Have you ever done a Google search?
Silly question, of course you have! Picture this scene for a moment -- you type in your search term, Google spits back a gazillion results for you, you sift through the first page or two of results, and if you don't find what you’re looking for, you'll probably try changing up your search terms and go again.
But what happens if you find the exact website you're looking for at the top of the first page, you click into it, and are left waiting ... wondering ... as the page slowly loads sections of the text, and half of the images. You're now moving your cursor over to the X button and heading back to Google to search again. That website has lost your attention, and potentially your business, because of poor site performance.
Site performance and load time can have a big impact on user experience, affecting how long a visitor is likely to spend on your site, and even conversion rates. But you may not have known that Google has also confirmed that they use load times as a ranking factor for search. Many businesses don't even consider the performance of their site and how it could be affecting both their organic traffic and conversions.
In this blog, I'm going to show you some quick and easy tips to monitor and improve your site's load time and performance so that you aren't pushing your potential clients away before you ever get to meet them.
Get Started Monitoring Site Performance
Site performance and load time can seem complicated at first, but once you've got a hang of the basics, everything else begins to make sense. You can use Google Analytics to help you monitor page load times across devices, locations, and operating systems. Simply open your Google Analytics account -- click on 'Behavior', then 'Site Speed', and then start in the 'Overview' section.
The Google Page Speed Testing tool also makes it easy to see how your site is performing and provides suggestions for improvements that will help load times. Simply enter your URL and hit 'Analyze'. You'll see your current score and suggestions for improvement.
Google Analytics' site speed monitoring can also be useful for spotting where there might be problems that need urgent attention.
Kicking Your Site Performance Up a Notch
1) Check Browser Speed
In Google Analytics, you can see if some browsers are performing better or worse than others. This can tell you if there's a design issue that's not being picked up, and allows you to perform cross-browser testing.
2) Check Country-Specific Performance
You can see if a particular country is slower to load your pages than others. If a specific country is important to your strategy, but your site is not performing well there, you might consider using a server based in that location. Alternatively, you can look at a content delivery network (see point number six below).
3) Optimize Your Images
By checking how each page is performing in comparison to the site average, you may uncover that you’re using too many or too large images. Optimize your images by ensuring they're no larger than necessary and in the correct format. You can also reduce the number of files that need to load on the page by combining images and code files, as well as removing any unnecessary images.
Here are some tips to help you improve your images as they relate to your page load time:
- Crop your images to the correct size. So if your page is 570px wide, resize the image to that width.
- Reduce color depth to the lowest acceptable level.
- Use JPEG as a first choice, PNG as a second.
- Do not use BMPs or TIFFs.
4) Compact Your Code
The average code behind a website is GZIP. One of the best ways to reduce page load time and compact code is to GZIP your files. This can reduce your file size dramatically without sacrificing the image or video quality. If you want you find out if your current website has GZIP compression enabled you can use this handy tool http://checkgzipcompression.com/.
Add JS files to your footer where possible
Helpful tools to compact your code
Most CMS' have plugins or add-ons that allow you to reduce all the code on your website.
5) Use Browser Caching
6) Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) if Needed
If your business operates in multiple countries, you can look at using a content delivery network like Cloudflare, which stores your website's information closer to the user's location.
Despite the seemingly instant nature of the web, information and content often have to travel long distances before it gets to you. For example, a person in London visiting a website that’s hosted in the states will see content at a slightly slower rate than a visitor in New York. One way to get around that is by making copies of your content and putting that on servers that are closer to your visitor's location. So if a person in London now views the website hosted in New York, a copy of the website will be requested from the servers in the UK, making it much faster.
Content delivery networks may sound complicated, but they’re actually very simple to implement, and can lead to big improvements in your site's load times.
For more tips on optimising your website, check out our video tip series ‘SEO: Bite-Sized’.