Have you determined whether your website is running as fast as possible? Studies have shown that the average site takes far too long to load and is a leading cause of poor user engagement and conversion. If a site’s speed falters on the desktop or mobile devices, it’s going to have a hard time ranking because of the indirect impact the speed will have on the site’s bounce rate and time spent on each page. If your page does not load under a couple seconds, users will most likely abandon your website before seeing any of its content. This is a simple reality that unfortunately is neglected by many website owners.
Another important thing to note is that Google has invested a lot of resources in developing a tool to help website owners evaluate their load speed and identify any issues slowing it down. This demonstrates the importance Google places on site speed, and because people are accustomed to sites loading quickly, they need to ensure that their top listings will satisfy this need. This means that your site’s speed can directly influence whether users will be able to find your business in Google’s search results.
This article will pinpoint what it takes to enhance your site’s speed and ensure that it is compliant with Google’s standards.
Using Google PageSpeed Insights
One of the most powerful tools a person can use for their site is the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. The goal of this tool is to break down how your site is designed and to identify minor or major issues that might be slowing down your page speed. The tool will crawl the site and evaluate all of its components before providing a final report. This report is going to break the items that must be individually addressed to exceed Google’s PageSpeed standards.
It is important for site owners to leverage this tool to ensure that their site is not only compliant with Google’s standards but is also optimized for user experience. Slow page speed will decrease your user’ experience when visiting your site which will increase your bounce rate and reduce the time spent on each page. It is important to maximize the value that this tool provides to address any underlying issues that can hold your business back from achieving its full potential and this is why it is highly recommended to always discuss this with a top seo consultant in Montreal or any other city.
Below is a brief explanation of the different measures that can be taken to improve your website’s page speed on both mobile and desktop devices:
1- Optimize Images
Although it is tempting to have large images with very high resolutions, it is recommended to at least compress the file if you need to keep the resolution. The goal is to make sure that the file is as small as possible while ensuring that the image is still appealing when fully enlarged on any monitor.
What is great about Google’ PageSpeed tool is that once the evaluation is complete, there will be downloadable content which will include all of your images that require optimization.
To increase the load speed of your page, it is necessary to resize and compress the picture before uploading them to your page. If you change the size of the image within your site, it is highly recommended to use a plugin to do so. Also, if you have data saved in your images (for example, geo-relevant information), it is important to note that these optimization and compression tools can potentially remove the information saved in your images.
2- Use Quality Hosting Service
The hosting service selected by a site owner can have a significant impact on the site’s page speed. There are multiple choices on the market, and it’s important to look through all of them one by one. Choosing the wrong hosting company could potentially harm a site for many reasons such as leaving it open to hackers.
So, which hosting service is ideal?
There are many out there, and the best approach is to evaluate their reputation, efficiency, pricing, and overall security. Until this is determined, it is highly recommended to wait before choosing your hosting service as it is an important component of your site’s foundation. However, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated hosting service. For example, there are a lot of valid hosting services under 60$ that are built specifically for WordPress. These services also include many tools such as backups, malware protection, etc.
3- Host Videos, Downloadable Content, and Graphics Elsewhere
Where are your videos and graphics being hosted?
The PageSpeed Insights tool is going to pinpoint this as well. If you are hosting your graphics on your site, it’s going to increase the time it takes to load your page. Even though video content can play an instrumental part in your website’s ability to convert, you do not necessary want these videos hosted on your server. There are many reasons for this such as increased hosting fees due to larger server space requirements and running it on your bandwidth.
Many platforms provide this service such as YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and Wistia. They all allow you to embed the video into the code of your web pages and some give you a live stream functionality as well.
If you intend on making these videos public and want to get as many views and subscribers as possible, it is highly recommended to use YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook. If your plan is to make the video only accessible on your site, you can go with Wistia, which is more of a premium version than the other three.
The same applies to all other files such as downloadable content, MP3, PDFs, etc. A good example is an Amazon product listing integrated into the coding of the web page.
4- Stick To One Analytics Tool
Does your site have too many tools running in the background? Analytics are great and do serve a purpose but keep it simple. Don’t overload the site and its coding with multiple tools and plugins. It takes up too much space, and those tools are going to slow down your site.
Choose one tool (i.e. Google Analytics) and let it run in the background. Everything else should be removed if you are not getting useful data otherwise it will negatively affect your page speed because these tools have to load before your website is fully loaded.
