Page Speed Explained

Page speed is the amount of time it takes for your website’s content to completely load. This greatly impacts your SEO. In this day and age, or the computer age, people expect instantaneous results.

Obviously, faster is better.

In fact, nearly half of web surfers expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less and tend to abandon a site that hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds.

The real question is, how long do most websites take to load?

According to a study conducted by Geoff Kenyon :

  • if your site loads in 5 seconds, it is faster than approximately 25% of the web
  • if your site loads in 2.9 seconds, it is faster than approximately 50% of the web
  • if your site loads in 1.7 seconds, it is faster than approximately 75% of the web
  • if your site loads in 0.8 seconds, it is faster than approximately 94% of the web

So how can you determine how your website stacks up?

Determine Your Website’s Page Speed

This is done in 4 quick and easy steps :

  1. Hop into your website’s Google Analytics Site Speed reports. This will give you an idea of how your site has performed over various time periods and the load speed of each of your pages.
  2. Enter your site’s URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool. This will give you a report card on your website’s speed performance on mobile devices and desktop. The report comes with some recommended actions you can take to improve your site’s speed.
  3. Check Pingdom’s website speed test to find out the speed, rank and percent faster than the average of Pingdom’s tested websites
  4. GTMetrix will provide a comprehensive look at your site’s speed optimisation status.

Note: Don’t puzzle yourself when you see different speed timing in Pingdom and Gtmetrix. As Pingdom will show you load time (The time it takes to show the first results of your website—that’s what google counts and you should too) and GTmetrix will show you full load time (The time it takes to show a full page with its full functionality running).

For further understanding, it’s always good to see the speed waterfall from both tools.

Why Page Speed Is Essential

Bridging the gap between user expectations (2 seconds) and average website load time (5 seconds) is the goal of page speed optimization and the tactics we’ll outline later. But why exactly does page speed matter? It comes down to 3 main interconnected reasons:

1. A Slow Website Ruins User Experience

User experience is the number one reason you should care about your website’s speed.

Nowadays, people are impatient, always in a rush and if you haven’t managed to display your page in 3 seconds or less, they’re gone. Back in the day, just connecting to the internet required a tolerance that just doesn’t exist anymore. That bar is unfortunately only going to get higher in the future.

2. It destroys SEO

User experience is the driving force behind the SEO implications of site speed. While Google has been slow to officially reveal whether slow websites would receive ranking demotions, it appears that those days are coming. You need to make sure your website is ready.

3. Slow Speed Kills Conversions

Your site speed’s effect on conversions is what should really catch your attention. How can you move people through your funnel if each step takes forever? Your super-fans will do it, but those new, hesitant people who are prone to buyers-remorse will bounce.

How to Improve Your Website’s Speed

Speeding up your site is not necessarily going to be a snap. If you have a small, light site you may just need to try a couple of tactics on this list.

However, large, older sites with a lot of code and content may require some persistence and the implementation of several tactics on the following list.

Here’s where to start:

1. The Power of Browser Caching:

When you visit sites, your browser ‘caches’ pages on the site to speed up load time.

Things can slow down when the response from your server does not include caching headers or if resources are specified to be cached for only a short time.

Leveraging caching will load your pages much faster for repeat visitors and so will other pages that share those same resources.


2. Optimising Images to Optimise your Website:

If images load faster, your site loads faster, it’s that simple.

According to Google, “Images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a page. As a result, optimising images can often yield some of the largest byte savings and performance improvements.”

This means that you can get some big improvements when the images on your pages can be optimised to reduce their file size without significantly impacting their visual quality.


3. Remember to Remove All Unnecessary Characters

Minification, or eliminating all unnecessary characters that are not required for the code to execute, without changing their functionality, is a must.


4. Implement GZIP Compression:

Simply put, when a user visits your website, a call is made to your server to deliver the requested files.

The bigger these files are, the longer it’s going to take for them to get to your browser.

GZIP compression drastically reduces the size of files sent from your server when someone visits your website: CSS and HTML files use a lot of repeated text and have a lot of whitespaces. GZIP compression can decrease the size of your pages by 70%.


5. Decrease your Server’s Response time:

Response time is the amount of time it takes for a web server to respond to a request from a browser. This is a key issue to address because if your server response time is slow your pages will display slow, no matter how optimised your pages are for speed.


6. Try to Avoid Landing Pages :

A landing page redirects the user to another website in order to make them convert. However, your website can really slow down when you have more than one redirect. This sets off a redirect loop that takes time to process.


7. Prioritise Essential Elements:

Visible content is the portion of a webpage that users see on their screen before they scroll. This means that the essential elements on your page load first. It is also referred to as “above the fold”.

This is the message that you will get from Google’s Page Speed Tool.


8. Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content:

JavaScript and CSS resources often prevent your page from displaying until they’re fully loaded.

This is a common message you’ll get from Google about site speed, and addressing it can really take your page speed up a few notches.


Note: This is the hardest thing to fix for most people. There are WordPress plugins that just do it but they can make your site look like Frankenstein on every load.

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