTTPS requests can add up and begin to slow down your website’s loading time, but you can take steps to limit or minimize these requests relatively easily. 

One easy way you can assess how many HTTPS requests your page makes is to review the “Network” tab within Google Chrome’s Developer Tools dashboard. This tab reveals the load time for each component of your page and, at the very bottom of this list, relays the total number of requests made. In this space, you can reduce the total amount of requests by eliminating page components. 

Consolidate and Compress Files

Whatever you do, though, don’t start deleting all of your files! Many of those elements are crucial to your online presence, so before you bring down pages or eliminate important graphics, think instead about how you can save space by consolidating or compressing files. Files can be combined provided they work within the same platform (for example JavaScript). 

These files can also be compressed to remove redundant or peripheral whitespace and code segments or to simply cut down on the space they consume. To see what you might be able to compress on your page, you can always conduct a compression audit with a resource like GIDNetwork, which will tell you how large your page is without compression and where you might be able to cut back. If you already know that compression is in the cards, you enable compression on your files using applications like Gzip, which will look for redundant components like those noted above and strip them away. 

Cut Back on CSS and Javascript

If you cannot consolidate your CSS and Javascript files, then you might want to start here by eliminating them. These files can be important to your site, but the request to access them can only happen on an individual basis. This means some simply math: less CSS files = less load time.

If you simply cannot part with these files, another potential work-around is to instruct them to load asynchronously. Traditionally, these files will load one at a time in synchronous fashion when called upon within a given page. With asynchronous loading, however, you can ask your files to load simultaneously and thereby help to cut down on your load time.

Call on Caching and Prefetching

In addition to implementing asynchronous loading to optimize speed, you can also take advantage of caching and prefetching. Both of these techniques fall under the category of “on-demand” loading, or lazy loading, and they are known as such because they can save a bit of your load time by either storing little bits of data or by loading only the components that a user will call upon. 

In the case of caching, parts of your page remain loaded on a computer’s hard drive so that, when you return to a site some components will already be loaded. In the case of prefetching, you predict where a visitor to your site will head next and preload that content so that, when they are ready to jump ahead their page is already being prepped. These tools are advanced, particularly that of prefetching as it requires a careful understanding of user behavior. If you really need your load times to drop, though, and you know your clients well, this can be a fantastic avenue to consider. 

Consider a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

You know how irritating it is when you want to order your morning coffee but there is only one barista and a line of ten people in front of you? That backlog is, in essence, what happens when you host your website on one single server: all requests from your site are sent to the same location, bogging it down and potentially slowing your speeds. 

You can remedy this issue, though, by implementing a content delivery network (CDN), that spreads user requests across several sites around the globe. Users are directed to the site that is the geographically closest to them so that your content comes up quicker. Using a CDN can also help level out spikes in traffic so that your clients can use your site with ease. To be fair, CDNs can become pretty pricey, so they might not be an immediate choice; for those whose reach spans the globe, though, they are a strong feature to consider. There are also some fantastic free CDN options, like Cloudflare, which can be an ideal starting point for those interested in experimenting with basic CDN features. 

Hijack Your Host

Given its prevalence in the marketplace, the odds are high that your site is up thanks to shared hosting, which means your site is on the same server as multiple sites. This is a popular option because it is often very affordable: for a few bucks a month, you can have your site up and running. 

If you have a speedy web host you might be fine, but when you begin to get more traffic to your site you will need to duel for space from the server  – CPU space, disk space, and so on – that you share with all the other clients. For example, let’s consider a retail website. According to MachMetrics, in 2018 the average retail site required more than 120 resources to fully render its page. Now, imagine your retail website is hosted on a shared server with multiple retail sites requiring similar levels of resources, and you can see where the slow-up problem begins. 

One way to reduce this impact is to limit the number of sites on one server – for example, we only ever allow a maximum of 15 site installations on a single server so that heavy loads are prevented (and so that site security is maintained). You can also consider migrating your site to a virtual private server (VPS) or a dedicated server. VPSs, in essence, create a variation on the CDN; meanwhile, a dedicated server is just as it sounds: you have one server, just for you. 

Create Your Best Website By Showcasing Speed

Let’s face it: there is no space in our modern marketplace for a slowly loading website. The data tells us so, as does our own user experience. Think about the last time you visited a site and found yourself watching a scroll bar: it’s never positive. Multiply that by hundreds or thousands of customers, and it becomes clear very quickly that optimizing the speed of your site is key. 

Don’t stop at SEO: surpass your competition by striving for the speediest site to meet client demands. The best part is that you can easily boost the speed of your site using these tips and resources. If you take the time to speed up your site today, you are setting yourself on course for a profitable tomorrow. 

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