Have you dedicated time to creating a gorgeous website page? Your page looks great on phones and wide screens, and hours have been spent writing useful content that your audience will lap up.
Getting your web page in front of lots of eyeballs takes effort on many fronts. A critical step is testing your page speed.
If you want to have a shot at ranking on the first page of Google, your page needs to load in under three seconds.
Web pages are becoming increasingly complex and visitors are more globally dispersed, yet every person looking at your web page will expect it to load lightning fast.
Google says that more than half of visitors leave a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load, losing important interactions and potential clients for your business.
Minimise that bounce rate and keep visitors engaged for longer by testing and optimising your website speed using this handy guide.
Table of Contents
Click the links below to move quickly to that section.
- What is Page Speed and Why Is It Important?
- How Page Speed Affects Search Engine Optimisation and Visitor Experience
- How to Test Website Speed
- How to Improve Website Speed
- An Easy Website Speed Win for WordPress
- Case Study: How we improved Beasley Intercultural’s page speed by 67%
What is Page Speed and Why Is It Important?
Page speed, in its simplest form, is the amount of time it takes for a webpage to load.
Page speed depends on a variety of factors, including the website and its elements, the server, the connection type, the provider, the browser, and much more. Not all of those factors are within your control which is why it’s so important to optimise the parts that you do have access to—especially your website.
Chances are that you’re constantly updating your website—adding images, text, interactive features, embedding video and installing plugins.
Though these may seem like small additions to your page, every extra element you add makes your page size larger (which means it needs more time to load). Over time, these small changes stack up, causing your website to be slow and sluggish.
Nobody likes a slow website.
In fact, a slow website is actually losing you views and clients (and is even putting you lower on Google’s search results).
Our day to day technology is getting faster, our web pages are getting bigger, and our connections are remaining stable.
Audiences want information and they want it now.
You may think that your website is the exception—they’ll wait a few extra seconds for the unique and relevant content that your business offers. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Google’s new industry benchmarks for mobile page speed found if your page takes 6 seconds to load, the likelihood of someone leaving your site before it even loads increases by more than 90%!
Now’s the time to have a look at your website and server so that your business and your visitors can have a positive and optimised experience with your website.
Page Speed and SEO
Google values user experience, speed, and efficiency, so when your website isn’t performing well, your business is going to rank poorly.
When creating a website, you want your visitor’s experiences to be positive and memorable. However, if a website is taking more than three seconds to load, users become frustrated and impatient.
In fact, if a page is loading too slow, 45% of consumers say they are less likely to make a purchase and 36% of consumers say they’re less likely to return to the website in the future.
Since 2010, Google has said repeatedly that fast page speeds help you to rank highly in searches.
When you have large images and elements within your page, your page size inevitably becomes larger itself.
Google’s primary goal is to optimise the entire search experience, so ranks pages that load fast higher.
Additionally, when your site is slow, it usually leads to a high bounce rate and fewer conversions.
When Google notices that visitors are leaving pages quickly (“bouncing off”), the algorithm understands that this was a negative user experience and will begin to put the page lower in search results to avoid giving other visitors a negative experience.
There are two types of visitors that each of your website pages needs to cater to: people and search engines.
Both prefer faster page speed.
Prefer to get help improving your page speed and SEO?
We do the technical stuff so you don’t have to.
How To Test Your Website Speed
A key takeaway from a Backlinko study of over one million search engine results pages on Google was that fast-loading websites are significantly more likely to rank well in Google.
It’s business critical that your website pages are speed tested to see how they are performing, and then to diagnose and fix issues fast.
Checking your website speed is simple with online resources available for free, giving you helpful reports to see where your website can improve.
To gain a more accurate and well-rounded view of your website and page speed, it’s best to use a number of these resources rather than just one.
Our recommended page speed tools:
Google’s PageSpeed Insights
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a free tool that delivers a PageSpeed Insight score out of 100 while offering suggestions of opportunities to help improve your page.
Pro: It measures page speed on desktops, and mobile speed in another tab.
Con: Most of the suggestions and diagnostics are not easy for website owners to understand.
Our suggestion: Get benchmark scores on your web page here first, then use the other tools below to guide your efforts if your page receives poor scores.
We’ve been using GTmetrix for years. It’s a free tool which gives you detailed insights on the performance, size, and speed of your website. It compares your performance scores and page details against the worldwide average, offering written and visual recommendations on how to improve your website or page.
Pro: GTmetrix also offers a wide range of blog posts giving you an in-depth explanation of ways to improve your page speed.
Our suggestion: Run multiple tests and take the average results. Also sign up for a free account, so you can test by location and browser.
Similar to GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom is a free tool to analyse your website’s performance.
Pingdom’s reports are more visual and easier to understand, allowing you to see how your website performs from different continents.
How To Improve Your Website Speed
There is a truckload of factors that influence page speed.
It isn’t straight forward or easy to get all your website pages to load fast. Every website is different, and in fact each page on your website is unique too. If you have less than thirty pages, test them all and optimise each one. If your site index is extensive, prioritise the most important pages and tackle them first.
What worked for one page, may not improve page speed for the next.
Prefer to get help improving your website speed?
We do the technical stuff so you don’t have to.
Want to have a go yourself? Here’s a list of common ways to improve your website speed to help you optimise your pages this year.
