You have to optimise website speed if you want to succeed in the highly-competitive world of online businesses. The majority of internet users are impatient. A sluggish website frustrates your traffic such that they leave for better alternatives, which results in reduced revenue. Even worse, a slow loading website tarnishes the reputation of your brand.
On the other hand, people like fast websites. By reducing the page load time, you increase the time people spend on your site, which encourages more conversions and boosts your revenue. Google also loves fast sites, meaning that that you will rank higher on SERPs — any expert in web design will be able to tell you that.
How to Measure Website Speed
Before you optimise website speed, you need to conduct tests to ascertain the reasons behind the slow speeds. You should then use the findings to set performance goals.
According to Google, your website should load within two seconds – anything slower is likely to disappoint visitors and increase your bounce rates. With only a few websites meeting this standard, you can capitalise on this opportunity if you increase website speed.
The best way of measuring the performance of your website is by using tools such as Pingdom, GTmetrix, Google PageSpeed Insights, and YSlow, and so on. These tools will also show you what is slowing down your site, as well as how to improve the speeds.
How to Optimise Website Speed
Once you establish your website speed and what affects it, the next step is optimisation.
Here are the strategies you should implement if you want to increase site speed.
Solve 404 Errors
Nothing is as frustrating as clicking on a link that returns a 404 error. Such incidences significantly hurt the user experience on your website.
From a website owner’s perspective, 404 error pages slow down a website because they take up space without offering value to the audience. Too many broken links can also be detrimental to your efforts to rank high on search results.
The best solution to this challenge is removing the 404 error pages. Alternatively, you can create a 301 redirect, which redirects any person who clicks on the broken link to another page within your website. If your 404 error pages are getting a lot of traffic, it is better to use the second approach to avoid losing them.
Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Another way to optimise website speed is by implementing accelerated mobile pages. AMPs render stripped-down versions of your webpages such that the user gets the most critical information. They improve website speed by removing images, videos and any visual content that slows down the site loading speed.
The only problem with AMPs is that they can limit the functionality of websites that rely heavily on visual content, such as eCommerce websites. They are ideal for blogs and informational websites.
Use Website Caching
Sometimes, a website loads slowly if many people try to access it at once. The reason for this is that the web servers are overwhelmed by the high number of requests.
The solution to this problem is caching, where you store the current version of your website on the host server until the next update. When you cache your website, it does not render or send requests to the central server every time a user tries to access it.
The approach you use for website caching depends on the platform on which your website runs. If your site is built on WordPress, it is as easy as installing a plugin. If you use VPS or dedicated hosting, you can find the caching option in the settings. Caching is usually unavailable if you are using a shared hosting server.
Image optimisation is critical if you want to improve load time. Users are likely to leave your site if images take too much time to load.
The best way of optimising images is by uploading the smallest possible version of the picture. For example, if your page width is 500 pixels, your images should not exceed that figure.
However, you should make sure that the images you use are not too small. When zoomed, small images appear blurred and pixelated, which hurts the reputation of your website. Before you upload an image, test it to confirm that it displays correctly on all screen sizes.
Use Prefetching Techniques
Prefetching involves reading and executing instructions before a user initiates them. This popular technique is useful if you are looking to increase website speed.
It works by anticipating what a user will do on your website and execute them in advance. For example, if your audience likes to click on a particular button, it will load first every time they visit the site.
Most browsers support prefetching by default because they keep a log of the actions taken by users. However, user experience experts are more equipped to understand user behaviour and implement prefetching more effectively.
There are three types of prefetching – DNS prefetching, link prefetching, and pre-rendering.
DNS prefetching allows the browser to change domain names into IP addresses quickly.
Link prefetching is useful where you are sure that a user will take a specific action, such as clicking on the checkout button. For example, if a visitor adds an item to the shopping cart, your site can prefetch a link prompting them to confirm the order.
Pre-rendering is a technique where a website displays some of the elements of a webpage in advance.
If you want to optimise website speed by prefetching, you need to understand the actions of your audience.
If you want to increase site speed, you should consider optimising your database. A website that uses a content management system with several plugins has a massive database, which results in slower loading speeds.
For example, WordPress keeps a record of comments, blog posts and other files that take up huge chunks of your database storage. It is worth noting that every CMS has its unique optimisation configuration. With WordPress, you only have to install a plugin to optimise your database.
Why You Should Optimise Website Speed
Most businesses build websites to increase brand awareness and generate money. Regardless of the objective, you need to get traffic to your site.
Here are the reasons why you should optimise website speed.
A conversion occurs when a visitor on your website completes a desired action. For example, if you have an eCommerce website, every purchase counts as a conversion. If you sell a service, every subscription is a conversion.
A fast website is more likely to get conversions than a slow site. According to HubSpot, a one-second delay can hurt conversions rates by up to 7%.
The load time of your website affects the visibility of your website online, especially in search results. Page speed is one of the critical factors used by Google and other search engines when ranking sites in search results.
A slow website provides a poor user experience, which means a lower ranking on search results. On the other hand, a fast website offers optimal user experience, and Google rewards it by ranking it on the first page of search results.
Usability refers to the ease of use of a product. In the case of a website, it should be easy to navigate so that users find anything they want quickly.
If you fail to optimise website speed, some elements will take longer to load than others. For instance, the background image of your site may load gradually, especially on devices with limited processing power. If this happens to the navigation bar or the search bar, it hurts the usability since users cannot find what they are after quickly.
A slow-loading webpage leaves the impression that the entire site is slow. If you want to avoid frustrating visitors and reduce your bounce rate, you need to find ways to improve load time.
When you optimise website speed, you ensure that the traffic to your site gets the optimal user experience. Google always favours sites that have an excellent UX, meaning that you are likely to rank in search results as well.
Another benefit of a fast website is that it increases the chances of converting customers. Consumers have a short attention span, and a fast loading site gives them reasons to stay on and browse for products.
If you want to boost your page speeds, you need to employ the approaches mentioned on this list. Remember to test your site beforehand so that you identify the bottlenecks. Similarly, you should test the website after implementing the strategies to confirm that they are working.
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