Want to increase sales? Make your site load faster.
Can the speed of your website really have that much of an effect on your sales?
The answer is yes, it does. Google and other search engines penalize sites that load slowly—but more importantly, so do users. They stop visiting, bounce, and don’t buy.
You’ll lose out on sales and traffic if your site loads slowly.
Thankfully, it isn’t that hard to improve. There are plenty of tools, tips, and tricks you can use to help your site load faster and improve in traffic and search engine rankings.
Today, you’ll learn the importance of site load time and exactly what you can do about it.
Why does site load time matter?
We can all agree we prefer a site that loads quickly to one that loads more slowly.
But to what extent does it matter? Let’s turn to the data to find an answer.
According to 2018 research by Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load.
This is a problem since the same research revealed the average mobile site takes 15 seconds to load.
Those statistics play out on other browsers and platforms as well, continually emphasizing the need for quickly-loading sites for effective customer retention and conversion rates.
Based on 2018 research by MachMetrics, most sites have a load time of around 8-11 seconds.
That might not seem too long, but the reality is that every second loses you visitors and customers.
Because of the importance of page speed on user experience, Google rolled out a new page speed update to their algorithm in July 2018. This makes speed a critical factor for everyone.
Thankfully, it’s not a difficult problem to solve.
All you need to do is understand why the sites are loading slowly and where you can improve things to speed it up.
Here’s how you can do just that.
Tools to learn how fast your site loads
The first step to improving your site load speed is learning just what the current speed is.
Page Speed Insights
We’ll start off with the best app on this list—Page Speed Insights by Google.
Over the years, Google has offered a page speed tool under a few different names, but the current iteration is hosted as part of Google Developers.
The beauty of the tool is that it not only provides a detailed description of how fast your site loads on desktop and mobile, but you’ll also get a step-by-step breakdown of exactly how to improve it.
For example, Google will provide information on basic strategies you can use to reduce file size, improve load speed, and reduce server calls.
Even better, you’ll get notified as to which changes are high, medium, or low priority. This can help you choose which steps to take first since they’ll have a bigger impact on your site overall.
For the more technically-minded, you can also use Google’s Lighthouse tool, which offers a similar-but-not-identical analysis of areas to improve on your site.
The Pingdom Page Speed tool has been around for a while and provides a lot of insight into how to improve your site.
It’s similar to Google’s tool in that it breaks down specific fixes you can take right now to improve the speed and health of your site.
The reason it’s second on this list is because Google probably has a more accurate sense of what’s important for SEO, since they are also the biggest search engine and Pingdom is just a third party.
This is another tool you can use to understand what’s going on behind your site and what potential problems might be lurking behind the scenes. WebPage Test is free to use.
One of the neatest features of this site is that you can choose to load from different devices and from different server locations.
With GTmetrix you can hone in on what’s making your site load slowly and fix it. Like many of the other tools listed here, GTmetrix provides a letter grade to show how well your site loads.
You can also set automatic alerts to get notified if your site suddenly starts loading at a speed below a certain threshold.
How to speed up your site
The first indicator of the speed of a website is the total file size of the set of images, scripts, and files needed to render the page properly.
If you reduce the amount of information needed to properly load a site, it will load faster—period.
Research in 2018 shows that most sites are in the range of 1.3 MB to 2.5 MB, despite a recommendation of under 500 KB—as much as 20% of the average size.
If you have a slow site, changes are great that reducing the file size is the single biggest change you can make. Here’s how.
Shrink your images. Chances are, you’re displaying images at a smaller size on your site than the actual image file itself.
If that’s the case, you can use a simple tool like ResizeImage.net to adjust the size of your image and save valuable space and load time.
Another way to shrink the file size of an image is to use a different format. If you currently have .png images, you can probably convert them to compressed .jpg images without losing much detail.
Use a tool like the Browserling image converter to change images to a more compact format.
But if you know your way around the documents that make up a website, it’s a good idea to improve them as much as possible.
The biggest advantage of this is that it only needs to load the document one time for each visit to the site.
So instead of loading dozens or hundreds of lines of code for every page, it references the script or stylesheet downloaded earlier.
Use a cache. Content management systems like WordPress have plugins that will cache the latest version of your pages. They display it to your users so that the browser isn’t forced to dynamically generate that page every single time.
Plugins like WP Super Cache can take a serious bite out of page load times.
Clear up your redirects. There are a handful of redirects you can use, including a permanent 301 redirect and temporary 307 redirect.
But too many redirects can confuse the browser and lead to slow loading times. The simple thing to do? Check any redirects and simplify them as much as possible.
Tools like Google Page Speed Insights will tell you what redirects are active on your site.
Consider a Content Delivery Network. If your site is really popular but you’re still struggling with page loading time, a Content Delivery Network, or CDN, could be the solution you need.
It essentially works by spreading the server load across a number of locations and letting the closest server provide data to local users. The geographical distance makes loading speed faster.
If you’re interested in this, consider researching a CDN like Amazon Cloudfront.
Look into creating an AMP. For most sites, the extra hassle of creating a separate Accelerated Mobile Page isn’t worth it.
But it is a new form of a sped-up site that Google has helped champion, and according to data in 2015, it cut load time 15-85% in initial tests.
If you have a site with a lot of traffic, or are ready for a redesign and want a blazing-fast site, setting up an AMP might be the solution for you.
In the beginning days of the Internet, everyone expected sites to load slowly. That was just how the world wide web was, and people didn’t expect anything else.
But today, it’s a different story. The sites of 2019 and beyond need to load faster than the sites of 2009 or 1999, and Google values fast-loading sites more and more.
Remember that for every second you shave off of load time, you’ll boost customer confidence and trust in your site, and sow the seeds that will encourage them to tell others about you.
To start improving your site load time, learn how long it takes to load. If you’re using PageSpeed Insights, you’ll also get a feel for exactly what steps to take to solve the problem.
Once you fix the basics, start working on more advanced strategies to improve the loading time. Even fractions of a second can help.
What will you do to help your site load faster?