Is your page speed lagging?
In the world of SEO, that spells low ranking and lost revenue.
The good news? There’s a fix.
In this article, I’ll cover my specific process and steps for increasing page load speed for clients.
There’s nothing worse than navigating to a website and waiting – and waiting, and waiting – for it to load.
A slow loading page signals a poor user experience, and that’s a big deal – to your users and to Google.
Because of that, Google has listed page load speed as one of the signals used by it’s algorithm to rank pages.
Pages that take longer to load also tend to see higher bounce rates from users and ultimately lose revenue.
Which is exactly why I designed this system to get any websites with speed issues loading lighting fast.
How Fast Should Your Page Load Speed Be?
It’s no secret that in today’s busy, media-focused world, we expect things fast.
As in, 3 seconds fast.
And that, according to MachMetrics, is exactly what’s recommended: a page load speed of under 3 seconds.
To be clear, keep in mind that most websites don’t actually meet that timeframe. In fact, most clock in at an average 8.66 seconds.
And keep in mind, stakes are high when it comes to mobile.
The average time it takes to fully load the average mobile landing page is 22 seconds. However, research also indicates 53% of people will leave a mobile page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
For a more accurate idea of how yours should be performing, take a look at this chart, separated by industry:
Generally speaking, you should work to keep your page load speed below your industry average.
Three Considerations for Page Load Speed Optimization
When applying this approach, I generally take three things into consideration:
- Mobile page speed: Is there a mobile subdomain that needs to be reviewed separately or does the site feature a responsive web design?
- Desktop Website PageSpeed: Is this the only entity?
- AMP: keep in mind, this should only be used on the content marketing portions of websites, and should have proper conversion rate optimization (CRO)
Once you know which apply to you, your first step is to find out where your sight stands.
Use Google Analytics to Determine the Slowest Sections of Your Site
Before you can get to work fixing any speed issues, you have to know which sections are most affected.
To do so, use Google’s Mobile Scorecard to determine how your mobile site speed stacks up to your competitors.
Just launch the Scorecard, found here, and type in your domain.
You’ll be brought to a screen that the actual speed, in seconds, it takes your site to load.
From there, you can type in the domain of any competitors (you can up to 10) to see how long each domain takes to load and how you rank in comparison.
For reference, Google recommends a load time of 5 seconds or less on mobile devices with 3G connections.
Once you have an idea of your actual page load speed, you can use the Impact Calculator (located on the same page as your Mobile Scorecard results, just scroll down).
The Impact Calculator estimates the possible revenue impact that could result from improving your page load speed.
To use it, you’ll need to know our site’s average monthly visitors, average order value, and conversion rate.
Then, plug the percentages in, and Google will return its estimate.
You’ll also want to review pages and templates individually based on your Google Analytics reports.
When you enter into your reports, set the time frame to analyze six months over the previous six months.
Then, sort by speed greater than site average.
If you notice any pages that are taking longer than you average page load speed, those are the ones you’ll know to focus on.
The next step is diagnosing what, exactly, is causing these pages (or your entire domain) to load slower than average.
To find out, you can use the following tools:
The tools above will not only give some insight into how well your site is loading, but provide actionable recommendations on how to improve.
How to Fix Your Page Load Speed Issues
After your initial research, it’s time to determine how to best fix any issues.
Luckily, I have a full process to take you through. By the end, you should be able to address and fix any issues causing delays in your site speed.
Fix Global or Template Based Elements First
Before you get into any individual elements, you want to make sure you’ve addressed any major issues with your website template first.
Fixing these could solve any overarching issues with the infrastructure of your site (and if you’re lucky, get your site up and loading fast).
Check the Server
Next, you’ll want to look into any server-related errors.
Specifically, if the site is PHP-based, you need to determine if it is being served across PHP7.
PHP7, released at the end of 2015, is the latest version of PHP.
It’s major benefit? The application was designed to run almost twice as fast as previous versions.
So, if you’re hosting provider isn’t using PHP7, you may want to start looking for one that does. This tweak alone could improve your site speed significantly.
The other thing you’ll want to check is if your site is serving resources via HTTP/2 protocol.
HTTP/2 improves upon the existing incarnation of HTTP by allowing quicker header compression and enabling full request and response multiplexing, among other things.
In short, it improves the speed and efficiency of your site and, as Google says, “make applications faster, simpler, and more robust.”
Definitely another factor you’ll want to check out when determining your overall serve efficiency, and any part it may play in inadequate page load speeds.
Look at a CDN for Faster Page Load Speed
A content delivery network (CDN) can be an effective way to increase your page load speed as well.
A CDN, essentially, is a network of geographically dispersed servers.
