Website speed relates to how fast your website loads when someone types the URL or clicks on a link that conducts them to your site. Website speed optimization can put you on top of your competitors, which will improve your Google rankings. If your site loads in four seconds and your competitor’s loads in eight seconds, Google wants to show your content first.
GTMetrix enables you to approach website speed optimization with actionable data in hand. Just type your website’s URL in the text field and click or tap “Analyze.” You’ll get a detailed report in seconds. This isn’t all. When you scroll down the report page, you’ll find single rates for specific features that impact page load speed.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights is a free tool to help you detect problems that might slow down your site. Google will show you what you’re doing right as well as what could be changed.
Why Is Site Speed Optimization So Important for User Experience?
Think about why you build a website, to begin with. You likely want to share things about yourself and your business, and you might want to make money. To do that, you need traffic. SEO allows you to attract traffic via organic Google search. You can always take out paid ads, but it’s far cheaper to write fantastic content and get ranked.
Once you have traffic, your work is far from done. You need that traffic to convert. Depending on your sales cycle, you might try to convert visitors into customers immediately. More often, though, you’ll use your website for lead generation.
Believe it or not, website speed optimization plays an integral part in this process.
Effects on usability
An unusable or hard-to-use website doesn’t help you or your visitors. When people arrive on your site, they want to know how to navigate. They need to see every element on the page so they can find what they’re looking for. Some page elements might load slower than others. For instance, if you have a huge background image, it might appear on the screen gradually. This is especially true on mobile devices since they have less processing power. You also have to remember that you want to keep people on your site. When visitors arrive, check out a page, and leave right away, you get a high bounce rate. Those visitors don’t dig deeper into your site. If a consumer clicks on a link that leads to your website and the page loads slowly, he or she might assume that other pages will take just as much time. Even if the consumer doesn’t think about it, that person might click away to avoid the frustrating experience.
For SEO purposes
You might already know that Google uses page speed as a ranking factor on desktop devices. As of July 2018, however, Google also considers page speed when ranking sites for mobile devices. The farther down you appear in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), the less likely you are to get clicks. If Google decides to rank your site lower because of its page speed, you’re missing out on traffic. Furthermore, you’re losing potential conversions and sales that the traffic might have otherwise generated.
For user engagement
Users like to engage with websites that enable them to move quickly. If you force them to wait, they’ll get frustrated and click away. This goes for forms, click-to-tweet buttons, and any other element on your site that calls for visitors to engage with it. You also need a good web host. If your host’s server doesn’t load your content fast enough, no amount of tinkering behind the scenes will result in website speed optimization.
Effects on conversion Rate
Your website generates traffic, provides good content, encourages conversions, and keeps users engaged so they eventually buy something. If the user experience at any one of those stages falls apart, your conversion rates suffer.
To boost conversion rates, make sure your site loads quickly and cleanly. You might have to eliminate fancy coding or special effects, but a clean website that loads fast will do more for your conversions than flashy design.
The Best Website Speed Optimization Techniques
Now that we’ve mentioned the importance and psychology of website speed optimization, how do you do it? Let’s look at eight best tips for speeding up your website on both desktop and mobile.
Enhance Image loading
Nobody likes to see that circle spin around and around while an image loads. It’s frustrating — and it makes many people want to click away. The most obvious website speed optimization tip for images is to upload the smallest possible version of your image for your site. Let’s say, for instance, that your blog pages are 700 pixels wide. You’d want to restrict your images to that width for optimal speed. Just make sure they’re not too small. If your images look distorted or pixelated, they’ll hurt your credibility and professionalism. Test different image sizes on your site first to make sure they render properly on all screen sizes.
Cascading style sheets (CSS) are elements of code that enable you to style your website however you want. You can use CSS to change colors, fonts, margins, padding, indentations, columns, and more. Each CSS element addresses a specific part of your website. Enormous CSS can slow down your site, though. For instance, if you address a single element multiple times in the CSS, your browser will have to figure out which to load and what the other instructions mean.
Select plugins wisely
When your website has too many plugins, your site will slow down. The browser has to understand what all those plugins mean and how to adapt them to your website itself. Too often, business owners and marketers install every plugin that looks like it might do something elegant. Worse, when they deactivate those plugins, they don’t delete them from their WordPress installation.
Go through all your plugins. Ask yourself if you really need each one. If the answer is “no,” deactivate and delete the plugin right away. You can always re-add it later if it becomes necessary.
Think of minification as a website speed optimization shortcut. It essentially removes any data from your website that the browser doesn’t need. It also strips out repetitive data so you don’t have to do it manually.
A plugin like W3 Total Cache can make your site load much faster. When someone visits your website, the plugin caches elements of your site for future visits. That way, they load quicker.
Pay attention to 404 errors
The 404 errors can really frustrate visitors. They also slow down your site because they take up space that could otherwise exist for actual content. You can either remove pages with 404 errors or create a 301 redirect to another page on your site. If you’re getting traffic to a page with a 404 error, you’ll want to take the redirect route so you don’t lose out on valuable traffic.
Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Another option is to make sure your site loads quickly on mobile with AMP. These pages serve as alternates to your regular website pages with stripped-down content so the user only gets the most important information. The easiest route is through a WordPress plugin. It takes care of the heavy lifting so you don’t have to worry about complex code.