Google has talked about the importance of page load speed since 2010 and warned that slow loading pages could adversely affect overall SEO performance. That warning has become explicitly clear under the Mobile First indexing rules for mobile search ranking.
Here are 5 of the most common issues related to poor page load speed performance and how to fix them:
1. Bloated Images
Uploading uncompressed images to your website is the number one cause of slow page load speeds, and the easiest to prevent. Stock images downloaded from sites like depositphotos or istockphoto can be several megabytes in size. Loading those images in the browser is resource intensive and causes slow page load speed.
There are many free cloud based image compression tools available for you to use that do a nice job of compressing images without losing quality. My favorite is Compressor.io because it is free and very simple to use.
2. Gzip Compression Not Enabled
Gzip Compression is a server side setting that will reduce the size of compressible elements like HTML files and style sheets. How that is done depends on the server environment. Apache, IIS and Nginx each require a unique configuration. The good news is that you can contact your hosting company and request Gzip Compression be turned on. Here is a tool that will tell you if Gzip is enabled for your site.
3. Leverage Browser Caching
When a web browser displays your page it has to load several things like CSS files, your logo, images and other resources. Browser caching can significantly reduce the resources needed for repeat visitors by storing some of these files in users browser. Fewer requests will need to be made to the server and pages will load faster.
One potential downside is if you are making regular changes to images or the design of the site, users may not get the freshest version.
You can enable your browser caching by adding code to your .htaccess file on your web server. Most hosting companies can help you with this. Here is what common code for enabling browser caching looks like. You and/or your hosting company can modify the length of time for each element. The code should be placed at the top of the .htaccess file.
## EXPIRES CACHING ##
ExpiresByType image/jpg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/gif “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/png “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType text/css “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType text/html “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/pdf “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/x-icon “access 1 year”
ExpiresDefault “access 1 month”
## EXPIRES CACHING ##
4. Excessive Server Response Time
Server response time is how long it takes your server to respond to a request from a browser. Google states that server response time should be <200 ms. There are a number of factors that can contribute to slow server response time. Some have been discussed in this article and also in previous posts about improving websites page speed and mobile first indexing.
If you have followed the suggestions on these pages and still have slow server response time, it might be time to discuss upgrading your hosting plan. Here is a great resource on the topic of reducing server response time with a great deal more detail if you are interested.
Before you go all right brain on me and decide you can’t do anything about this because you are not a programmer, there are easy to install and setup plugins that will do all the heavy lifting for you that you can read about here, here, and here.
My favorite is Autoptimize, again because it is simple, effective and free. One word of caution is that not all plugins play nicely with the other neighborhood plugins. You may find there are conflicts with one of more of these suggestions. You will just have to test to know. Be sure to do a complete backup before testing any plugin.
Google will continue placing high value on fast loading websites and pages. Website owners will need to stay on top of their sites performance to ensure that slow site speed doesn’t lead to poor user experience or hinder ranking .