Speed is vital to conversions. When it comes to page load times, every millisecond counts. Each moment a visitor is waiting for a page to load is a chance for them to hit the Back button and move on to the next result in their search.
A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions, according to information gathered by Akamai and Gomez.com and presented by KISSmetrics.
In fact, in 2010, Google started including page speed in its algorithm for determining a site’s search ranking. This means having a slow site not only impacts conversions and traffic retention, but on where you site appears in search results.
This problem is even more apparent to mobile users, about 18% of which back out of a webpage if it fails to load within 5 seconds, and have about a 50% drop rate at the 6-10 second mark.
If your site is suffering from slow load times, don’t panic. There are ways you can investigate and improve your situation.
In this article, we will go over tips and tricks to help you bring down page load times on your site.
If your site is performing poorly than you would expect, there are tests available that can help you to narrow down where your bottleneck is. Often, you might find that your page load times are affected by a third party, such as an ad provider.
On the backend of your server, you should monitor your server’s performance actively to detect any bottlenecks as they appear. CPU, RAM, and other hardware-based components can be overwhelmed by high traffic and high-demand website elements.
If you are using a hosting provider that restricts your ability to monitor server performance from the backend, or if you just want to get a quick look at how the rest of the world experiences your site, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you get an idea of where you can shed extra milliseconds. Here are just a handful:
Your server’s performance is important. This is why commercial sites with high traffic expectations generally have a dedicated server ensuring that their system’s performance isn’t hindered by other users on a shared hosting environment.
A good hosting provider will do their best to optimize their shared hosting solutions by avoiding overselling (putting too many clients on one server) and using faster drives such as SSDs to minimize the time between content request and delivery.
Google created a tool called the PageSpeed Module which can help speed up site performance by enforcing best practices in content delivery without requiring additional actions on the part of the host or developer. This tool is available for free, and is already being utilized by some of the top hosting providers and CDNs (content delivery networks) in the industry. It’s compatible with both Apache and NGiNX.
If all other speed-increasing practices yield limited results, it may be worthwhile testing your site on a different hosting provider, or contacting them to see if there is anything they can do to help out. There might be an issue they’re not aware of.
Images are everywhere these days, and they can add a lot of page load time, especially if they aren’t properly optimized.
Websites today employ gigantic images to suit a variety of screen sizes. These big images don’t have to weigh your server down, and there are several different ways to shrink them down to a reasonable file size without sacrificing quality.
In a previous blog post, we detailed a handful of our favorite image optimization solutions.
Even lossless PNGs, which are popular because of their quality and integrated support for transparency, can be optimized to a degree. ImageOptim, for example, is a free app available on OS X that reduces PNG file size significantly.
One of the most commonly overlooked methods of increasing site speed is caching. CMS platforms especially, such as WordPress, Joomla, and others can have extraordinary speed boosts by doing something as simple as turning on the cache.
There are different caching options, some related to the server and others to the Web application. We encourage you to look into these caching options to determine what solution will work best for you.
For a CMS like WordPress, plugin developers are constantly coming up with creative caching solutions that can help you increase site speed dramatically. W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are two popular options for WordPress that have excellent customer reviews.
We also recommend testing any cache configuration before going live, if possible. Cache can often interfere with essential scripts and other performance-enhancing solutions. If you are experiencing a problem after turning on your site’s cache, you will probably need to do some troubleshooting to get it just right.
For Joomla, RocketTheme has created a speed-boosting extension called RokBooster. RokBooster is an advanced performance plugin that reduces a site’s HTTP call count, converts files to inline data, and reduces the data load size. The result is dramatically increased speed.
The principles behind this are pretty simple, and can be put to work on just about any website. Reducing the number of HTTP requests, or individual bits and pieces a user has to download to properly load the page, can decrease page load times significantly.
Think about each component of the page being a separate file that has to be downloaded, because it kind of is. Your browser can only download and handle these pieces so many at a time, so doing things like combining scripts, CSS, etc. whenever possible can help.
Even if the individual files are bigger, having less of them makes it easier for them to be sent and received.
The order by which data is delivered can also have an impact on speed. In general, you want your CSS to load first and your scripts (such as JS) last. This ensures that the page loads to a point where its content can be accessed by the user right away.
Redirects should be minimized. This is a practice made common by sites that want to track clicks, have content loaded from another source, etc. As a general rule, if you can avoid URL redirects in your content, do it.
Improving page load time takes some trial and error to get right. Virtually every aspect of your site’s performance has to work in harmony to deliver a truly optimized experience for your users.