- Lacuna Strategies
In an era where speed is a pivotal customer experience factor, the speed of your website is more important than ever. Especially for small businesses, a slow website can mean the difference between retaining a potential customer or losing them. Websites that serve up content quickly not only keep more visitors around, but also receive higher scores in search engine ranking algorithms. Let's take a quick look at why we think it's so important to emphasize the speed and performance of your website and dive into some actionable steps that can be taken to optimize that speed.
At this point, we have a significant amount of data which highlights the undeniable connection between page load times and user behavior:
Bounce Rate: A study by Google found that as page load time goes from 1s to 3s, the probability of a user bouncing increases by 32%. When it hits 5s, that probability shoots up to 90%. Even a few seconds of delay can drastically reduce the number of users who stay on your site.
Conversion Rate: Yelp released a blog post detailing a significant drop in conversion rate due to an update they released which compromised page load times. Focusing on improving their FCP (First Content Paint), they were able to improve their load times and boost conversions by 15%!
User Satisfaction: A survey by Akamai revealed that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. With mobile devices accounting for upwards of 60% of website traffic, delivering a speedy user experience for all devices (including mobile) is an absolute requirement for success.
Search engines, especially Google, prioritize user experience. It's no surprise then that website speed is a ranking factor for SEO. A faster website is seen as providing a better user experience, leading search engines to rank it higher in search results. This, in turn, drives more organic traffic to your site.
Moreover, Google's mobile-first indexing approach means that the search engine predominantly uses the mobile version of your content for indexing and ranking on mobile searches. Given the limits of mobile devices and network data connections, a fast-loading mobile site is crucial for SEO.
Now that we've touched on some examples of why website speed is so crucial, let's explore some actionable strategies to enhance your website's speed and ensure it delivers the kind of customer experience you can be proud of.
High-resolution or unnecessarily large images can get bulky and easily slow down your website. Consider compressing them without compromising on quality. Tools like TinyPNG or ImageOptim can be invaluable in this process. Our websites are built on the NextJS framework which automatically generates compressed and properly-sized images with the appropriate information for browsers to only worry about loading the most optimized version of the image and at exactly the right time.
By storing some files locally in the user's browser, you can reduce the need for them to download the same files every time they visit your site. This can significantly speed up subsequent visits. Often times, you can set which types of files from your website should be cached, as well as how long they should be cached for.
The more components (like images, scripts, and CSS files) your site has, the more HTTP requests are made, which can slow down your site. Simplify your design and combine files where possible. The goal is to remove any unnecessary "bloat" from your website, organizing files in an efficient manner, and serving up only the content that should be on the page!
CDNs distribute your site's files across a network of global servers, ensuring users download them from the closest server. This can drastically reduce load times. Cloudflare is a very popular and solid CDN (which is exactly why we use it with our hosting!) and is a great place to get started when looking at utilizing a CDN.
Ensure that the content at the top of your website loads first - especially important if you have a large image displayed! This gives the impression of a faster site, as the first content they see will load quickly while off-screen content continues to load. Having the ability to start reading and interacting quickly is the key! Often times, this can be accomplished by setting a "priority" flag on an image or reorganizing the page to shift slower-loading content further down on the page.
Research your hosting options and consider using a dedicated or virtual private server rather than shared hosting. This ensures that your website isn't slowed down by other websites sharing the same resources or lower bandwidth allocations. We love hosting our sites with Vercel and showcasing TTFB (Time To First Byte) - how long you spend waiting for the website host's server to respond - and seeing speeds in the range of 100ms-125ms, well below the 200ms recommended by Google!
If you're using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, regularly updating it and its plugins can improve speed. Developers often release optimizations in newer versions.
Each redirect triggers an additional HTTP request, increasing load time. While some redirects are unavoidable, try to minimize them where possible. The best way to do this is to ensure that all as many links as possible directing users to a page on your website are linked directly to the appropriate page (rather than an old page relying on a redirect to forward the user to the destination page). This won't always be possible, especially in the case of deleted pages and product that no longer exists, but it's always good to run some clean up where you can.
The way we use websites is evolving, and user expectations are skyrocketing. A fast-loading website is no longer a luxury but a necessity to remaining competitive. Whether you're looking to enhance customer experience, boost conversions, or climb the SEO ladder, improving your website's speed should be at the forefront of your digital strategy. If you're looking for a team who can help optimize your website's performance, you're in the right place. Our Website Packages and Webmaster Service Packages have everything you need to drastically improve the performance of your website.
Q: How does website speed affect my SEO ranking? A: While the specific algorithm will likely always be a secret, Google does consider website speed as a ranking factor. Faster websites provide a better user experience, leading to longer visitor duration and lower bounce rates, which is why search engines aim to rank fast-loading pages higher than slow-loading pages.
Q: How often should I check my website speed? A: Regularly! Especially after making significant updates or adding new content. Tools like Google PageSpeed Insights can help.
Q: Are there any tools to help improve website speed? A: Absolutely! Tools like GTmetrix, Pingdom, and Google PageSpeed Insights provide insights and suggestions for improvement. However, there are generally manual changes that need to be made to the content and/or structure of your site in order to address speed concerns. Our team is always standing by with A La Carte and Subscription Webmaster Services to assist with reviewing and addressing website speed concerns.
Q: How does hosting affect my website's speed? A: Your hosting solution plays a significant role. Shared hosting might be slower than a dedicated server or cloud hosting. Research and choose a reputable provider.
Q: Can videos slow down my website? A: Absolutely! Especially if hosted on your server, but also if improperly implemented through a YouTube, Vimeo, or similar widget. Videos are typically large files and can significantly impact page load times in a negative way. It is often best to minimize the use of video content (excluding pages intended for show-casing videos) and incorporate the video players into the website in a way that optimizes when the video content is loaded to the page.
primary Image by storyset on Freepik