Your site’s success depends on quick loading times.
Besides being a Google ranking factor, page speed is central to user experience. If your pages take too long to load, users will abandon your site.
Thankfully, fixing loading issues isn’t hard. In this guide, you’ll learn what page loading speed is, how to diagnose problems, and how to solve them.
Note: A full-stack content management system (CMS) like Wix or Shopify gives you little control over page speed. If you’re using one and you’re unhappy with the speed of your site, you’ll need to move to WordPress.
What We’ll Cover:
What is Page Load Speed?
Page speed is how fast a web page loads. Unlike website speed, page speed measures the loading time of specific pages.
Many different factors affect page speed, like:
- Hosting providers
- Media on the page
- Themes, plug-ins, and other third-party software installed on your site
- Code quality
Virtually every part of your site affects load speed to an extent.
Why is Page Speed Important?
Have you ever visited a site only to leave after agonizingly slow load times?
You’re not alone. For every second users wait for a site to load, conversion rates drop by over 4% (until after 5 seconds). You’ll lose tons of visitors if your pages don’t load right away.
Because page speed and user experience go hand in hand, Google made it a ranking factor in the “Mobilegeddon” update. As a result, it goes beyond boosting user satisfaction—it’s important to search engine optimization (SEO).
That said, don’t let page speed worry you too much. Google clarified it will penalize only the slowest sites in rankings. Visitor experience—not Google penalties—is the biggest concern.
Fast loading times also make your website seem professional. In contrast, slow and janky sites give curious prospects a bad impression.
How Fast Should Your Pages Load?
While there’s no official standard, a recent study found that 1-4 second load times are best for conversion rates.
One second times had a goal conversion rate of 39%. After five seconds, slow speeds cut conversion rates in half.
So, to answer the question: less than four seconds. Anything more has grave consequences for user engagement.
2 Pages Types to Consider
SEOs measure loading speed based on two main page types:
- Mobile, including tablet and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
You load desktop pages on your desktop or laptop. They look like this:
Because desktop devices have better hardware, their pages will always load faster than mobile.
By prioritizing mobile friendliness, you’ll rank ahead of thousands of websites that haven’t.
Touchscreen-friendly designs and mobile processors make tablet pages similar to mobile. The only difference is a slightly larger aspect ratio.
Your pages will load quickly on a tablet if they load quickly on mobile.
AMP is an open-source project (mostly built by Google) helping publishers create mobile-optimized content. They load instantly on virtually every device on the market.
AMP was highly popular upon release but fell out of favor due to coding restrictions (hard to use banner ads, forms, etc.). Instead, many sites opt just to improve their standard web page loading times.
How to Measure Page Speed
Third-party tools are the easiest way to measure page speed.For example, Google’s PageSpeed Insights (PSI) is a free performance monitoring tool. It tells you how pages perform on mobile and desktop and gives suggestions for improvements.
PSI scores your URL from 0-100 after an analysis. It bases this score on:
- First Contentful Paint (FCP). How long it takes your page to load the first image or text.
- Time to Interactive (TTI). When your page becomes usable.
- Speed Index. How fast your page’s visual elements appear
- Total Blocking Time. The loading period between FCP and TTI.
- Largest Contentful Paint. The time it takes the largest image to load.
- Cumulative Layout Shift. Your page’s visible movement when loading.
While PSI is a great baseline, it’s not the end-all of page speed. Even Google only scores 66 on mobile, so don’t worry if yours isn’t perfect.
Instead, focus on the “smell test.” If pages load quickly on your device, they probably will for others.
9 Steps to Speed Up Web Page Loading Time
Now that you know what page speed is and how to measure it, it’s time to improve it. Here’s how to turn your load times into greased lightning:
1. Choose a Fast Web Host
If your website were a house, the host would be the foundation. It doesn’t matter how fast you build your site, it can’t go faster than the host allows.
New site owners often make the blunder of sacrificing host quality for lower prices. Ironically, this costs them more in leads, conversions, and sales than a quality host would have.
A lengthy Time to First Byte (TTFB) is a reliable sign of a slow host (visible in PageSpeed Insights). It measures the time it takes someone for your website to return their first byte of data after requesting it.
If your TTFB is slow, it may be time to upgrade.
Avoid shared and VPS hosting (especially shared). They’re cheaper options, both of which involve sharing resources with other sites, making them slower to load.
Cloud hosting is the most cost-effective option. For a reasonable price, they offer fast, instantly upgradeable servers.
2. Use a Fast Theme
Not all themes exist equally. Some are clean, quick works of art, while others are bloated disasters running your site speed into the ground.
Sadly, testing theme weight isn’t as simple as swapping them out and getting PageSpeed scores. They can vary based on plugins, caching, and countless other factors.
