If you own a business, you know the importance of building a quality website. A well-designed website can drive traffic and new customers to your company. A critical part of your website’s performance is its loading speed. A slow, poorly-performing website will drive away your users, costing your business valuable leads. We’ve all experienced the frustration of clicking a link and waiting for a website to load. It’s not a good experience for the end user.
Over time, Google has worked to improve websites’ loading speed by providing tools for web developers. In 2018, Google released Lighthouse 3.0, a tool for auditing websites’ speed and quality.
Why Page Speed Is Important
Page speed affects everything from user satisfaction to search engine rankings. Here’s why you should focus on improving the speed of your website.
In July 2018, Google began including page speed as a ranking factor in mobile searches. Improving your PageSpeed score can lead to a higher ranking in search results. In a highly competitive niche such as HVAC services or legal services, page speed can have a significant impact on your SEO.
Positive User Experience
Many users will form their first impression of your company based on your website. A slow-loading website will irritate your users, and they’ll be likely to bounce to another site—probably one of your competitors. Even a one-second delay in mobile page response time can reduce mobile conversions by up to 20%. With a fast-loading website, you’ll retain more visitors, generate more leads, and make a positive impression on potential customers.
Google Ads Quality Score
One of the factors in a successful pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign is a good Google Ads Quality Score. A higher quality score can improve your Ad Rank, leading to better ad positions and lower costs per click. One component of the Quality Score is “landing page experience.” Sites that load quickly after a user clicks an ad will rank higher.
Page Speed Criteria
You can test your website’s speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. PageSpeed Insights uses Lighthouse to gather lab data about the page, then returns a score along with suggestions for making the page faster. Lighthouse measures performance and page speed according to the following metrics.
First Contentful Paint. This measures how long it takes for the first content to appear.
First Meaningful Paint. First Meaningful Paint scores how long it takes before the page’s primary content is visible.
Speed Index. Your Speed Index score measures how fast your content is visually displayed during page loading.
First CPU Idle. This metric scores the time needed for the website to become “minimally interactive.”
Time to Interactive (TTI). Time to Interactive measures the length of time a page takes to become fully interactive. Google defines “fully interactive” as the point where “the page has displayed useful content; event handlers are registered for most visible page elements; and the page responds to user interactions within 50 milliseconds.”
Estimated Input Latency. This criterion measures how quickly an app responds to user input.
How to Improve Page Speed
Here are several steps you can take to improve the speed of your website.
Reduce Image File Sizes
Images are one of the main causes of slow website speeds. The key issues with image files are physical disk space and the image display size. Don’t use an image that’s larger than the display size. For example, if an image will display at 400 x 400 pixels, but the image source is 700 x 700 pixels, you’re increasing your load time unnecessarily. The browser needs to download the larger image and then shrink it to fit the smaller size. Uploading images that match the displayed sizes will improve loading speeds. You can also reduce loading times by compressing large image files.
Next-Gen Image Formats
You can also reduce image file sizes by using next-gen image formats such as JPEG XR, JPEG 2000, and WebP. These formats are smaller than traditional JPEG and PNG files, but equally high in quality. By using next-gen image formats, you can significantly improve loading speeds.
Focus On Mobile Speeds
60% of all Google searches in 2018 came from mobile devices. If your mobile site loads quickly, you’ll receive a higher page speed score and potentially a higher search ranking. Minimize or hide desktop elements that will slow down loading times on mobile devices. Tools like Accelerated Mobile Pages can help you create fast-loading mobile websites.
Enable Asynchronous Loading
With asynchronous loading, also known as “lazy loading,” the entire page is not loaded all at once. Instead, the section of the page the user is looking at will load first. The next section loads after the user scrolls down to it. Lazy loading is especially helpful if your page uses infinite scrolling, but it can improve the page speed of any website.
Reduce Unnecessary Plug-Ins
WordPress plug-ins often need to access outside servers for information. Too many WordPress plug-ins can slow down your website. Try to use no more than 25 plug-ins on your WordPress site.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Using a Content Delivery Network can give your website a significant boost in speed. A CDN is a globally-distributed network of servers. When a user accesses your website, the request is routed to the closest server. This reduces the time it takes for your content to reach the user.
A redirect occurs when a user clicks a link and is automatically directed to another location before reaching their desired page. Redirects lower your page speed and should be avoided if possible.
Mankato Web Design Can Help
Slow website speeds frustrate your users, lower your reputation, and decrease your site traffic. Whatever the cause of your site’s slow speeds, fixing the problem is critical. Fortunately, you don’t need to do it alone. The experts at Mankato Web Design are here to help. Our SEO and web design services can improve your page speeds, boost your site traffic, and give your users the best experience possible on your website. Contact us today to learn more.