Over the years, we’ve gained the ability to do some pretty impressive things with websites. Displaying high-quality photos and videos in galleries and grids, animating small elements as well as whole pages, and talking to visitors through live chat or automating it with a bot.
But these kinds of things can come at the expense of speed if you’re not careful.
Why Should You Care About Having a Faster Website?
There’s a lot at stake when a website performs poorly. As summed up by Kissmetrics:
- 47% of people expect websites to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 40% will abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
- 79% of online shoppers who’ve had a bad experience with a website won’t return.
Recent data published by Think with Google throws even more fuel onto the fire as it shows how just a few seconds can cost businesses website visitors and sales:
According to Backlinko’s assessment of 5.2 million web pages:
“The average time it takes to fully load a webpage is 10.3 seconds on desktop and 27.3 seconds on mobile.”
Based on Google’s and Backlinko’s data, most websites are bleeding visitors.
Before we look at what you can do to fix your site, I want you to go to Google’s Impact Calculator:
Enter your domain name and hit Enter.
The top of the page will tell you what your (mobile) page speed is. Your goal should be to aim for no more than 2.5 seconds.
Now, scroll to the very bottom of the page. Click on “Evaluate the impact of a faster site” and fill in your website’s current information:
According to this, a drop in loading speed from 10 seconds to 2.5 seconds would put $8,000 more into your pocket each month.
I know the focus here is on lost visitors and sales, but this all ties into your SEO, too.
Google monitors your website to see how visitors respond. How long they stay on the site. What percentage of them drop off. How many abandoned sales you have. If people are unhappy with your website, you won’t just lose money from it, you’ll lose authority with Google, and your site won’t rank. And without that visibility, you won’t see much new traffic. It’s a vicious cycle.
How Do You Make Your Website Load Faster?
Don’t worry. We have ways to make a website load more quickly.
Here are the key elements of a faster website:
1. Great Web Hosting
A reliable web server will help you speed up your website and protect you from security breaches and downtime.
Use this guide to help you sort through the options — make sure to pay attention to the “Speed Optimizations” section that lists the things you need to look for.
2. A Clean Design
When you look at the design of your website, are you confident that everything on those pages is needed? The reason I ask is that content overload won’t just be distracting and overwhelming to visitors; it can hurt your page speeds, too.
According to Backlinko’s report, larger pages — that includes longer pages and those with more images on them — take 318% longer to visually load than smaller ones.
Check your design for filler or duplicate content that’s not needed and do away with it.
3. Reliable Plugins
Plugins and extensions are what enable us to add advanced features and functionality to our websites with little fuss. However, just as you have to be careful with any design templates or themes you use, the same goes for plugins. Well-written code is a must.
There’s also the matter of quantity.
Backlinko found that APIs that connect a website to another service (like pulling in analytics from Google Analytics or importing the latest tweets from Twitter) can each increase loading times by 34.1 milliseconds. So, less is more when it comes to using plugins.
Caching is the process of copying a web page and turning it into something that’s easier to send to visitors’ browsers.
If a web page hasn’t changed from the last time someone visited it, then all your web server has to do is send the copy of it. Otherwise, it has to piece together each of the elements (e.g. images, content, code, and scripts), which is why un-cached pages have a tendency to load very slowly.
This only gets worse as traffic increases to your site, so caching needs to be put in place ASAP.
5. Lightweight Code
You don’t need to be a designer or a developer to find out if something is wrong with the code on your site. Simply run it through PageSpeed Insights and check the error messages:
- Code minification
- Gzip compression
- File combination
- Asynchronous loading
- Elimination of render-blocking
Many caching solutions have these optimizations built-in.
6. Optimized Images
Let’s take a look once more at those PageSpeed Insights:
Although coding inefficiencies cause a lot of problems, so too do images. That’s because images usually take up about half of your web server resources when left unoptimized.
To optimize images for your website, you’ll need to:
- Resave them in smaller image formats.
- Resize them.
- Compress them.
You can use a tool like ResizeImage.net to do all three of these things:
You can also use something called lazy loading. So, when someone visits your website, your server only processes the part of the page they’re looking at. For web pages with lots of images, this is a beneficial optimization.
7. Embedded Videos
Although you’ll likely upload images directly to your site, videos are different. Usually, the files are much larger and can be a severe drag on page speed.
Instead, upload them to a video sharing platform like YouTube (like Web Hosting Canada does) and then copy the embed code into your website.
8. A De-cluttered Database
Over time, the things you add to a website — image files, pages, templates, code, comments, and more — tend to stack up behind the scenes. Just as you do spring cleaning to keep your home feeling open and lighter, it’s essential to do the same for your website.
The more frequently you remove unused and outdated files and data, the more quickly your server can work, and your site can load faster.
9. A CDN (Optional)
A content delivery network (or CDN) is like web hosting and caching combined. You still need a web hosting plan and caching mechanism. However, a CDN takes things to the next level in terms of speed and security.
That said, not everyone needs a CDN. They’re most useful for e-commerce sites, international sites, and sites that process vast amounts of data.
The good news is that even if you don’t have the resources of an enterprise at your disposal, you can create a faster website on your own. All you need is a good understanding of what causes web pages to load slowly and what you need to do to speed things up.
We have a lot of experience in this area, helping clients build speedy websites from scratch as well as redesigning sluggish ones. If you’d like some help with your website and SEO, don’t be a stranger.