Have you heard about the simplest conversion rate equation? You must have because The future of service is digital.
Basically, the conversion rate is proportional to your website speed. To put things into perspective, if your website takes more than three seconds to load, it’s game over.
Page speed or page load time is one of the most overlooked SEO metrics. No matter how beautifully designed your website is, if it takes forever to load, visitors are far less likely to continue exploring it, therefore feeding the dreaded bounce rate.
Even at this very moment, Google measures speed to rank pages on their SERP, which means the chance for your lagging website to appear on the first page is close to none, even if you did everything in your power to rank for a certain keyword.
With the increase of the mobile-first trend we’re going through in the last couple of years, page speed has become even more important.
For that reason, together with top-rated web development companies in New York, we’ve listed ten proven ways to speed up your website and improve conversion in 2021.
How To Analyze Your Website’s Loading Time?
Do you feel your website takes forever to load? Have no fear; the solution is just around the corner.
The interesting thing is that when Google established the unwritten three-second rule. It also found that most websites are nowhere near that benchmark. In fact, more than 50% of all websites take more than double that time.
It’s a bummer for the average Joe’s online experience, but it’s great news for you. Why?
Well, if you make an effort to go the extra mile and get your website speed down to optimal level, you will automatically differentiate yourself from the competition, as many underestimate or completely ignore the basic principles and practices of web technologies.
First thing first, how do we measure and analyze the website loading speed? There are many tools, but for the sake of easier understanding, we’re going to use Google’s amazing PageSpeed Insights.
This is a pretty straightforward and easy-to-use tool. Once you detect and identify various hurdles and elements that hinder your website’s speed, you can establish a clear strategy for fixing or optimizing them.
So, go ahead, enter your website’s URL and see what’s what. Generally, this tool ranks your website speed performance with values that range from 0 to 100. The closer you are to 100, the better.
Down, on the results page, you’ll see a number of recommendations that Google offers to help you improve your website.
The trick to optimizing your website speed is to understand what goes into a web page:
- HTML code: It hives structure and content to a web page
- Visuals: Images for background, logos and content
- Optimize Static Files
The first optimization to perform is to move CSS to the head and JS to the bottom. Ensure the stylesheets go in the <head> section of your page structure, and all the scripts are moved to just above the closing </body> tag of your page.
You don’t need to be a programmer to get behind the logic of this step. Generally, stylesheets are smaller in size than scripts as the script functionality comes into play only once the content on the page is loaded.
Although this rearrangement does optimize your website speed, it’s mostly oriented visually. It mostly ensures that your visitors don’t leave your website frustrated tired of waiting for it to load.
If you’re not willing to dig into HTML yourself and you want to handle the scripts quickly, you can install the Scripts to Footer plugin for WordPress. It’s easy to use since it basically does all the work on autopilot.
We’re not finished with the backend aspect of website speed optimization yet. To put it simply, minification is a speed optimization practice of removing all parts of a file that are not necessary for its execution.
For example, when it comes to stylesheets and scripts, you can get rid of:
- Line breaks
- Comments in a source code
- Long function and variable names
- Unused code
- And more
Usually, these special characters are useless. By minifying JC, CSS and HTML codes, you reduce the weight of your website, which in turn increases its speed as web browsers take less time to load it.
Pick An Appropriate Hosting Provider
Your server plays a crucial role in how fast your pages load. Since building servers is usually not DIY, we can safely assume you’re most likely renting server space from one of the hosting providers.
So, what types of hosting should you look for? Let’s have a look at them:
- Shared: As the name suggests, you share a server with many other websites, all drawing the same resources, including RAM, CPU power, etc.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS): It’s very similar to shared hosting, but although you have fewer sites on the same machine and every single one of them gets dedicated processing resources (without the possibility to exceed them).
- Dedicated: It’s simple, you have your own server, and you control its setup, hardware, resources. A dedicated server, however, requires a dedicated team to maintain and optimize it.
- Cloud: Many businesses opt for this kind of server hosting which makes it the fastest-growing type in the industry. Cloud uses the pay-as-you-use model, which means you get access to as much processing power as you require.
- Managed: This one is especially available for WordPress. It’s when the hosting provider takes care of most hosting processes, including security, backups, performance and more.
While many start by using cheaper, shared hosting, once the traffic starts increasing, the server setup can significantly hinder your speed, so you should definitely consider upgrading according to the demands. How to pick the one that suits you best?
Server location is the key as it determines how far your data has to travel. The greater the distance between the server and the visitor landing on your site, the less responsive your website will be.
It’s probably a good idea to choose a hosting provider whose data center is located near your target audience. Once you figure that out, you can choose the type of provider, compare the features, benefits and price range.
Take Advantage Of Page Caching
There’s no website speed optimization guide without mentioning page caching. Page caching refers to saving and storing the web files in a temporary storage to be retrieved and reused later if needed.
