Page load speed is critical to ranking higher in the search rankings. Yes, it is one of a ton of ranking signals the search engine has, but over the past few years there has been a clear focus from Google to improve the overall speed of top results. So, the need to have faster loading pages is incredibly important no matter what industry you are in.
A study by Backlinko of over a million web searches clearly showed a correlation between faster page load speeds and higher rankings.
We know there is a need to improve from an SEO perspective to deliver better rankings, but how do page load speeds hinder customer experience with websites?
In simple terms, if your page speed is slow, potential customers will bounce.
Research shows that 53% of visitors will leave a website if the page doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
This is supported by Google’s page speed benchmarks
What about those that stick with the sites slow page loads?
According to a study by Akami and Gomez.com
- 79% of shopper won’t return to a website if they have a bad experience with site performance
- 44% of shoppers will tell a friend about a poor experience with a website
By having slow page load times:
- Your site will rank lower in the search engines
- More customers will bounce away from your website
- The majority of customer won’t come back to your site, even if they stick with the slow speeds
- They will likely tell their friends about your poor site performance
Whichever way you look at it, this is hitting you hard in the wallet.
Neither further support? The guys at Skilled compiled 12 case studies to show how slower page speeds affect conversions.
- A 1 second delay means a 7% reduction in conversion (this is equivalent to losing $1.6b a year in Amazon money)
So how can you improve your page load speeds?
Know Your Current Site Page Speed
You can’t improve if you don’t know where you are against industry benchmarks.
The guys at Google make it extremely simple to check how your site is performing against their performance metrics.
Head to Google Page Speed Insights and enter your url. This will give you suggestions on where to look from a technical standpoint to increase speeds.
For example, Google’s benchmark data tells us that as a best practice our pages should be 500kb or smaller for weight and size.
I would highly recommend looking in Google Analytics as well for some more context.
Behaviour > Site Speed > Overview
This will highlight any issues with particular browsers, individual pages or even countries that are experiencing problems with slow page speeds.
Below are 10 ways to improve your page load speeds.
1. Suitable Hosting
If you are using an out-of-the-box solution from one of the big providers that is less than £80-£100 per month, then this will be having an effect.
As your traffic onsite increases, then the need for improved hosting becomes more apparent.
There are three main options, and you should work your way through them as and when you need to.
- Shared hosting – often the cheapest and means you are on the same server with multiple other sites
- VPS – dedicated areas of servers resources for your site but still sharing with other websites
- Dedicated server – self explanatory, it is all yours. But also the most expensive out the three
2. Browser Caching
Every site wants a good amount of visitors coming back to their site. Not only does it cost less to convert a returning customer but they are also ideal brand advocates.
A trick to improve a returning customers site experience is to load images from cache (temporary browser storage). The browser will remember the jpegs and load the images quicker when the customer returns to the site.
Images can often be a bulky item to load on websites and can slow load times considerably.
3. Reduce Image Sizes
Images on site, especially ecommerce websites are typically very large. Rather than resizing images to the content area, then uploading. Most companies will upload the original size and use the websites CMS or CSS to fit to the content area.
By compressing images, this could remove the large amount of data being needed to load pages.
Resizing and compressing all imagery will be very beneficial for improving your page load speeds.
4. Content Delivery Networks
If you use a single server to load your page then there can be times when high levels of traffic for example can slow down servers and reduce page loading times. More traffic is a great thing for brands so we don’t want to hinder that growth by giving potential customers a poor web experience.
Using a CDN enables you to load your website using locally sourced servers to the customer.
VentureHarbor reported decreases in load time ranging from 20-51% — for 20 minutes of work installing a CDN.
5. Leverage Third Party Platforms
Video is a great source to give customers more information on given products. It can often get more information across in a nicer format than bulky amounts of text.
The problem with importing videos straight to your site is they can take up large amounts of space and memory with your servers.
Upload videos to Vimeo or Youtube first, then embed. This will reduce the bandwidth needed to play the videos and avoid the dreaded paused load as the video tries to play
It is recommended that you load your CSS (or stylesheet) from the header section of the site. When the page hasn’t been setup like this, visitors are faced with a white page as the content attempts to load.
Use Google’s trusty Page Speed Insights to get a look at any rendering issues for CSS your might have.
7. Reduce Plugins
The growth of platforms like WordPress is that they require little coding knowledge to run a website. Any custom functionality is normally covered by a plugin. The result being, sites load up on plugins for everything under the sun.
The more plugins you have, the more it can affect the load speed of your site. Not to mention the conflicting operational and security issues that some plugins can have. Speaking from experience here!
Have a clean up.
What might have been necessary before may have been fixed by an upgraded version of the platform or theme. Maybe you just want to get rid of those that have become less effect on your visitors or haven’t been upgraded by the developer in the past 12 months.
8. Reduce Broken Links
Utilising a tool like Screaming Frog can help you identify pages or images on site that have broken links (Bad Requests).
Fixing broken links will not only improve the impression Google has of your site for SEO, but it will also reduce the need for unnecessary requests when loading your pages.
9. Reduce Redirect Links
Redirect links, also known as 301’s are very important to redirect a visitor who might be visiting a page that may have been deleted or moved.
Using Screaming Frog (again) can help you identify any status codes showing as 301’s. Too many can create additional requests. If you remove completely as Google suggests here then great. But a tad unrealistic in my eyes.
To improve page load speeds, try and find any 301’s that are not necessary anymore and eliminate any chains (redirects pointing to more redirects).
10. Accelerated Mobile Pages
With mobile search now overtaking desktop, it is imperative for brands to not just be responsive but to be actively seeking to improve customer experience through their mobile devices. That means delivering content that their mobile customer want (and engage with) not just replicating the desktop site.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google-led project with the sole purpose of delivering a faster mobile web experience. In simple terms, it is a stripped down version of html.
On Feb. 24, 2016, Google officially integrated AMP listings into its mobile search results. Pages making use of AMP coding appear within special places in the search results and/or with a special “AMP” designation. Reference Search Engine Land
Recently, Google also announced AMP for email, helping to deliver AMP experiences in your inbox. It is clear, that Accelerated Mobile Pages are here to stay.
The following is a breakdown of AMP frameworks from Search Engine Land’s How To Get Started With AMP article
- AMP HTML: A subset of HTML, this markup language has some custom tags and properties and many restrictions. But if you are familiar with regular HTML, you should not have difficulty adapting existing pages to AMP HTML. For more details on how it differs from basic HTML, check out AMP Project’s list of required markup that your AMP HTML page “must” have.
- AMP CDN: An optional Content Delivery Network, it will take your AMP-enabled pages, cache them and automatically make some performance optimizations.
Since its inception in 2015, there has been well over 4 billion pages created using this framework. A Google commissioned study showed those pages using AMP’s have:
- 10% increase in website traffic
- 2x increase in time on page
- 20% increase in conversion compared to non-AMP ecommerce pages
This is all positive for ecommerce websites, and I would encourage brands to start testing on a select number of product pages to compare performance
Hopefully, this article has given you a bit more of an in-depth look at the effect slow load times can have on your bottom line and how you can improve your page load speeds.
Implement the tips from this article and let me know how you get on in the comments below.