Ways to optimize your website’s loading time  - why it’s so important for your business

26 May, 2021

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In our last article, we addressed the topic of mobile optimization for your website. But your website looking good on mobile devices is not the only thing to keep in mind: How fast the site loads is just as important. Google discovered very early that page loading speed has a huge impact on the user experience and made it a ranking factor. Sites that load too slowly are consequently downgraded in the ranking. User experience is getting more and more relevant, one reason is Google’s latest update, Core Web Vitals, which will be launched in May of 2021.

With Google striving to provide its users with the best possible results and the best possible user experience, you might be asking yourself if this is a topic that also concerns you, as a business owner. The answer is simple, yes it does, if you want to keep your rankings and please both your visitors and Google. Google will be able to measure on a URL basis how users perceive the experience and interaction with a website and will also be able to compare it to other websites. This means, simply put, that user experience will soon become an official ranking factor for websites. Due to the strong correlation between page speed and user experience it makes sense for every web hoster, to check their loading speed and if need be, to optimize it. 

What is page speed? 

 

But how exactly is page speed defined? Page speed refers to the speed at which a website is loaded. There is disagreement about what exactly constitutes a fully loaded website, as search engines use other factors to decide this than an ordinary person might. But the fact is: the slower a site loads, the higher the bounce rate, once again showing us a direct link between loading speed and user behavior! Here are some concrete examples for loading times and their associated bounce rates: 

  • Bounce rate increases 32% when the loading time increases from 1 to 3 seconds
  • Bounce rate increases 90% when the loading time increases from 1 to 5 seconds
  • Bounce rate increases 106% with a 6 seconds loading time

In the past, it was determined that, when everything, including the entire source code, was loaded, that means the site was completely loaded. But the users themselves have a slightly different opinion. They are less interested in the technicalities and more interested in when they can actually use the site. Therefore, it is most important to them when the Largest Content Paint (LCP) is loaded, meaning the moment when the website begins displaying content that makes sense. From this moment on, the user can, for example, read an article, view a product, etc. The first content paint is not only most relevant for the user, Google also considers it very important. An appropriate time for the LCP to load would be up to 2.5 seconds.

Measure your website’s speed and identify the issues

 

First of all, test your site’s speed! To measure your speed, there are many tools you can use for free! One among them is the very popular  Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool can test any site for its performance, both the desktop and mobile versions. It is very easy to use and is compatible with most browsers. Simply enter the URL in question and it will give you lots of information about your loading time. The tool also looks at all the subpages of your website, giving each of them a score up to 100. It will further provide a report within only a few minutes and will divide all the information into different sections with differing priorities. 

If your loading speed is less than satisfactory, there are some possible causes you can check immediately: Is your site too big? Meaning it has a lot of subpages that contain a lot of large files? That alone would already have a huge impact on the loading speed. You should also check if you have too many HTTP requests (server calls). A server call is initiated for every picture that is displayed on your website and every redirect link embedded in your text. If you have many of these elements on your page, it will automatically make your site slower. 


To do - 8 tips to make your site faster

If you are not sure where to start, here are some tips on what you can do right now, even without being an expert in loading speed:

1.Keep your source code clean: Try to use streamlined code that fulfills its function and, if necessary, get rid of any unnecessary code snippets. 

2.Picture size:  Make sure to minimize picture size as much as possible and not use larger sizes unless necessary! 

3.Compression: It is possible to compress certain elements of the website so that they load faster. The process of making the page smaller is called gzip compression and functions similarly to zip files. You can use it to redact the size of your CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files (don’t use it on pictures, to ensure they are still displayed in good quality).

4.Use browser caching: Make sure to turn on the caching. This way you reduce the amount of data to be loaded by returning users and users who open multiple pages. If the page does not have to be fully reloaded every time, it will save a lot of loading time!

5.Plug-Ins: Some plug-ins can automate processes within your shop system, which will in turn have a positive effect on the loading speed. WordPress for instance offers various plug-ins, such as WP Rocket or Total Cache. If you don’t use WordPress you can simply Google your CMS provider adding keywords such as “make my shop system faster” etc. 

6.Reduce HTTP requests: By using CSS image sprites, you can put all the pictures into one bogger file, which will then require just one single server call for all pictures! You also have to make sure to fix your broken links! Broken links are links on your site that don’t exist anymore and lead nowhere, still, the request is made, and causes loading time for no other reason than to display an error message. In general, you should try to keep the redirects to a necessary amount, since - as previously stated - every redirect causes a server request, which in turn adds to the loading time.

7.Choose the right Web hosting provider: Does your provider have too many users on one server? Choose a fast and reliable hosting provider instead! 

8.Server: If you did all you could and your site is still loading slow, you should check your server. Maybe it is simply outdated and you should start thinking about switching to a different one.

 

Page speed optimization is worth it, try to work on what you can! 

 

As with many things you can do for your business online, it is always your decision how much time and money you are willing (or able) to spend to work on optimizing it. Many factors affect your online presence and there are a lot of different opinions on the internet as to which ones are the most important.

But since Google has recently introduced mobile-first indexing, which means that content is now indexed solely on the mobile version of your site, it is more or less without an alternative to making sure your site is mobile-optimized and loads quickly. Also, as this article showed, there are many simple things you can do to greatly reduce your loading times, which will have a direct effect on your bounce rates. This makes loading times both an important and relatively easy place to start to optimize your webpage. And keep in mind: you don’t have to have the fastest page in the world. It is enough if you’re faster than your competitors.

If you want to get further help optimizing your website, there are several great online applications, such as rankingCoach, which are specialized to do just that. RankingCoach offers a completely free reporting application to keep track of your online performance while also keeping an eye on your competitors! You can also connect Google Analytics with your rankingCoach account to get an even more in-depth analysis of your online performance!

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