Images take up a large portion of a website’s weight. Optimising and compressing images is one of the first things to do when trying to improve page speed. Large images will slow down your page.
To optimise your images, it’s important to make the image dimensions suit the spot they’re being placed in.
Having a huge 1600×900 pixel image may be required for a page background. Less so if you’re just placing that image in a column of content. Resize the image to suit where it will be placed. The larger the dimensions, the larger the file size.
Want an easy win to boost your website speed across all pages?
If you have a WordPress site, we recommend adding the ShortPixel plugin. It has lots of options (start with the recommended settings), and then bulk process your media library.
It will automatically reduce the files sizes of all your website images. On average, we have found it compresses image libraries by 70% or more in file size. If you do this alone, you will score a win for improved page speed across all your website pages.
There are other free and paid options available to help you optimise your images easily—some of which will even compress them for you, taking away all the guess work on your end.
Adobe Photoshop, Gimp, Pixlr X and Affinity Photo are great tools to help you edit and compress your images quickly and easily before you upload them.
It’s also important to choose the most appropriate file type—GIF for animation, PNG for highly detailed and/or transparent images, and JPG for general images.
By finding the right balance between image size and image quality, you’ll be able to maintain a professional-looking page with a faster loading time.
Lazy Load Images
Another way to speed up your page is by lazy loading images.
Instead of loading all images when the page first opens, hold the images back until the visitor scrolls to that section of the page. By holding the images back until necessary, your page can load more important information faster and hide the non-vital information until it’s needed.
To enable lazy loading, use a CDN, install a performance plugin, or your WordPress theme itself may offer this as an option.
As we’ve said above, larger files take longer to load.
However, these files aren’t just limited to images. Large elements can cause your page speed to slow drastically which is why it’s important to enable gzip compression.
HTML and CSS files use a lot of repeated strings and white space, taking up bandwidth and making your pages load slower. Gzip/Brotli compresses the common strings and can enhance your page speed drastically.
To find out whether gzip/Brotli is enabled, run a test on GTmetrix, it will flag whether gzip compression is happening.
When a browser visits a page, it automatically scans to see if gzip/Brotli is enabled. If it is, the browser will receive the compressed file. If gzip isn’t enabled, the browser will display the original uncompressed page with a much larger size.
To enable gzip, you will need to know about your website hosting environment (whether your website is on an IIS or Apache server). Contact your hosting company to assist you.
There are many reasons to have redirects in place—maybe a page moved or you wanted to prevent broken links or track clicks.
When your site performs redirects, it adds another step for your server to handle when loading a page. To reduce the amount of time it takes for your page to render, it’s best to remove all unnecessary redirects.
Google refers to minification as “the process of removing unnecessary or redundant data without affecting how the resource is processed by the browser – e.g. code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and so on.”
If you’re on WordPress, remove the guesswork by adding a performance plugin. Another option is to use a CDN like Cloudflare and enable this option.
Display Only High-Quality Content for Mobile
Worldwide, 53% of online traffic comes from mobile users.
A lot of people use mobile phones to research options.
Mobile conversion rates are lower than desktop, and 53% of mobile visitors leave a page if it takes more than three seconds to load.
Even though a majority of traffic is now occurring in 4G rather than 3G, most websites have too many elements for pages to load on mobiles fast.
To ensure that your page is loading quickly for mobile users, keep only high-quality content which is necessary for your visitors.
Minimise HTTP Requests
If you are still using HTTP/1.x, each time your web page requests a file, the browser has to contact your web server to ask it to send that file over.
It’s like walking to a supermarket, realising you forgot your wallet, going home to get it, then as you’re back walking in the aisles, remembering you forgot your shopping list. Then you remember your shopping bag. Then your umbrella. Back and forward, how much time is wasted!
To reduce requests,
- Combine images in CSS sprites and/or reduce the number of images on the page,
- Combine CSS files, and
- Combine multiple script files.
With the vast adoption of HTTP/2, (which can handle parallelised downloads), you can skip this step. Instead focus on caching of files via a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Case Study: Beasley Intercultural
Sydney based cross-cultural training pros, Beasley Intercultural, asked us to quickly improve the speed of their website to cater to a large influx of visitors.
To enhance their website and page speed we:
- Installed and configured WordPress performance plugins. This allowed us to reduce the number of website file requests, change the order that files are loaded, and optimise files by combining and reducing file sizes.
- Optimised image files. We added WebP support and bulk processed all existing JPG and PNG images, reducing the overall file size by an average of approximately 85%. This reduced the overall page size for the browser to download, allowing the page speed to increase significantly.
- Upgraded hosting platform. We moved their website from our business grade shared hosting platform ($380 per annum) to our high performance, Stealth Plan ($75 per month).
- Added the website to a CDN. Expecting international visitors, it was important to Beasley Intercultural to bring content closer to each of them by caching static web content on a global network. Other benefits of the CDN are intelligent routing, compression, mobile and image optimization and security.
As a result, Beasley Intercultural received double their highest unique search for the year.
“Wow! That was worth the investment! Thank you for your help in updating the speed of the website. I just checked our Google Analytics and we had double our highest unique search for the year yesterday.”
—Tamerlaine Beasley, Managing Director, Beasley Intercultural
Need help with your page speed?
We do the technical stuff so you don’t have to.