Actionable Guide to Website Speed in 2020

2020 Actionable Guide for Increasing your Website Speed

Savan Francis
Savan Francis/December 4, 2019

How much time would an average user wait for a website to load?

Well, let’s revise that question, how much time would you be willing to wait for a website to load?

The fact of the matter is most of us internet dwellers would not even bother waiting for over two seconds! Cursory research will reveal a plethora of statistics about how frustrated users leave websites deciding never to set foot in the place again.

Is your website suffering from loading issues? There are various factors that could be holding back your site’s performance. Most webmasters use online site speed checker to analyse the loading speed of their website. The fact of the matter is while keeping tabs on the website speed will help you understand your site’s performance from users’ standpoint, it does not instruct you to do anything specific.

As a webmaster with aspirations to rank in the first 5 of Google’s search results, you’re expected to do more than just a speed check. So, where should you start?

We wanted you to make sure that every aspect of your site was fully optimised to perform at the highest level. This is why the digital enthusiasts at Mr. Digital built our own SEO Audit Checklist to give webmasters actionable steps to improve their chances of ranking in search engine.

As you take your time to rectify the issues on your site one by one, make sure to follow our essential tips to enhance your website speed. After all, keeping all the on-site elements SEO-ready is a precondition for attaining the great website speed you’ve always dreamed of.

But before you get things rolling, you may want to find out what website speed is so important, don’t you?

If you knew how a fraction of a second could make or break your website, you would know just how important a factor website speed is in the grand scheme of things.

At the end of the day, the site load speed directly influences various things like user experience, keyword rankings in search results and conversion rates.

Users never forget their first website speed experience 

The first impression is absolutely vital as it can go a long way in establishing your online presence. If a visitor to your website experiences sluggish loading speed, chances are that they will never return to your site.

If you can get your site to load faster, it will certainly leave a good impression on the first-time visitors. Making visitors happy is also your doorway into Google’s good books. It’s just basic psychology: people make an instant connection with sites that offer a better user experience.

Study shows that 78% of online buyers claim they would never return to a website if they had a bad experience with the page load speed.

78% of online buyers claim they would never return to a website if they had a bad experience with the page load speed
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If your site loads fast, then you must be doing something good. It’s pure psychology. The average user immediately associates their experience with efficiency, trust and professionalism.

But when your site is slow, it creates an impression of uncertainty and untrustworthiness. Once users have made up their mind, it’s not easy to regain their confidence.

So the next time someone visits your website, don’t give them a reason to never return.

Users expect more from your website

When it comes to improving user experience, Google is raising its bar by the minute. Likewise, users have come to expect websites that load and function faster.

Here are some tangible facts: 

  • 52% of people expect your website load time to be less than 2 seconds
  • 44% of people will leave your site if doesn’t load in 3 seconds

Things are no different for mobile users: 

  • 80% of users want the mobile version of a site to load faster than the desktop one

Users want instant answers to their queries, whether they are using phones, tablets or desktops. With long-established sites, users may be ready to make an exception to the rule and wait for a longer period of time.

But if you are a fledgeling business trying to create an audience online, you need to be at your best at all times. So, those of you who have fallen behind competitors in optimising your website in accordance with Google’s quality guidelines, you better get your act together.

Compromising the user experience 

 The more unique your user experience (UX) design, the more likely it will stand out from the competition. An effective UX design forms the foundation of websites that offer powerful user experiences.

How do you offer a good user experience? 

  • Give users just what they are looking for on your site
  • Make sure to help them find it real fast

This should explain why website speed is of the utmost importance when it comes to offering the right user experience. The big idea is to let users find what they’re looking for as fast as possible.

There is nothing worse than a frustrated website visitor. And nothing can annoy a visitor more than slow loading website.

You can forget about conversions  

A slow website does not convert well.

As mentioned earlier, 40% of users leave your website if it takes over 3 seconds to load.

40% of users leave your website if it takes over 3 seconds to load
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Now, if you’ve got a slow website that attracts over 1000 users every day, there’s a risk of losing over 400 potential customers.

