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 for your audience.
Visitors arrive on your page but they leave within seconds.
Wait. What’s happening? They haven’t seen your page content.
How long does an average person wait for a web page to load?
Research indicates your page has 3 seconds to load before you loose more than half of your visitors. Fast matters, especially when it comes to customer service.
Google released research in which they concluded: The average time it takes to fully load the average mobile landing page is 22 seconds.
Getting your web page in front of lots of eyeballs takes effort on many fronts. A critical step is testing your page load time.
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.
If half of visitors leave a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load, you’re losing important interactions.
Minimise bounce rate and keep visitors engaged for longer by testing and optimising your website speed using this guide.
Table of Contents
Click the links below to move quickly to that section.
- How Long Does an Average Person Wait for a Web Page to Load?
- What is Page Speed and Why Is It Important?
- How Page Speed Affects Search Engine Optimisation and Visitor Experience
- Core Web Vitals
- How to Test Website Speed
- Our Recommended Speed Testing Tools
- How to Improve Website Speed
- An Easy Website Speed Win for WordPress
- Case Study: How we improved Beasley Intercultural’s page speed by 67%
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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.
Website loading 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 Loading 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 load speed.
Core Web Vitals
Does Google search traffic matter to you?
Google’s Core Web Vitals ranking signal update is coming in May 2021. Pages that deliver a great visitor experience will rank better in search.
Your website will need to scale these mountains and pass all these 3 tests:
1] Page speed
The time it takes for a page’s main content to load. Referred to as “Largest Contentful Paint”. An ideal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or faster.
The time it takes for a page to become interactive. Referred to as “First Input Delay“ – an ideal measurement is less than 100 ms.
3] Visual stability
The amount of unexpected layout shift of visual page content. Referred to as “Cumulative Layout Shift”. An ideal measurement is less than 0.1.
There will likely also be a badge/checkmark in Google Search Results that will signal to people searching, what to expect in terms of page experience. This means your click-through rate may be affected as well.
Here are free tools to find out whether your website passes the Core Web Vitals test.
Google Search Console
An essential tool for every business. We use it daily. Start here and visit the Core Web Vitals report.
This will detail any failed tests using human interactions (not robots or scripts). If you have more visitors on mobile, you may have to be very strict on what is displayed “above the fold”. Some websites don’t have enough traffic to report results, so use the next tool instead.
Google PageSpeed Insights
This is a pretty good backup to find out how your website is doing even though it is “laboratory results” rather than based on the human experience of your website. Mostly, it’s quite accurate. It will capture and give you 2 of the 3 Core Web Vitals results.
Google Developer Tools
This tool in the Chrome browser helps your web developer pinpoint what is causing any failed tests.
Need help? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org
Prefer to get help improving your page speed and SEO?
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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 mobile speed test)
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a free website loading speed test tool. It provides a PageSpeed Insight score out of 100 while offering suggestions of opportunities to help improve site speed.
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. If you’re specifically after improving mobile speed, use Google’s mobile speed test tool.
We’ve been using GTmetrix for years. It’s a free tool with enhanced testing options if you set up a free account.
GTmetrix released a huge update in January 2021, replacing the PageSpeed/YSlow libraries with Lighthouse data and metrics, the industry standard in web performance.
It analyses your web page, and provides
- Performance Score : how fast your page performs from a visitor perspective (specifically loading, interactivity, and visual stability)
- Structure Score : how well it’s built in terms of optimal performance
- GT Metrix Grade : based on a weighted average formula (currently 70/30 weighting for the Performance and Structure Scores respectively).
- Web Vitals : A few core metrics that Google has selected to indicate whether your web page delights visitors in terms of speed.
DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO IMPROVE SPEED – Summary Tab
Start here as it provides significant direction in improving your page’s performance.
The fantastic new Speed Visualization, showcases visually how visitors experience your web page and what the Performance Score metrics mean. It includes intervaled capture of your page load, and flags that mark your various Performance Score metrics as your page loads.
The Top Issues highlight where to begin to make the most impact.
Find your Fully Loaded Time, Total Page Size, Total Page Requests under Page Details.
If you prefer, you can still test with the legacy version of GTmetrix.
Pro: GTmetrix also offers a wide range of blog posts giving you an in-depth explanation of ways to improve site speed.
Our suggestion: Run multiple tests and find the average page load time. 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.
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.
How to make your website load faster
Choose a local, quality website hosting service that is designed for performance. Hosting in data centers overseas might be cheaper than local providers, but it will affect your average website speed.
Also consider support options. Having a local technicians usually pays dividends when you need to speak to someone.
When a visitor browses on your site and tries to load a page, they are running programs and accessing files from the web server (a remote computer). If that web server is fast enough, the web page that you are trying to access will also load quickly. The three main tasks that the remote computer has to finish are: execute code, run database queries and server files. Fast hosting matters!
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 important information faster. Hide the non-vital information until it’s needed will improve the first meaningful paint metric (the time it takes for a page’s primary content to appear on the screen).
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