5 tips for improving page load speed

by Will Hawkins

Congratulations! If you made it this far, then it means that your attention span and our page load speed met a happy medium, in which you were able to access this content and (hopefully) enjoy it!

It’s sad but it’s true. The average person has a 4 second shorter attention span than they did 15 years ago. We can probably put this down to our busier lifestyles, or the fact that we’ve adjusted to being able to access any information at the click of a button. When it comes to website creators, it’s essential to make sure that your content can be delivered quickly, and can answer your customer's questions promptly.


Despite the importance of speed, it’s generally something that we overlook. Unlike a beautiful design, or top-notch content, website speed isn’t something we can tangibly enjoy straight away. But with every 1-second improvement amounting to a 2% increase in conversions, it’s indisputable that we need to talk about it.


Ironically, GIFs significantly slow down your pages. But.... I just couldn’t resist.


Site Speed vs Page Speed


Site Speed and Page Speed are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they do have some important differences to be aware of. Your Site Speed refers to a sample of multiple page's average load times, whereas your Page Speed generally refers to (you guessed it) an individual page's speed. It’s important to be aware of this distinction for when you’re navigating within Google Analytics. It’s also important to ensure that you consider page speed based on where your traffic is coming from.


Where is your traffic coming from?


Now, listen up. This is important.


If you use pay per click (PPC) campaigns to drive traffic to a particular landing page, then your paid website visitors will probably spend less time on your site than average. This is because organic visitors will often be existing customers, or people that discovered your website through good SEO practices.


When users flick through ads, they’re usually on a mission to find an exact answer to their query. If they can’t find that answer quickly, then they’ll leave. Because of this, if the majority of your landing page’s traffic is coming from paid sources, then improving page load speed is even more essential. Especially considering you’re paying for each website click. Ultimately, a good page load speed is vital for bringing down your overall return on ad spend.


Top tip - Make sure that you also utilise Google Analytics to identify what devices are serving you the most traffic. Optimising the website speed for both mobile and desktop devices is absolutely essential.


Improving page load speed and SEO


It’s no secret that page load speed is a significant factor when it comes to your website’s ranking on Google. Fundamentally, Google dominates the search engine market because of its ability to provide users with the best results. Ensuring that search results are delivered fast is essential for goldfish-brained users like us.


From 'The Umbrella Academy' (Looper)


Good page load times have been attributed to the way that Google ranks your site, and also the way that it indexes you. Slower speeds can cause bots to use more of their allocated crawling budget, causing them to index fewer pages on your site.


You can check your website’s page speed with Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool.


How do I improve my page load speed?


This brings us on to the million-dollar question!


There’s a number of free, easy ways that you can reduce your page load times and receive a virtual high-five from Google in the process. We’re going to break them down into 5 tips for you below.


1. Optimise JavaScript, HTML and CSS Codes


Websites can quickly become bogged down with a lot of codes running in the background. Simple JavaScripts that track advertising conversions, or even the ReCaptcha box on your contact forms can carry a heavy burden.


It’s also crucial to consider where your scripts are. If the majority of your traffic comes through your homepage, then we’d suggest that you remove as many scripts as you can from there. Don’t host your contact form on the homepage, as this will have to be served up every time somebody visits your site. Remember, first impressions are everything.


There are plenty of free software tools out there, such as Gzip, which will help you to compress the Javascript, HTML and CSS files that are larger than 150 bytes.


2. Compress and optimise your images


You should always make sure that your images are no bigger than necessary, and that they are in the right file type. Historically, graphics were preferable in PNG format, and bigger images in JPEG. However, WebP is a new file format, which delivers images 26% smaller than PNG files and 25-34% smaller than JPEG’s. If you’re on Wordpress there are plenty of free plugins available that will help you to convert your website’s images to WebP. Alternatively, there are also a lot of free image converters online that you can use.


Ensuring that the right image sizes are served up for the right devices is also vital. If you’re trying to display desktop size images on mobile, then it’s going to significantly slow down the user experience for your mobile users. Your mobile users also, most likely, make up the majority of your overall traffic.


Top tip - Smush is a WordPress plugin which optimises images, enables lazy load, and significantly helps your website's overall page speed.


3. Utilise caching


Caching is essential to speed up your website pages. Caching essentially stores copies of your site’s files so that it can quickly serve them up when a visitor browses your site.


This reduces the work that the server needs to undergo in order to deliver your webpage. You can cache your webpages at server level, where your website host will do it for you, or you can make the most of website plugins that are on the market.


Browser caching is another method, which stores copies of your site’s files on the user’s browser so that it doesn’t have to load every time they visit your site. There is a number of plugins that can support websites with browser caching, such as WP Rocket.


4. Clean up your redirects


Redirected links on your website can pose a big problem for both webpage speed and SEO. Redirects can impact the Time to First Byte (TTFB), which is one of the key metrics that Google uses to judge your page speeds. Of course, some redirects are essential for the way that your website works, so it’s important to ensure that you’re only removing the ones which are unnecessary for your website’s performance.


You’ll need to find a ‘Redirect Mapper’ tool, which will identify duplicate redirects and ones that have been set up incorrectly. This will help you to identify where you need to make changes and ensure that you can start boosting your page speed and TTFB.


5. Use a content delivery network (CDN)


A Content Delivery Network or (CDN) is a distributed network of servers which work to provide the faster delivery of online content. CDN’s reduce the physical distance between users and the server to ensure that content can be served quickly, all around the world.


CDNs offload traffic from content servers and speed up the delivery of online content (including HTML pages, JavaScript files, images and videos). Currently, the majority of the Internet’s traffic is served by a CDN, including some of the world’s biggest websites such as Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix.


You can opt for a website host which provides a CDN as a standard, or you can take advantage of a number of other options on the market.


Top tip – We’d recommend Cloudflare for your Content Delivery Network, as it provides all of the page load speed benefits along with security, a security perimeter for your website, an SSL certificate, and more.


Feeling faster?


The five tips outlined in this article will give you a significant head start over your competitors when it comes to user experience, SEO rankings and page/site speed. Remember that every website is unique, and that you should always refer to Google’s PageSpeed Insights to ensure that you are making the right steps to improve your performance.


If you would like further assistance with understanding and implementing measures to improve your website’s speed, get in contact today. Jooba is a creative marketing agency that has created a number of fantastic, speedy websites for our clients; check some of them out here


For now, I'll leave you with this. When it comes to websites, slow and steady never wins the race.