05 Jul 2017

How to Improve Page Load Speed Performance

In the age of information, we expect answers to come quickly. If a site won’t load in under 3 seconds, 40% of people will just abandon the site for the next one. Some of you are impatient enough that you’ll just skip this paragraph and go straight to the bullet points to find out how to speed up your site.

We’ve all done this because we’re all looking for a quick answer. It’s why Google began extracting answers from sites to place directly on the search engine result pages as rich results. Google knows you’re impatient and lately, they’ve been doing everything it can to address it.

#SEO Stat from @Kissmetrics: If a site won’t load in under 3 seconds, 40% of people will just abandon it. Click To Tweet

Site Speed is a Ranking Factor

Now back to the first point, site speed as an official ranking factor.

Increasing your site speed has the benefit of engaging your audience more effectively, and therefore, Google will help you out in the rankings. How much they’ll help you is still up for debate, but once again, users have proven positive engagement metrics correlate to fast-loading sites.

page load time

A study from KissMetrics on page-load time.

Most speed test sites (like GTMetrix or Google’s native tool) will tell you how well your front-end performance is doing. Your back-end performance is crucial as well, but each site uses a different combination of platform and structure. There might be multiple solutions to solve the same issue because each site is unique. For this reason, most speed test sites will test your front-end because it’s more predictable, easy to change, and will cost less than upgrading your servers.

Now let’s get to the real reason you’re here. You’ll likely see the same recommendations for optimizing speeds on numerous articles, but what does it all mean?

In this article, we’ll go over the most common ways to decrease your page load speed and help you gain a basic understanding of what goes on behind your site.

At the very least, you’ll be able to keep up in conversation with your developer without you just nodding your head in agreement.

Optimize every single image

A common warning you’ll see when you test your site is that your images are not properly formatted. Maybe you’re using high resolution images when you don’t need to, increasing the page-load time needed to download your images. Compressing and resizing your images to fit your web page can reduce the file size without noticeable quality loss.

The type of image matters as well. It’s recommended to use a JPG for photographs and PNG for everything else. As modern sites become more image heavy, this recommendation becomes more critical. One tool we’d recommend to compress individual images is Optimizilla. If you want to do a crawl for large images on your site, try Screaming Frog.

#SEOTip: Compress and resize your images to reduce the file size & load time without noticeable quality loss. Click To Tweet

Leverage Browser Caching

Every time a user visits your site, they are requesting files from the server. If they are revisiting, you should allow them to reuse the local files that are stored in their browser. This will reduce the amount of downloads and make one less request to the server, resulting in a faster page load time. You can do this by marking files to update at different times. For example, a logo is unlikely to change so you can mark that to update less regularly.

browser caching

An example of setting expiration times for different media with WordPress plugin, Hummingbird

Minify HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Minifying one of these resources is the process of removing unnecessary data without affecting how the page loads in the browser. By compacting the code, you save data and speed up downloading time.

By compacting your code, you save data and speed up downloading time. #pageload #seo Click To Tweet

Defer parsing of JavaScript

When your page loads, the browser must parse everything within a script tag, which can bog down the page-load time. However, you can minimize the amount of JavaScript it needs to fully render the page by deferring parsing of JavaScript until it’s needed. This will avoid the page loading everything at once, which will deliver what the user wants faster.

defer javascript parsing

Avoid Landing Page Redirects

A site should avoid creating redirects chains because every time a redirect is triggered, an additional HTTP request-response cycle is processed. This adds more time for the page to load. Redirects are unavoidable, but it’s recommended not to have more than one redirect at a time. Use Screaming Frog to identify redirect chains.

Redirects are unavoidable, but it’s recommended not to have more than one redirect at a time.… Click To Tweet

Enable gzip compression

When files are requested from the server, they can be compressed using gzip to reduce file size and make the transfer faster. If this is not already set-up, then it should be done soon because file sizes can be reduced drastically without a lot of work.

An example of saved bytes with gzip compression from Expertslog

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Your user’s location can influence the response time. It’s recommended to use a content delivery network because it stores a cached version of its content in multiple locations. This eliminates a user’s distance from a server and provides an equally fast response time.

There are many other recommendations you could consider, but if you take care of these issues, then your site will be in good shape. To add on the importance of page-load speed, Amazon determined that a one-second slowdown could cost them 1.6 billion dollars in sales. Users will only get more impatient and Google is going continue its movement towards an instantaneous internet.

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