Having a slick, speedy website is a must in today’s world of instant gratification. Have you ever clicked a link to a site and, because of poor loading times, clicked back and chosen to go somewhere else?
This is a common phenomenon and can have a seriously negative impact on a site’s bounce rate. Add to this the fact that website loading time is now being taken into account by Google for rankings and the need for speed is painfully clear.
If you aren’t sure how your website is performing, companies like the NCC Group offer free tools to determine how. To get started, you can run a test here that will tell you how your site performs.
To give you a benchmark, Google defines standard load time as around two seconds. Add another second to this and you’ll be branded as a ‘slow loader’ and could be penalized on the SEO front, not to mention what your customers might think.
The good news is that speeding up your website isn’t rocket science. A few simple changes can help you create a faster site and a better user experience. Here are some top tips to get you started.
1. Use caching: With so many websites built on WordPress and other ‘on the fly’ content management systems (CMS), pages run the risk of being slow loaders due to content being fetched up afresh every time. Using a simple caching plugin will help to speed things up no end, as it will provide Google with a static version of your site that can be viewed by the user while waiting for the live page to use.
2. Minimise images: Resizing your image does not reduce the size of the file, and when a user loads the page the full file will be downloaded from the server. This can seriously clog up bandwidth and cause slow loading, so avoid this by resizing your images before you upload them to the server.
3. Use sprites for images: If you have the same images that need to load for every page of your site, combine them into one image sprite to avoid a time costly DNS lookup every time a user browses to another section of the site.
4. Minimise code: Shortening code by removing HTML comments, whitespaces and empty or redundant elements can help to speed up your site as it will decrease your page size and reduce latency in the network. Do this using a simple online tool to compress your code in a process known as ‘minification’.
5. Check for bad requests: Broken links and redundant URL’s on the site can cause time wasting 404 or 401 errors to occur. Running a simple link checker will highlight any problems you might have missed and give you the opportunity to correct or remove these links for error-free, high-speed browsing.
6. Use quality web hosting: Choosing a good hosting company with exemplary uptime statistics, good speeds and generous bandwidth limits can be the single most important change to make when optimising your website for speed. Having a server located in the same country as your target audience can also improve load times, so target this as a ‘must have’ when you go provider shopping.
Implementing these changes can significantly improve your website speed and consequently the quality of the user experience. In addition to this, you will be seen as a more reliable website by Google and are more likely to achieve the high page rankings you desire.