Marketing July 21, 2015 Last updated September 19th, 2018 2,314 Reads share

Improving Page Speed Load Times: What You Need to Know

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Google’s top priority is delivering accurate results to users. When a user clicks a search result and immediately bounces, it signals the site was a bad result. Slow websites are one of the top reasons for high bounce rates. So how do you go about improving your page speed load times?

PageSpeed is a Ranking Factor

Google’s been accounting for page speed (the speed at which your pages load when users click them as a search result) since at least 2010.

They’ve provided several tools for webmasters to analyze and improve page load times in order to deliver better results to searchers.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.04.50 PMThese free tools give you detailed insights into:

  • Page load time
  • Redirections
  • Domain lookups
  • Server connection speed
  • Server response time
  • Page download speed

Further digging into Google Analytics brings up detailed reports about how quickly your site responds with specific browsers and within certain countries.

Why Does Page Speed Matter?

While it may be true that page speed is only one of a number of factors that affect your Google rankings, you should be most concerned about your users.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team, recently suggested that search engine optimization experts change the way they look at – and the way they define – SEO. He said that we should no longer consider it search engine optimization, but searcher experience optimization.

With that in mind, know that SEOs live by the science and theory behind page speed.

If you can’t deliver real value to your site’s visitors, they’ll bounce to your competitors’ sites. They won’t waste time; they’ll just leave.

A one-second delay in page load speed leads to:

  • An 11 percent drop in page views
  • A 7 percent drop in conversions
  • A 16 percent drop in customer satisfaction

As many as 47 percent of consumers aren’t willing to wait longer than two seconds for a webpage to load. When a site is slow, 88 percent of visitors are less likely to convert, and more than 33 percent will share their bad experience with others.

The statistics aren’t much better for mobile search, because 18 percent of mobile users abandon a site that takes more than 5 seconds to load. When you get to the double digits, it’s even more grim: 30 percent of people will abandon a site that takes more than 10 seconds to load.

The solution is simple. Your website needs to load as quickly as possible. If it doesn’t, you risk losing visitors – and visitors who leave have a zero-percent conversion rate.

That means you can sit comfortably in the top spot on Google’s first page without reaping any of the benefits you’re supposed to have. You’ll be wasting your marketing efforts (and your marketing dollars) if your visitors don’t stick around long enough to find out what you have to offer.

Website Hosting Has a Huge Effect on Speed

Dedicated hosting is always preferable to shared hosting, because with dedicated hosting, you don’t have to worry about other websites hogging resources and slowing your site down. However, if dedicated hosting isn’t an option for your business, you can still find workable solutions that will keep things running smoothly until it is.

Look for services that optimize content delivery, such as load-balancing services. Load-balancing services spread traffic across multiple servers; that reduces the workload on individual servers and helps prevent your site from being bogged down by an influx of traffic.

Content delivery networks work with geography to smooth the process, as well. They deliver content, pictures and video through a server closer to the visitor.

The Best Platforms for Page Speed

Every website runs on a specific technology, and some are better than others are. If you’re worried about eCommerce or content management, the three best platforms for your site are likely Shopify, WordPress and Joomla.

The best desktop website builder platforms are Webnote, Yola and Weebly. It’s important to know, though, that mobile website speed performs poorly for all website builders. The highest score any of them received was a 68 from Google PageSpeed, which leaves a lot to be desired for business owners who don’t want to deal with atrocious bounce rates.

If you’re aiming to build a fast loading website, it’s best to stay away from desktop website builders. The technology required to build front end designs requires heavy JavaScript and CSS – both of which impede page load times when left unoptimized.

Mobile Needs Consideration As Well

We’re all aware of the news Google dropped in April about mobile responsive sites receiving a downgrade in the SERPs. To be honest, this shouldn’t have affected it. It’s 2015 – your website should be mobile responsive.

Assuming that it is, your mobile design and code needs optimization as well. Google’s top mobile optimization tip is to make sure all of your content located “above the fold” load in 1 second or less. This allows for the content “below the fold” to load as the users scrolls down the page.

How Content Affects Website Speed

Is your content optimized for speed? It should be – and fortunately, it’s usually an easy fix. Smaller, compressed image files can boost your page’s load times, as can removing widgets that drag in feeds from other sites (think Twitter and Facebook).

The easiest way to ‘compress’ an image is to save it as a JPEG. This is the recommended image type for web use and is far smaller than PNG or GIF images. If your images are still taking a long time to render, you can run it through compression tools.

A simple Google search will turn up dozens of free viable options, but I mainly use the following:

  1. http://jpeg-optimizer.com/
  2. https://tinypng.com/
  3. http://www.jpegmini.com/

Closing

Content is king, but it’s not the whole court. You’ll still need to delve into Google Analytics and examine the tools you use on your site. If you’re not actively using them, it’s time to say goodbye.

The excess code can drag your site’s performance down to a crawl and drive away valuable traffic. The Google PageSpeed Insights tool will highlight issues you need to fix, such as bloated website code, to help point you in the right direction.

Images: “Connection speed/Shutterstock.com

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Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart

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