But by measuring a theme’s code, you’ll get a consistent result, no matter how many times you test it. Tom Dupuis at Online Media Masters did exactly that.
In his research, streamlined page builders like Elementor and Divi were heaviest, while Gutenberg-based themes were lightest.
3. Use Browser Caching
Caching lets visitor browsers save page information so they don’t need to load it every time they visit the site.
The easiest way to set up caching is using a plugin like WP Rocket. And if your host allows it, you can combine this with Varnish (an HTTPS caching program) for even faster speeds.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network
A CDN hosts your content on servers all around the world. This lets users load your site quickly no matter how far they are from your host.
Instead of replacing your host, CDNs work with it. Advanced CDNs like Cloudflare offer DDoS protection, caching, smart routing, SSL, and other valuable features too.
5. Optimize Images
Images are crucial for making your content interesting, but they can massively slow loading times. Fortunately, speeding them up is easy:
- Use web-friendly file formats. JPG and WebP especially load much faster than PNGs.
- Enable lazy loading. Your site should only load images as users scroll to them, not all at once.
- Use optimization plugins. Plugins like WP Smush can compress, resize, and change the file type of images
You don’t need to worry about adding too many if you optimize your images properly.
6. Reduce Redirects
A redirect is when a URL points to another page. Every page redirect extends the response time of the initial website request.
While some redirects are necessary (ex. moving to a new domain), work to eliminate them as much as possible. You can SEO tools like Semrush to find them too.
7. Eliminate Bloated Code
Bloated code is a notorious contributor to page loading speed. Fortunately, you won’t need any coding skills to fix this—plugins do all the heavy lifting for you.
8. Delete Unnecessary Plugins
When SEO pros see page after page of plugins, they recoil in horror.
Every plugin on your site introduces more code. While some of them are clean, well-coded products, others are not.
At best, bloated plugins slow down a site. At worst, they’re security issues—potentially exposing your site to bad actors.
So delete any plugins you don’t use. Also, see if plugins offering functionality you need have lighter alternatives.
You can find slow plugins in two main ways:
- PageSpeed Insights. PSI will tell you exactly what code is causing loading issues.
- Staging site testing. Copy your site to a staging server, then remove plugins one by one to see what makes a difference in speed testing.
9. Optimize Fonts
Custom fonts are common across the web, but many websites use them incorrectly—slow file types, loading methods, and more. This results in slower loading times, incorrect font swaps, and layout shifts.
Here’s how to use them right:
- Use the right format. WOFF and WOFF2 are compressed, web-optimized, and supported by 99% of all browsers.
- Preload fonts. This defines fonts as a required resource, forcing browsers to download them ASAP. Otherwise, they’ll wait for other elements to load first and severely slow TTI.
- Use a similar fallback font. While waiting for your custom font to load, most browsers will use a system font. Swapping in the custom font will create a large layout shift if the system font differs too much from it.
Page Load Speed FAQs
This section answers any lingering questions you might have about page speed.
Do Banner Ads Slow Down Loading Times?
Yes, banner ads can slow down page loading times. They introduce more code, images, and bloat to your site—all of which slow down pages.
At first, selling your virtual real estate may seem profitable, but the cost of slower speed can be huge. That leads to higher bounce rates, lower rankings, and lower conversion rates.
So if you use banner ads, keep them to a minimum and make sure their code doesn’t slow down your site.
Why is Shared Hosting Slow?
As the name suggests, shared hosting shares your server resources with other people.
These resources aren’t strictly partitioned. So if your “neighbor” site has a huge uptick in traffic, yours could run slowly (no matter how well-optimized it is).
How Important Are PageSpeed Insights Scores?
PageSpeed scores are important, but not as much as people claim.
Seeing “Google” attached to PSI makes people assume Google is saying, “This is how we determine the quality of your page. Poor scores will result in lower rankings.”
In reality, PSI simply provides recommendations for improving your site’s speed. Google only penalizes excessively slow sites creating a poor user experience.
Do I Need to Know How to Code to Fix Page Loading Speeds?
While coding knowledge can help, it isn’t necessary to fix page load speed.
WP Rocket, for example, can automate most of the optimization process for you. Almost all optimization work takes place outside of coding anyway (picking a fast host, theme, etc.).
What’s the Best Page Load Speed Test?
SEO experts rely on PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix for page load speed testing. Both provide detailed, actionable insights into the performance of your page.
Wrapping It Up: Fast Loading Speeds Are Crucial
If your pages load slowly, your bounce rate will skyrocket. People would rather find a faster site than wait for yours to load.
Fixing a slow site takes time and effort but gives a massive return on investment. Study after study shows that even minor speed improvements lead to massive conversion increases.
So start fixing yours now. With slow speeds costing you so much, you literally cannot afford to wait any longer.