High Impact Recommendations
What's the Pagespeed Analysis about?
How fast is your website? Slow? Fast? Somewhere inbetween? And does it really matter how fast the content on your site loads for the user?
The answer to this last question is YES, it REALLY matters how long it takes for the webpage to load. But before I tell you why it matters, let's first take a look at what it means.
What is page speed?
Page speed can mean "time to first byte", which really means the time it takes for your server to respond to a request for a page. But - more importantly - it also means that it's the time that it takes for all the content on a particular page to display on your user's screen.
Why is page speed important?
When a visitor comes to our website looking for solutions to their problems, they want information straight away. Gone are the times when we needed to wait up to 90 seconds for a basic page to load (remember the 90s on a dial-up connection?). If you're not loading a page in less than 5 seconds, then visitors are going to leave in their droves.
In fact, Google themselves state that a 'good content loading time' is as low as 2-3 seconds.
So how many people are you losing if a page doesn't load fast? Let's give you an example of one of my very own websites.
One of my websites (BritEvents if you're curious) used to use a lot of images, videos, text, scripts and stylesheets, that all work in tandem to create each page. In addition, the site had to make various round-trips to the database to fetch the content. Whilst all that miscellaneous stuff made the page look great, with everything going on in the background it made my pages load in about 12 seconds. That's far too slow.
Because I'd recently redesigned BritEvents I was able to compare the loading times with the previous version - which loaded in around 4 seconds. Although when you consider the difference of just 8 seconds, it doesn't sound like much.
But, as a direct result of the slower loading times, fewer visitors were sticking around and reading the content: I was getting just HALF of the visitors I was previously getting. When you have thousands of people visiting your site, that's a major fall in traffic. Luckily, I was able to sort out the loading times, and bounce rates went back up again.
If you need further evidence, the BBC said that they lose 10% of visitors for every additional SECOND that it takes for their pages to load. That's a huge amount.
At the BBC we've noticed that, for every additional second a page takes to load, 10 per cent of users leave. This is why, if the BBC site is slowing down due to load, certain features will automatically switch off to bring the speed up again.
Source: How the BBC builds websites that scale
Clearly, if you want to get maximum visitors and minimum bounce, you need to take as many steps as you can to ensure your website loads quickly.
Lower speed = higher rankings
Google has built a bloomin' great search engine, and they want to make sure their users are delighted. That's why Google prefer to send their users to websites who deliver content fast.
Page speed is therefore one of the 'signals' used by its algorithm to determine where to rank a website.
The search engine giant introduced site speed as a ranking factor back in 2010 because "speeding up websites is important - not just to site owners, but to all internet users".
So, it's clear that page speed is important for everyone involved, and the effort you spend improving the site speed will reap rewards further down the line.
How can I speed up my website?
Before you can make improvements to your website page speed, you need some data to help you discover what is causing your site to slow down.
That's why I built the Pagespeed Analysis tool. It can be used to diagnose loading times so that you can see what elements are causing your website to slow to a snail's pace.
Go ahead, and type the URL (webpage address) into the space provided at the top of this page, and click on 'Analyse'. My tool will go away and crawl your website to see what's being loaded in the background, and gives you a series of recommendations based on its findings.
Optimise your Images
When the web was first born, there was just plain old text. Then along came images, and it transformed EVERYTHING. Images are one of the web's most important elements; they can turn an average piece of content into a masterpiece.
But images need to be treated carefully. When you take a snapshot off your phone and upload it to your website the chances are that it's being uploaded at its original size... sometimes several megabytes or more in size. Images that are that size tend to bring pages to a crawl.
Before you use images in your pages, make sure they're optimised first, which means that you're having to compress them. There are several tools available online such as Optimizilla which can automate the process, and even batch compress your images in large batches.
It's extra efford, but in return you'll reduce your page loading speed significantly, and lower your visitor bounce rates.
When we 'Minify' these files we're optimising them, to make them as small as possible. What this does is to remove all empty space and unnecessary elements that reduce its filesize.
User Browser Caching
Browser caching tells a visitor's browser to store certain elements locally in the user's cache. Rather than fetching the same files over and over, cached elements are loaded from the user's device instead of the server. This results in these elements being loaded much faster (almost instantaneously).
By now we're all familiar with 'zipped' files that are emailed to us. They're zipped in order to vastly reduce their file size before they're sent.
The same can be done with all the files on your server too. Files are compressed (zipped), meaning that they take much quicker to be sent from the server to your user's device. The contents are automatically 'unzipped' and displayed right away (this takes almost no time at all) to the user. Zipping the files on your server can reduce the file sizes by up to 70% or more, so it's worth doing. Some server control panels allow you to turn on Gzip automatically, resulting in no additional work for you.
Reduce HTTP File Requests
Your visitors may be looking at a single web page on your website, but that page is made up of several (in some cases dozens) of files that have to make their way from the server to your user's device. If you've got a lot then your site speed is going to suffer significantly.