So, when a user accesses your site, the static content will be delivered by the node closest to them, causing a quicker load time.
Since these are the elements that most often cause a lag in load time, a CDN can be a very effective way to fix page speed.
Keep in mind, these are third-party, paid services, and therefore may not be the right fix for everyone.
But if your site sees heavy traffic, serves a global or multinational audience, I recommend adding a CDN to your optimization strategy.
Most popular CMS, including WordPress, Drupal, etc. have existing plugins to help your site up for a CDN.
Review Image Optimization on Page and Template Level
Images are a common cause of poor page load speeds.
Think about it: how often have you landed on a website and started scrolling through the text, only to be bumped back to the top of the page when an image finally loads?
The culprit there is poor image optimization, and I don’t have to tell you it’s an understandably frustrating experience for your users.
The thing is, you can’t just throw an image up on a site. It needs to be resized and compressed before uploading.
As a rule of a thumb, you generally want to resize images in the largest size needed for your site – but no larger.
So, if you know you need images to be 800×500, use a tool like Photoshop to resize before uploading to your CMS.
It’s also important to keep file name in mind. Your best bet is to you JPG or PNG.
Enable Caching for Faster Page Load Speed
Enabling caching on can also cut down on page load speed by asking users to save and reuse files in your website.
In your usual web surfing experience, a browser will have to download all the web files attached to a certain website in order for it to load and display properly.
This, understandably, takes a little time to complete.
Then, if that same user were to visit the site again, their browser would have to redownload the files.
But by enabling caching, some of those files would be stored locally on the user’s computer, which would cut down on some load time.
It’s possible to enable caching by yourself (though it will require a little CMS know-how), or with popular plugins like WP Super Cache.
Engine Compression for Faster Page Load Speed
Compression is another way to speed up your site.
Doing so enables you to decrease the size of your files, which allows for quicker downloading by your browser (ever received a ZIP file? Same concept.)
Take a look at these scenarios:
The first represents an uncompressed transaction between a user’s browser and your web server.
The second is compressed. And see? The browser only has 10KB to deal with, rather than 100KB.
GZIP compression is most popular. For more instructions on how to enable it for your site, check out this article.
“Minify” refers to “the process of removing unnecessary or redundant data without affecting how the resource is processed by the browser – e.g. code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and so on.”
Basically, it reduces the size of the code being transmitted over the web.
If this is your problem, you’ll see it right in your PageSpeed Insight reports.
For HTML, you should try HTMLMinifier
Eliminate Too Many Internal Redirects For Faster Page Load Speed
Too many redirects can also hurt you when it comes to page speed.
Redirects happen when you send users to a different than originally requested.
And while they certainly have their uses, too many can have a negative effect on your page load speed.
If you suspect this may be case (or Google tells you it is), consider removing unnecessary redirects.
Or, if you’re not already using a responsive design, Google recommends switching to eliminate redirects.
Wrapping Up Increasing Page Load Speed
A faster website means a better user experience, better rankings, and not to mention more conversions and revenue.
Make sure you check out my plan for increasing your page speed, and start implementing today.
Page Speed FAQ:
1. How Is a Web Page Loaded?
There are many factors that influence page speed. To fully understand them, you should know how a web page is loaded.
When a user visits a URL, the browser will first attempt to resolve the domain name. That’s the part that ends with an extension like .com or .org.
Browsers determine the IP address of a domain name with something called a DNS (Domain Name Service) lookup. That lookup process, as you can imagine, takes a little bit of time.
That’s the first thing that affects how quickly a page gets loaded.
Once the browser has resolved the domain name, it needs to locate the files on the domain’s server. It does that by sending the complete URL to the domain’s IP address.
That’s when the web server hosted on the domain kicks in. It interprets the URL and serves up the necessary files to the browser.
That whole process takes time as well.
Note: you have some control over the speed of the second part of that journey. You usually have very little (if any) control over how long it takes a browser to resolve a domain name.
2. When It Comes to Page Speed, What Is ‘First Paint’?
First Paint is exactly what you think it is. It’s the first change of a pixel on an otherwise blank screen.
Some speed-testing applications will tell you how long it takes your web page to draw its first paint. That will give you some idea about performance.
If your site takes too long to draw its first paint, that usually points to a server-level issue on your side. Contact your development team.
3. When It Comes to Page Speed, What Is ‘First Contentful Paint’?
First Contentful Paint is when the first meaningful content appears.
The first meaningful content could be a navigation bar, a line of text, the title of an article, or something else. It’s content that users would consider useful.
If users have to wait too long to see anything meaningful, they might bail on your site. Make sure that your time to first contentful paint is as short as possible.