They teach fighter pilots “speed is life.” When you have speed, you can convert it into height anytime. This extra height gives you more time to think and act, which can save your life!
I’m using this analogy because just like an aircraft’s speed, your site’s speed is critical for a great user experience and higher search rankings—speed into height!
Speed is…Business Growth!
Faster site speed is crucial for faster business growth and can have a massive impact on conversion rates. Let’s look at some stats.
- Amazon reported a 1% increase in revenue for every 100 milliseconds increase in site speed
- A 1-second delay in page load time causes 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
- Walmart found a 2% increase in conversions for every 1-second decrease in site loading time
- Forty percent of your visitors may abandon your webpage if it takes more than three seconds to load
- 52% percent of online shoppers count site speed as an important factor for their loyalty to that site
Step on the Pedal!
Your site needs to be as fast as possible in today’s technological environment. A page loading time of less than 1 second would be perfect, though most websites can aim for 1 to 3 seconds. Here are the 7 high-octane strategies to boost your site speed and leave competitors in dust!
#1. Buy Quality Hosting
Tweaking your site’s structure and page elements may be in vain if your hosting company lets you down. You’ll be surprised to know how many ‘famous’ hosting providers do a lousy job when it comes to speed. Remember the thumb-rule: cheap things are never good, and good things are never cheap. Venture Beat reports a more than 70% increase in site speed when they switched their hosting to a $29 plan. So, it may not be a such good idea to save $20 per month buying a cheap and slow hosting.
How to Buy Quality Hosting?
- Compare the uptimes of different hosting servers using Netcraft, PC Magazine, or one of the uptime monitoring tools available online.
- Check hosting server speed with Pickuphost or use one of the reliable and updated list of top hosting companies
- The hosting server should be located in the same geographical area where most of your customers are located, because distance from host can affect site speed
- Make sure your hosting company has excellent customer support, so you’re not left hanging whenever things are not going as planned
#2. Use a CDN for a Global Audience
If you have a resource-heavy website and an international or geographically widespread audience, you had better use a CDN or Content Delivery Network. It’s a hosting arrangement in which your static files are stored in data centers located closer to your visitors and your dynamic content is served from a central location. This can save you as much as 60% of your bandwidth and can as much as double your site loading speed. A CDN can also make your site more responsive during peak hours and protect you against DDoS attacks.
How to Transfer Your Site to a CDN?
You will almost always benefit from a CDN if you want to stream large video files or host large image files, or when you have known heavy traffic in specific countries/geographic areas
- Use CDN Calculator to compare CDN providers based on the number of global POPs and their locations
- You will need to rename your URLs using CNAME for the files being served from different CDN locations
- Test to see that your pages are calling the correct files and conduct speed tests at different Geo locations
#3. Minimize HTTP Requests
Did you know 80% of the page loading time is consumed in calling different page elements like images, scripts, Flash, etc? An HTTP request is made each time a component is to be downloaded. The more the number of requests (i.e.the number of page components), the longer the page will take to display.
How Reduce the Number of HTTP Requests?
- Use PageSpeed Insights and follow Google’s suggestions
- Use CSS instead of static images where possible
- Minimize the number of style sheets by merging several style sheets into one and place them in the document HEAD
- Minimize scripts and put them at the bottom of the pages
- Avoid using Flash whenever possible
#4. Monitor and Reduce Server Response Time
Google recommends reducing your server response time to less than 200 milliseconds. It’s the time taken to load the necessary HTML after a request is made from a web browser. Considering that you’ve bought quality hosting and have minimized the number of HTTP requests by simplifying your pages, the server response time will depend upon how you are using your server resources and how much traffic your website is receiving at a given time.
How to Reduce and Monitor Server Response time?
- Use Google Analytics or Pingdom to determine and monitor your server response time, or
- Find out the errors using GTmetrix and follow the page speed recommendations
- Identify and fix performance bottlenecks by consulting your web framework’s documentation
- Keep monitoring the server response time and fixing the issues as they arise
#5. Compress Your Pages Using GNU Gzip
No matter how hard you try, you cannot reduce the number of components below a certain limit on pages that contain high-quality content—videos, images, style sheets, and script. The best way around this problem is to enable compression on your website. It means that the page components will be compressed or “zipped” when they’re being transferred from the server to the browser, accelerating the loading speed by as much as 70%.
How to Enable Compression?
- The compression feature is available in Joomla. You can enable it from Global Configuration > Server > Gzip Page Compression (set the option to YES).
- Check if the compression is working using GIDZip Test tool
- For cPanel hosting (which you should prefer to get over other types of hosting) you can enable compression from the cPanel>Optimize Website options
- Follow the step by step guidance in this excellent article to manually enable compression on IIS and Apache servers
#6. Save Time by Enabling Browser Caching
How to Enable Browser Caching?
- You’re in luck if you’re using Joomla, as you can simply enable browser caching by going to Extensions>Extension Manager and setting Caching to Yes.
- For WordPress, you need a plugin like W3Total Cache or WP Super Cache and easily enable browser caching
- The above methods will ask the browser to cache static versions of whole pages
- If you want to set different expiry times on different components, you can enable browser caching by adding/modifying code in the .htaccess file (located in file manager or the place where you upload your files)
## EXPIRES CACHING ##
ExpiresByType image1/jpg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image2/jpeg “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType image3/gif “access 1 week”
ExpiresByType image4/png “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType text1/css “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType text2/html “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application1/pdf “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application2/x-shockwave-flash “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType image5/x-icon “access 1 year”
ExpiresDefault “access 1 month”
## EXPIRES CACHING ##
- The code tells the browser what components are to be cached and for how long. For instance, you can define that a particular component expires in 1 week, which means that the browser should check for a new version of that component every week.
- Define the access time you define for any particular component based on how frequently that component is likely to change. For instance, you may be planning to change the hero image every week, but the logo may stay the same for a year.
#7. Optimize Page Components
Everything said and done, your site may still not reach top speeds if you don’t clean up your code, optimize your images and CSS, and reduce the number of redirects and plugins. Yahoo!’s development team found out that about 20% of all web pages are viewed with an empty cache, so it’s better to adopt a minimalist approach. A clean and compact configuration saves bandwidth and speeds up performance, pleasing both customers and search engine bots.
How to Optimize Page Components for Faster Loading Times
- Minify your HTML code using Google’s PageSpeed Insights for Chrome
- Simplify CSS using YUI Compressor and cssmin.js
- Resize your images and upload them in the correct resolutions; for instance, if the maximum width that your page supports is 700px, don’t upload an image that 2000px wide and set the width parameter to “700”
- Use CSS in page header instead of using inline CSS nested inside the code—the best way is to use external style sheets
- Stop and delete unnecessary plugins, as they can slow down your site and cause crashes, etc
- Isolate the plugins that are causing the site to slow down by disabling them one by one and checking site speed
Don’t just take my word for it. This is what happened to our Google Analytics account a few weeks after we did all of the above.
Faster sites make happier customers and wealthier businesses. Optimizing your site’s speed, like many other things, is not a job you do once and forget about. It should be permanently on your agenda. You are spending a lot of money on development, SEO, PPC, and other marketing activities that get people to your website. It would be a shame if many of those people left your website just because your pages are taking too long to load.
Mahak Dhiman is a digital & online entrepreneur and marketer, specializing in the retail & eCommerce arena. Mahak has built, purchased, optimized and sold in excess of 10 eCommerce businesses with multi-million-pound revenues. He writes and contributes to various websites within the digital marketing area, some of these include moz.com & searchenginepeople.com