10 Tips to Improve Page Load Times

10 Tips to Improve Page Load Times

Load time is especially important for mobile users

There is no shortage of reasons why web page loading speed is crucial. The vast majority of visitors, approximately 83%, expect a page to load in 3 seconds or less. What’s more, about 40% of visitors abandon a web page if it hasn’t finished loading in 3 seconds or less. Therefore, reducing web page loading speed ensures that your site adheres to those visitor criteria. This does not simply improve the user experience. It also has a positive knock-on effect on your page views, traffic, and marketing return on investment (ROI). It is thus definitely a worthy endeavor for any web page owner to take up.

Web Page Loading Speed and SEO

Apart from the aforementioned factors, Google itself has stated that web page loading speed is a key element of search rankings. Thus, it can affect both lead conversion and lead generation, as it directly affects search engine optimization (SEO). Any SEO endeavor will need to take it into account, then, or risk hampered effectiveness and reduced ROI. With that in mind, let us explore some tips for reducing web page loading speed.

1. Check and monitor your site’s loading speed

No such endeavors can begin without a tool that checks your site’s loading speed. Fortunately, many such tools exist, and many of them are free. Notable ones among them include:

Such tools will both help you check your site’s current speed, as well as monitor the effect of any changes you make along the way.

2. Optimize and resize images

As a general rule of thumb, one should keep image size under 100kB for optimal loading speed. Images should generally not be larger than they need to be, as large, high-resolution images increase page load times. There are two primary factors that affect image optimization and size; file format and compression. In terms of format, PNGs tend to be better for graphics with few colors, while JPEGs are ideal for detailed, colorful images like photographs. In terms of compression, such software as Photoshop can help you compress image files while maintaining control of quality.

3. Avoid scaling down images

Scaling down images in HTML is an option,but  it won’t help much with reducing web page loading speed.

While you can set the width and height attributes of images in HTML, it is still in your best interest to not use needlessly large images. Using Photoshop or web-based image editors instead will let you control the image dimensions as well as its file size, reducing web page loading speed.

4. Use CSS sprites to reduce web page loading speed

On the subject of images, CSS sprites can offer a solution towards reducing web page loading speed. CSS sprites can consolidate multiple images into one that loads at once, and thus reduce HTTP requests. You can thus combine frequently used images, such as buttons and icons, into one template that loads more quickly.

5. Reduce HTTP requests

The more HTTP request-response cycles a page requires, the slower it will perform.

On the front of HTTP requests, then, it is equally important to reduce them as much as possible. Downloading components of a page makes up the bulk of said page’s loading time, as requests
are made.

Thus, you can use CSS sprites, as outlined above, and consider combining style sheets and JavaScript libraries to reduce HTTP requests. Doing so is a great step towards reducing web page
loading speed.

6. Use HTTP compression to reduce web page loading speed

Along the same lines, compressing a web page’s content can have a visible effect on loading times. HTTP compression can consolidate page data into one smaller file instead of having multiple files make many HTTP requests. In much the same way, JavaScript and CSS files can be combined as well.

7. Reduce 301 and 302 redirects where possible

Redirects inject another HTTP request-response cycle, which only increases loading times. Thus, redirects are generally best avoided. Of course, it may not always be possible to avoid 301 and
302 redirects, since you may want to use your old URL’s ranking or benefit from existing backlinks to it. However, Google will eventually index your new site’s structure and update search result URLs. When it does, it may be time to consider removing redirects. Fortunately, redirect managers do exist, such as Redirection – a popular manager for WordPress sites, of which there are many.

So if you use or consider using WP for your site, you can rest assured that such options are available.

8. Minify JavaScript and style sheets

As more and more users access sites through mobile devices, reducing web page loading speed becomes vital.

Minification can also be an asset towards reducing web page loading speed. In essence, it is the process of removing all unneeded characters from source code while retaining its functionality. Doing so can help your site reduce bandwidth consumption, and thus load faster. This is especially effective on mobile sites, and thus even more noteworthy when ever more visitors use mobile devices.

9. Cache web pages where possible

Caching your page can also be an asset towards reducing web page loading speed. Instead of having a page or database query be dynamically generated on request, a cached static version can be presented to the user. Doing so will decrease page rendering times, thus letting pages load faster, and decreasing the strain on your server. Fortunately for WordPress-based pages, WordPress plugins provide such options as well.

10. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Lastly, Content Delivery Networks (CDN) may be an option to consider. CDNs are, essentially, systems of distributed servers that deliver content to users based on their geographic locations. Such CDNs as CloudFlare and Amazon Cloudfront can allow content delivery from servers that are physically closer to users. Naturally, doing so can work in your favor towards reducing web page loading speed.

It should be safe to conclude that reducing web page loading speed is just as crucial as optimizing page content. The loading speed can have a tremendous impact on user experience and, in turn, on page owners’ SEO, ROI, and lead conversion rates. Fortunately, many assets, tools, and practices exist that can help you do just that, benefiting your page and revenue.

Note: This is a guest post by Jack Brinks, a freelance web designer, SEO professional, and author.

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