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If you’re investing in pay-per-click (PPC) ads to drive traffic to your website, the last thing you want is for visitors to leave your site before they even see your content.
Who wants to pay for clicks that don’t lead to conversions?
This happens more often than you think. You may be leaving money on the table without knowing it if your website performance isn’t up to par.
Research by Google found that as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 32%. When the load time raises from 1 second to 6 seconds, visitors are 106% more likely to leave the site.
As such, website speed optimization is a crucial component in any conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy. It also is a key performance metric that measures the success of a website. Here’s why you should care about page load time, how to measure your website speed and how to improve your website’s performance.
Simply put, page speed optimization improves how fast a web page loads. It can impact the user experience as well as search engine ranking, which is the key to driving traffic to your website via search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and PPC ads.
Here’s why you should care about page speed optimization:
Before optimizing your website’s loading speed, you should determine the current loading time and find out what’s slowing it down. Here are some tools you can use to assess page load time:
Now that you have established a benchmark, it’s time to improve your website’s performance. Here are 12 of the best ways to optimize page load speed:
While visual content can help you capture visitor attention, increase engagement and drive conversion, it also can slow down your website speed because of large file sizes. Chances are that the images on your site are displayed at a smaller size than that of the actual file. You can, therefore, reduce the size of these files without compromising the user experience.
You can use image resizing tools, such as ResizeImage.net, to optimize the size of your image files. Also, experiment with different file formats. For example, by converting .png files to .jpg files, you can compress the images without noticeably impacting their quality.
Video has become quite popular and they can help you increase audience engagement. However, video files are typically very large and can dramatically impact page load time. As such, you should avoid uploading and hosting video files directly on your site.
To effectively leverage the benefits of video content on your website without impacting its performance, upload your videos to a third-party platform, such as YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia, and then embed them onto your site.
Although popular among website designers, web fonts can add hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) requests to external resources and slow down the speed of page rendering. However, you don’t have to sacrifice your website’s design if you take steps to reduce the volume of web font traffic.
Consider using the new WOFF 2.0 web font compression format, which offers a 30% average gain over WOFF 1.0. Also, only include styles and character sets that are used on your site to further reduce HTTP requests needed to render the web pages.
The more plug-ins you have installed on your website, the more resources are required to run them. As the number of plug-ins increases over time, your website can be slowed down even if you’re no longer using some of the features.
Regularly audit your plug-ins and delete the ones that are no longer in use. You also can run a performance test to identify plug-ins that are slowing down your site and avoid using ones that load a lot of scripts and styles or generate a lot of database queries.
Website redirects, such as permanent 301 redirects and temporary 307 redirects, can create additional HTTP requests that increase load time. Therefore, you should remove unnecessary redirects.
First, run a site scan to identify all the redirects on your website using tools such as Screaming Frog and Google Pagespeed Insights. Then, decide if they’re still relevant. Eliminate redirects that are no longer necessary and keep only the critical ones.
When a lot of users access a webpage at the same time, the server needs more time to deliver the page to each visitor. Caching can prevent this from happening by storing the latest version of your website on the hosting server and presenting it to users until the next update.
Since cached web pages don’t need to send database requests each time they load, caching can significantly improve website performance and user experience. You can use plug-ins such as WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache to reduce page load time.
Also known as 404 errors, these are shown to visitors when the browser or search engine is trying to access the content of a page that no longer exists. These errors not only slow down your site but also creates a frustrating user experience that could cause visitors to leave your site.
You can use various error detection tools, such as Xenu’s Link Sleuth and Google Webmaster Tools to detect 404 errors on your site. Then, you should assess the traffic generated by these links. If they no longer bring any visitors or consume server resources, you can leave them as they are. If they still generate traffic, you should set up redirects for external links and fix the link addresses for internal ones.
To optimize website speed for mobile, you can experiment with accelerated mobile pages (AMP). These are stripped-down HTML copies of existing webpage content that have faster load times than standard HTML5 documents.
AMP can speed up webpage load times by as much a second. It also reduces the need for additional Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) requests and eliminates certain elements that could impact website performance, such as large images and some backend codes.
This technique minimizes HTTP requests and reduces server response time by compressing the files needed to render a web page before sending them to the browser. It not only allows pages to load faster but helps you save on server costs.
This method can be applied to all file types and you can enable it on your website by using a utility called GNU Gzip. Also, the GZip function is part of some WordPress caching plug-ins, such as WP Fastest Cache.
Physical distance affects the time needed to process each HTTP request and deliver the website content. If your website is hosted on a single server, users who are located farther away will experience a longer load time.
To minimize the impact of geographic location on the user experience, you can use a content delivery network (CDN), which is a network of web servers distributed across various locations. It delivers content to end users from the nearest server so load time can be minimized no matter where your visitors are located.
Web hosting is essential for storing the files that comprise a website (code, images, etc.) on a web server and making them available for viewing online. However, not all web hosting services are created equal and the difference in quality can have a significant impact on a website’s performance.
If you have a shared hosting plan, your site could be slowed down because you’re using the same central processing unit, disk space and RAM as many other sites. Technical issues that happen to these websites could impact your site’s load time. Instead, invest in a hosting solution that gives you a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server.
You have invested time and effort into building a great website, so don’t let slow load time lower its effectiveness. Whether you want to increase audience engagement or sell more products, fast page speed can help you attract more visitors through SEO while making sure that they stick around to interact with your content and discover your products.
From optimizing your assets and reducing redirects to using caching and a CDN, there are various ways to improve your website’s performance. Many of these techniques focus on reducing the number of HTTP requests and files passed between your hosting server and user browsers so it’s important to streamline every element on your website as much as possible.
Last but not least, website optimization isn’t a one-and-done exercise. New assets, new pages, new codes or new plug-ins added to the site over time can slow down the site speed. You should have a schedule in place to regularly monitor your website’s performance so you can rank high on search engine results and deliver the best customer experience.