If you’re one of the millions of people who regularly use the internet, chances are you’ve come across more than your fair share of websites with a slow loading time. And if you’re like most people, a website that takes longer to load than you’d prefer immediately puts a damper on your user experience. Knowing that you have several other options to find what you’re looking for online makes you have no problem leaving a slow website to go check out a better one. So it’s no surprise that your own website will receive the same adverse response from visitors if it does not meet their expectations.
Let’s take a look at a few key details to help you learn how to improve website speed for better traffic and conversion rates.
What is Page Speed and Site Speed?
There are two types of speed you need to examine for your website. Page speed identifies how long it takes content on an individual web page to fully load. Site speed identifies how long it takes on average for content to fully load on a website as visitors go from page to page. That average is calculated from a sample of that website’s pages.
There are a few different ways to measure page speed. Here are a few of the metrics you’ll often hear about.
1. Time to First Byte (TTFB): The time between “requesting” a page through a web browser (e.g., Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge) and receiving the first byte of data from a web server that starts the loading process for content. TTFB determines how long a visitor may be looking at a white screen before content appears on your web page.
2. First Contentful Paint (FCP): The time it takes for the first content of any type to fully load on a page, such as text, an image, or a video.
3. First Meaningful Paint (FMP): The time it takes for an important type of content to load on a page, which means content that your visitor is primarily interested in receiving or interacting with. This type of content is usually considered to be what appears “above the fold” on a web page, meaning a visitor is able to see it in the top area of that page without scrolling. From a visitor’s perspective, a page is loaded when that type of content is fully visible even though content of lesser importance isn’t loaded yet.
For example, you may have a business website and at the top of your Service page is an infographic that gives a snapshot of what clients can expect when working with you. That image would be FMP for your web visitors. When that image is visible, your visitors would perceive that page as loaded even though text with extra information below it may not have loaded yet.
4. Time to Interactive (TTI): The time it takes for a page to be responsive to web visitors’ interactions such as clicking a drop-down menu or an image to enlarge it.
Why Does Page Speed Matter for SEO?
We’re taught to view time as one of if not our most precious commodity, so people don’t want to feel like they are wasting time waiting to access your content. They expect to get to the information they’re searching for quickly. The likelihood of visitors taking action on your website to convert into clients or customers will noticeably decrease when they experience a page that’s too slow. However, increasing page speed has been shown to increase conversion rates, which results in more money earned by your business.
A slow loading time not only has a negative effect when people are on your website but also even before they find it, possibly preventing them from finding it at all. Speed is a factor Google uses to rank websites and it makes sense why speed should always be considered. A search engine aims to attract users by giving them the best results related to the information they’re seeking. The best results should give users relevant information from websites with efficient performance. The more a search engine gives its users the best website results, the more it will be valued as a go-to resource.
If your page speed is slower than the preferred time, your website will end up further down on Google’s results. Increasing the speed is essential if you want to move up in the ranking system and give visitors a better chance of finding you.
What’s a Good Loading Time for Page Speed?
There isn’t a specific universally accepted time for when a page is considered to have good speed, but the ideal range is normally said to be under 3 seconds.
According to case studies shared by Hubspot:
- Yahoo found a reduced page load time of 0.4 seconds increased traffic by 9%.
- Amazon found that a delay of 1 second for page load time could result in $1.6 billion of lost revenue each year.
- Bing found that a delay of 2 seconds for page load time leads to 4.3% of lost revenue per visitor.
Research from a leading CDN provider found 40% of visitors who had a negative experience with a website’s performance would tell friends or family. And one survey found that 79% of customers would not return to a poor performing website.
Ultimately, your goal is to make your website as fast as possible without sacrificing truly valuable information, functionality, and aesthetics.
How Do I Improve My Site’s Page Speed?
The following methods are just a few of many ways you can improve page speed across your site:
1. Reduce the size of images, which can be done by using an image compression tool. PNG or JPEG are typically the best file types to use.
3. Enable browser caching, so visitors can store parts of your web pages in their browser. This means those pages don’t need to be fully reloaded every time visitors return to your website. You can adjust the amount of time your page can be cached (e.g., a month, a year) depending on how often you update your website, so visitors see the most recent version.
4. Implement a CDN, which stands for content delivery network or content distribution network. A CDN is a network of servers that works to store and route copies of your web pages to the closest server in a visitor’s geographic area. Your visitors experience faster page speed when one server doesn’t store and respond to every page request and there is less distance for the information to travel.
5. Upgrade your website hosting provider to a VPS or a dedicated server. You may have shared hosting, which means your website shares resources like disk space and RAM with other sites that use the same server. Many people choose this option because it’s the cheapest and using it can work out okay if they have a low-traffic website. However, a VPS gives you a portion of its resources that is separate from other sites and a dedicated server gives you your own server and resources. Those two options give your visitors a better experience as your site traffic increases.
6. Reduce redirects by checking for links that are no longer necessary for helping visitors navigate to and around your website (i.e., redirection from broken links or deleted pages).
7. Improve the page speed for mobile users, which also significantly affects your ranking in Google results. In 2018, Google announced it would officially use a mobile-first index to give users better results for websites that work well on their mobile devices. Prior to that, the search engine’s algorithm mainly focused on a site’s desktop version.
Improving your site speed may seem like a major task if you’re starting now, but just take it one day at a time as you focus on different areas of improvement. You’ll soon see your time and effort pay off as you do periodic checks for your website to perform at its best and attract the right engagement from visitors.
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