When you enable caching on your site, it saves a lot of time. For example, when a user requests to see a page on a site, the server typically creates the HTML page from PHP files and fills it with content from the database. With caching, however, it’s possible to store the finished HTML page and serve it to the user right away.
There are several types of cache:
- Browser caching: It stores parts of your page by “telling” the browser to store fixed assets on the local hard drive.
- Object/Database caching: It stores the results of common database queries in the local memory of the server
- Page caching: It stores a static HTML version of a page on the server
- Edge caching: It stores files on a server closer to the end-user
Use A Content Delivery Network (CDN)
If you’re trying to reach a global audience, there’s a good alternative way to deal with the latency of hosting servers, location, etc.
Enter Content Delivery Network!
It is basically a network of computers located all around the world that contain a copy of your website or at least its most essential parts (static files).
How does using CDN enhance your website speed?
Firstly, users get the data from the nearest location, which reduces distance and the chance of lagging.
Secondly, server load can be distributed among a number of different servers instead of opting for just one. This, in turn, lowers the possibility of dragging the speed down when website traffic is high.
One of the primary reasons for lagging websites is high-res images. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should avoid having them altogether. A web page without visuals looks and feels very stale and boring, no matter how clever the copy may be.
Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that every single one of the pictures on your website is appropriately optimized “weigh” as little as possible.
Compress the images to the degree that drastically reduces them size-wise while maintaining visual quality. Compression helps you reduce image size up to 80%.
There are a couple of proven methods to optimize your images:
- Upload images of the right size
- Use the correct type of images: JPG for complex illustrations and colorful photos, PNG for graphics, charts, interface screenshots and more.
- Use image optimization plugins
- Use image optimization tools
Lazy load your images
Another way of optimizing images for faster page loading time would be to lazy load them.
This is a widely popular practice where images are not loaded simultaneously, but only until a visitor scrolls down to them, right before they are visible on the screen.
The latest version on WordPress uses lazy loading by default so, but how do you implement it if you’re a non-WP user?
It’s fairly easy. You just add the loading=” lazy” attribute to your HTML code like this:
<img src=”image.jpg” alt=”…” loading=”lazy”>
There are other possibilities further extrapolated on CSS Tricks.
Host Videos Externally
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If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the worth of video. Using videos is a great idea to spice up your content. Despite the fact that users consume videos daily, the video format is still not widely used in digital marketing.
If you’re planning to include video on your website to deliver additional value to your visitors, be mindful of the potential web page loading repercussions.
Hosting videos yourself is not the greatest idea, even if you’re using lazy loading. A quality video takes a lot of server space, it “weighs “hundreds of megabytes on average, and if a lot of people watch it at the same time, it can bottleneck your bandwidth.
For that reason, it’s better to upload your video to an external video platform like YouTube or Vimeo and then simply embed it on your site. With the right design, your visitors won’t even notice the difference.
Clean-Up All The Irrelevant Plugins
We’ve already stressed the importance of some helpful plugins. However, it’s time to review which ones are truly valuable and for how long, as it is possible some of them might drag your website speed.
Plugins are an awesome way to make your website multifunctional. They add features and even help you streamline UX. However, there is such a thing as too many plugins.
Do you still have plugins you don’t need?
If the answer is yes, get rid of them. Inactive plugins add to overall page weight and HTTP requests.
If you’re not sure, you can do a speed test with all plugins enabled and then selectively disable the one you don’t actually need, one by one, to find the “imposter.”
This may sound a little counterintuitive, but you can also use the Plugin Performance Profiler plugin that allows you to scan your website and inform you about how much each installed plugin contributes to your page load time.
Optimize For Mobile
At the beginning of this article, we’ve mentioned the growing importance of the “mobile-first” trend, or more precisely, approach.
Since mobile use and, by extension, the consumption of content on mobile is constantly increasing, it also brings new challenges.
Mobile optimization refers to the practice of making sure mobile visitors landing on your web page experience the same functionality and efficiency as your desktop visitors.
Optimizing for mobile not only helps you speed up your website and catch up to a trend that’s becoming industry standard at a lightning-fast pace, but it also significantly contributes to user satisfaction, thus conversion rates.
Talking about two birds with one stone…
Use responsive web design, avoid features that mobile devices might not support and DO NOT position actionable interactions (links, CTAs) too close to each other.
Additionally, you should probably use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). It is an open-source web framework designed to accelerate page display on mobile platforms. It is a project that aims to create content that is blazingly fast and consistent across devices.
Knowing how to increase website speed is becoming a necessity for conversions as no amount of fancy features or pretty designs can make up for the lagging website.
Getting educated about it is just the first step. After these ten, you’ll quickly learn that there are at least ninety more to go; however, now you’ll know how to approach every single one of them.
Now comes the time for implementing what you’ve learned. Analyze, analyze, analyze!
After you’ve found and exterminated every issue that holds your website speed back, keep analyzing!
Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. His work is focusing on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels.