Allowing your website to suffer from an exceedingly high load time hurts your traffic, conversions and possibly even search engine rankings. Most people browsing around on the internet aren’t willing to wait five seconds or longer for a webpage to load; they want to access it immediately, without staring at their browsers ‘now loading’ icon. If your website fails to meet the load time expectations of visitors, you could be sending tons of traffic to your competitors. So, how do you analyze your website’s load time? And what steps can you take to improve it? To learn the answers to these questions and more, keep reading.
Importance of Having a Fast Website
The time it takes a website load affects more than just its traffic. Several years ago, Google announced that it would now factor speed into its ranking algorithm, saying “As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.”
If you care about your site’s search engine ranking, you should actively work to reduce its load time. While Google directly factors it into their ranking algorithm, load time also indirectly affects a website’s ranking in the form of higher bounce rates and shorter visit durations.
According to WebsiteOptimization.com, “Tests at Amazon revealed similar results: every 100 ms increase in load time of Amazon.com decreased sales by 1%.” This is a staggering amount considering the millions of dollars worth of transactions Amazon performs daily. Whether you’re a big fish like Amazon or just a small business looking to enter the market, you should work to increase your profit through any means necessary, and this includes reducing your site’s load time.
How To Check Your Site’s Load Time
Another helpful tool in your battle against slow load times is YSlow (Chrome extension linked). It simplifies the process of analyzing load times by using a convenient grade A-F formula. Just like grade school, you don’t want to receive an F when running YSlow on your website. In addition, it also offers recommendations on how to improve your site’s speed.
One technique for speeding up a slow-loading website that many webmasters seem to overlook is enabling GZIP compression. Without getting too far into the technical side of things, GZIP compresses and reduces the file size of HTTP responses, which in turn cuts down on load times. There are several WordPress plugins which enable GZIP compression, or you can simply add the following code to your .htaccess file.
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
# Or, compress certain file types by extension:
If you used the techniques mentioned above to analyze your website’s load time, you may have noticed a large chunk of bandwidth coming from images. Filling a website with large, graphic-intense JPEG images can add valuable seconds to its load time. Whenever a visitor attempts to load the site, they must wait for each and every image to load.
Thankfully, there are a couple of different solutions to large images, one of which is to use an online compression tool like Smush.it. Produced by the Yahoo Developer Network, Smush.it is a free-to-use online image compression tool. You simply upload your image (JPEG, GIF or PNG) and it will ‘smush’ it down to a smaller size. There are several other tools similar to Smush.it, some of which are free and others are paid.
Use a Content Delivery Network
Content Delivery Networks, or CDNs for short, can greatly reduce your website’s load time by reducing the physical distance between your website and your visitors. So, how exactly do they work? Just as the name suggests, a content delivery network is basically a network of servers and data centers spread across the globe, all of which are hosting your website’s files. When someone attempts to access your website, the server closest to the visitors physical location will send the files to their computer. The smaller distance necessary for the data to travel translates into faster load times.
Other Tips For Speeding Up Your Website:
- Use a dedicated server (rather than sharing resources with other websites).
- Consolidate your CSS into a single file.
- Enable browser caching.
- Reduce HTTP requests.
- Place style sheets at the top of your page.
- Reduce or eliminate redirects.
- Reduce plugins (WordPress users).