5- Check Internal Links And Fix Broken Links For All Pages
You should be taking a look at all of your internal and broken links as it can be a cause of reduced load speed. Some sites run well when it comes to the main page, but if all of their secondary pages don’t load as quickly, this will affect the overall performance of your site. This is a real concern and is something that should be tackled as soon as possible.
Broken links do not only reduce your bandwidth, but they also contribute to an increased bounce rate because users will most likely drop off when they land on a page with a 404 error.
6- Use Essential Plugins Only
What plugins are being used on your site?
Having too many plugins will slow down the site. Each plugin is going to load as the site loads, and that can have an adverse impact on your overall load speed. Before deciding to download a plugin, always perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it’s worth it because every additional plugin will require additional resources to operate and this will slow down your site. In this analysis, you should always consider whether the functionalities of the plugin can be coded into your website’s theme.
Many site owners don’t realize this until they take a look at how many plugins are running in the background such as those that make your website more secure. Get rid of the ones that hold little meaning in the grand scheme of things and use the PageSpeed tool provided to determine which plugins are slowing your site down by simply testing the site with and without the plugin activated.
7- File Compression Is Key
PageSpeed Insights is going to point this out if all of your files are not optimized and compressed on each of your pages. By compressing all the files saved on your server, everything will load faster because of the reduction in file size.
Gzip is the most common and effective method used for compressing files. Gzip is a very easy way to reduce your page weight by reducing the size of the HTTP response and the response time.
There are many ways to integrate this functionality into your website such as adding the code to your .htaccess file or by directly downloading plugins.
8- Avoid Redirects
Redirects are going to add a lot of time on top of how long it typically takes for your site to load because they trigger an extra HTTP request which adds latency. Redirection can be the wrong avenue to take when you’re looking to remain PageSpeed compliant so only use them when it is necessary, and no other solutions are available.
9- Enable Browser Caching
Imagine sitting on a site and then hitting a WiFi dead spot where the signal dies off. This can be a frustrating experience for users, and it can become even worse for you if your site doesn’t support browser caching. Caching is taking your website and making a static version of it, so it doesn’t have to query your entire database when a user is accessing your site’s content. This ensures the user can still access the site even if they go offline for a second or two.
Load speeds go down the drain if you don’t have browser caching enabled because the site has to reload each time and that can tap into how fast things are running in the back end of your site. Don’t let this happen and make sure browser caching is enabled on the site because according to studies, it can shave around two seconds off the total load time.
If you partnered up with a reputable hosting service provider, you would already have this incorporated in your package. If this is not the case, you should contact them to determine how to activate this feature. For WordPress users, you can download a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache which will manage your website’s traffic, especially when you’re expecting a surge in traffic.
10- Being AMP Compliant
AMP or “Accelerated Mobile Pages” will hold an important role on how a site is ranked on Google’s Mobile-First Index, which should be fully implemented in 2018. The major highlight in Google’s Mobile-First Index is that the mobile search results will dictate all desktop results. This algorithm update is live but the results vary. Site owners who will be reluctant to make their website mobile friendly and not just mobile responsive risk harming their site’s ability to get more exposure and reach on Google. AMP will be an important ranking signal when this change is in full effect.
What is AMP?
AMP is a further refinement of mobile and it’s a way to deliver extremely fast pages to Google’s end users by using a stripped-down form of your website in terms of HTML coding. What Google is doing is that they are taking your site/page and checking to see if it’s AMP compliant and if it is, they will start hosting it on their servers. When someone clicks on your website from a mobile search that is amplified, it will render almost instantaneously on Google’s cache versus having to access your website’s database, which can take time depending on your Content Management System. This will, in turn, increase the click through rate, decrease the bounce rate and affect many other ranking factors because of the increased site speed and the AMP certification.
These are the key tips for improving your site’s speed and getting great results with the PageSpeed Insights tool moving forward. Take advantage of this information to make sure that your site is running as smoothly and quick as possible and that you are not losing business. However, it is important to note that you can still rank a website to #1 even if the page speed is not up to par with Google’s standards. The digital real estate of the target keyword plays a significant role in the importance of this ranking factor.
If you have an expert doing your SEO, page speed should not hold you back at this present time. The concern mostly lies on the impact it will have on your user’s experience which will, in turn, affect many conversion metrics which ultimately influence your rankings.
It is the little details that help a site progress and that’s where speed matters. Start here and watch as your user engagement analytics improve.