It’s no secret that page loading speed is a critical factor in website ranking. Users have very little patience for web pages that take too long to load. If it takes more than three seconds, the user will most likely abandon the page and proceed to the next entry in the search results page.
Google started using site speed as a ranking factor for desktop search in 2010, and in January this year, it once again cracked the whip on slow loading websites: site speed is now a ranking factor for mobile search, as well. Following Google’s lead, Facebook has also taken steps to improve user experience by upranking fast-loading links in mobile News Feeds.
With your website’s visibility at stake (and by extension, your online conversion rates and sales) in the world’s largest search engine and social media platform, it’s imperative to work on improving your website’s page loading speed as soon as possible.
Below are strategies for increasing your score on Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool or Test My Site. You can do these on your own, but if you need a hand, C1-Partners.com is ready to help.
First Things First
Before we get started, let’s talk about the benchmarks and the values you need to aim for. Taking into account Google’s latest data on mobile page loading speed and its effect on user behavior, web developers should target the following for each page:
- Total page loading time: 3 seconds or less
- Responsiveness: 1.3 seconds or less
- Page size/weight: Less than 500KB
- Number of individual content on display: Fewer than 50 pieces
With these as targets, we can identify the segments that need special attention. We’ve noted that the first target will be the result of the cumulative efforts to achieve the remaining goals, so we’ll present strategies that improve your server’s speed, reduce bandwidth consumption, and offload on-page bloatware from your website.
Increase Site Responsiveness with Fast Servers
Server issues depend on infrastructure; and, to be honest, there’s only so much you can do to correct slow server issues. Your best bet would be to invest in an excellent web hosting service that offers a low TTFB (time to first bite).
By industry standards, 300-500ms is an acceptable TTFB; but, if you want to get a 100/100 PageSpeed Insights score, look for a service that offers 200ms or lower. Test your server speed at WebPageTest.org or any other similar site. If your TTFB (sometimes simplified as First Byte) goes over 500ms, you might want to consider upgrading to a better service.
Hosting services don’t have the sole responsibility for server speed and site responsiveness, however. Web developers can also do some things to reduce TTFB.
- Reduce redirects – Reduce the number of clicks users have to do to get to the page they want to see. Not only will it keep your bandwidth consumption down, but also improve your site’s User Experience (UX).
- Fix page errors – Audit your website and take note of pages you moved and URLs you modified. Correct page errors and fix broken pathways to declutter the pipeline.
- Minify scripts – Minifying is the removal of unnecessary characters (i.e., comments, white spaces) and redundant data from a site’s source code. If you don’t need that line of text to execute a line of code, take it out. Keep everything else as short as possible. Minified sites bundle redundant requests, making data transfer through the pipes more efficient.
- Consider multi-server hosting or Content Delivery Networks (CDN) – Keep your latency periods and downtimes at a minimum by hosting your site on multiple servers.
- Keep pipelines short – Choose a web hosting service based in or near the regions you’re targeting, especially if your target market is overseas. Keep in mind that distance is a factor in server and website speeds, and ultimately affects page rank.
Trim Web Page Weight
Your website’s weight is the sum of the size of all content elements on the page. The “heavier” a page is, the slower it loads.
Consider that a 1.49MB web page takes seven seconds to load. If your website weight is around that value, the probability that a visitor will bounce from your website should be over 106 percent. So, you need to bring your page loading speed down at least three seconds (which has a bounce rate probability of 32%).
Of course, the best loading speed would be 1 second. The best way to achieve that would be to reduce web page weight. Here’s how you can do it:
- Compress high-resolution images – An HD image can easily go over 1.5MB. Don’t sacrifice page speed for visual appeal; there are other ways to feed your visitors’ eyes.
- Embed your videos – Upload your videos to YouTube, Vimeo, Video Sprout, Wistia, Ooyala, or any other video hosting platforms and then embed them on your site. They’re free, and they will free up your server bandwidth.
- Keep text as is – Type text on your page instead of converting them to images. It looks better (vector-based text images look less refined when users zoom-in pages), loads faster, and is useful for search engine optimization (SEO).
- Minimize font variety – Avoid using a lot of third-party fonts on your website; but, if you need a fresh one, consider Google Fonts. It offers free fonts and gives load time estimates (fast, moderate, slow).
Trim Your Content
Minimalism is currently the name of the game. Keeping things simple is not just appearance’s sake (minimalist designs are the standard for corporate websites) but, more importantly, also for speeding up page loading time.
Put simply, it’s faster and easier to deliver a few pieces of content than a hundred. If you follow the tips in the previous section, you can reduce your page weight significantly; and, if you reduce the pieces of content on top of that, you can reduce your page weight further.
- Use CSS sprites – Instead of uploading many images, put them together in a single image or sprite. It will be larger in size but smaller in bytes.
- Rethink carousels – Settle for one banner and optimize your page’s text content to convey your message effectively and succinctly to Google (for page ranking) and users (to encourage conversion).
To better understand how and why page weight and content volume affects page speed and UX, here’s a useful analogy:
Consider how catalog shopping works. You select an item you want to buy and fill out an order form. The merchant processes the order form; prepares your order, and delivers it to you in-store or through a courier.
In this scenario, you, the shopper, are the website visitor; the catalog is the website; the merchant is the server, and the courier or store is the pipe. The heavier and more items you order, the longer it takes for the merchant to assemble the package and prepare it for delivery. Also, the heavier and larger your order is, the more expensive the shipping cost can be.
Hubspot reports that the average page weight is 2MB or more. It will be challenging to bring the number down, but if you want to gain Google’s favor, give it your best shot. Follow our tips above. Audit your website and find the areas you can improve on. If you have trouble implementing them, give us a call or send an email.
C1 Partners has been building, auditing, and salvaging low-ranking websites for numerous clients and businesses in Colorado. We’ve made it our business to master effective strategies to rank websites — including improving page loading speed. Contact us to learn more about our services.