Before we dive into how to improve your websites page speed issues, let’s talk about why that matters. For those of you unfamiliar with current SEO ranking factors Google has unequivocally stated that page speed load times matter when it comes to serving up listings in the results page(s).
According to a study by Kissmetrics mobile users are 40% more likely to abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to fully load and a 1 second delay decreases customer satisfaction by 16%. Former Google Webmaster and search guru Matt Cutts was the first to announce that Google would incorporate site speed in search rankings. More recently, Google has launched the Mobile First index anticipated to be fully released in 2018. The bottom line here is, you ignore page speed issues at the peril of your rankings, and if you are a business that relies on the organic traffic that comes with those rankings, then you put your business in jeopardy.
Don’t confuse page speed with site speed. Site speed is the time that it takes to load the entire website, whereas the page speed is measured by the time that a page takes to fully load. Page load time is the duration between clicking the link and displaying the entire content of a web page in your browser.
I do a fair number of technical SEO audits. All audits include conducting multiple page and site speed tests. There are several free tools such as Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. One of my favorites is GTmetrix because in my experience it is a good balance between Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. Page Speed Insights, while Google’s tool tends to report false negatives. If you are more technically inclined and really want to dive into the weeds you can use Chromes inspect tool (right click on any webpage and click ‘inspect’) to see performance issues as nuanced as Time To First Byte (TTFB).
It is very unusual to perform a technical site audit and not find at least some debilitating issues related to page speed. Here are 5 of the most common page speed problems I come across and what you can do about them:
Properly optimizing images can considerably enhance website and webpage performance. The primary goal of formatting your images is to reduce the weight of the images on load. The key is to find the balance between the lowest file size and an acceptable quality. Often times web designers and developers build sites to be visually pleasing at the expense of performance and user experience. By optimizing images you can reduce the load times of pages by using appropriately sized images.
- Reduce file sizes based on where images will be displayed
- Resize image files themselves instead of via CSS
- Save files in appropriate format depending on usage
In order to load a page, the browser must parse the contents of all
Enable Keep Alive
Every time your visitor asks the browser to request a file from your server there is an interaction between the browser and the server. This interaction consists of the server giving a “OK” every time the browser requests a file. If keep-alive is enabled the server only has to give this “OK” once instead of multiple times for every file because the network connection stays open. This can drastically minimize the network overhead and the CPU usage.
Enabling keep alive will improve your page load speed. To enable keep alive on an Apache server (most WordPress installations) you can either contact your hosting company and request they modify the web server config file or if you have access to the .htaccess file and are technically savvy you can add this snippet of code: <ifModule mod_headers.c> Header set Connection keep-alive </ifModule>. Keep in mind that making a mistake with that file will crash your site.
Compacting CSS code can save many bytes of data and speed up downloading, parsing, and execution time. Minifying your CSS removes unnecessary white spaces, lines and characters from the file reducing it’s size and therefore the time it takes to load a page. In most cases the benefit of minifying CSS is insignificant compared to the other ways of improving page speed, however in a game of inches, every little bit helps.
Enable Gzip Compression
When a user hits your website a call is made to your server to deliver the requested files. The bigger these files are the longer it’s going to take for them to get to your browser and appear on the screen. Gzip compresses your webpages and style sheets before sending them over to the browser. This drastically reduces transfer time since the files are much smaller. Gzip compression should be near the top of your page speed optimizations if you don’t have it setup already.
The easiest way to enable Gzip is to contact your hosting company and request they apply the changes to your server settings.