Now those figures should give a real fright to webmasters.

If the loading issues of your website is alienating your users, then imagine what it could do to your sales rate. Now, this isn’t just a theory. Even multinational companies like Amazon have tested it out to find the difference.

Amazon’s remarkable test showed that the e-commerce giant would lose a whopping 1.6 billion a year if they slowed down their website.

Your action plan to improve the website speed in 2020 and beyond

There are a host of factors that directly and indirectly affect the speed of your website. Of course, you have got myriad practices to increase your load time. But don’t worry, our SEO experts have compiled the essential tips to help you out. You don’t have to get down to implementing them right away. Just take your time and make sure to carry them out. You may have already worked on speed optimisation of your site, and have touched on some of these topics. But now is your chance to make sure everything is in the right place.

So, let’s get started…

Start by reducing the HTTP requests   

A vast majority of web page’s loading time is used up by downloading and rendering various elements on a page. The page sends out separate HTTP request for all the elements on the page, meaning that the page will only be rendered when all the HTTP requests are completed.

First up, you need to find out the exact number of HTTP requests your site makes. Google chrome’s developer tool will help you do just that. Analysing the nature of HTTP requests will help you determine whether you should send requests for these elements in the first place.

Your goal is to separate the wheat from the chaff and retain the requests that really matter to the functionality of your website. Cutting down on the HTTP requests will give a much-needed boost to your site. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any immediate results.

Minimise and combine the number of files

You have figured out the number of HTTP requests your website sends out, now it’s time to cut down its number. The most effective way to start this is by checking the HTML, CSS, and scripts files on your website. The aforementioned files essentially shape the look and feel of your website. The files stack up the requests whenever a new visitor lands on your website.

If you developed your website using a template builder, your site may be having speed issues, primarily caused by redundant codes and scripts. Reducing or combining the files into one document can improve site performance, and in turn its speed. The minification process involves getting rid of unnecessary elements like whitespace and code.

If your site is built on WordPress the minification process is even easier.

Simply use WP Rocket to combine CSS and JavaScript files into a single file. Ones you have minified the files, don’t forget to look them up using developer tool to confirm the changes.

The goal is to strip your site of all the unnecessary elements and trim it down to a lean, user-friendly website.

Reduce the server response time now

Have you ever wondered how fast your DNS provider functions? If your DNS provider takes too long, then it could affect the page load time of your website. You domain Name system contains a database of innumerable IP addresses and their corresponding hostnames. DNS server is responsible for translating URLs into matching IP addresses so that searchers are taken to the right location.

The DNS lookup process eliminates the need for searchers to memorise long IP addresses to find information online. Make sure to refer to this DNS speed report before you look for a fast DNS server. If you find that the slow DNS provider is starting to take its toll on your site’s speed, it’s time to change your DNS provider. Get the fastest DNS provider and watch your site performance take off at great speed.

“Make sure to get the best Hosting option”  

So, you have sorted out the issues with DNS server but are continuing with the cheapest hosting option that doesn’t support your website effectively. Well, something needs to change.

While it’s understandable why you may get the cheapest option available when you’re just starting out, you may want to upgrade the hosting option once your websites start attracting more traffic. Also, don’t just buy one hosting service, do your homework before making the decision.

You have got three different hosting options to choose from:

  • Shared hosting 

The most economical hosting option can be obtained for as little as 4 euros per month. However, shared hosting is designed for websites with low traffic. It’s not equipped to deal with the rise in traffic.  You have no option but to share your resources with other websites that are hosted on the server.

  • VPS hosting

Of course, you will be sharing the server with different websites hosted on the server, but you will get exclusive ownership of certain parts of server resources. It’s a good win-win situation in that you get to safeguard your site against everything else on the server without having to pay for a dedicated hosting option.

  • Dedicated server

With a dedicated server, you’ve got a server all to yourself. You don’t have to share your resources with anyone. Hosting on dedicated server comes with added responsibilities as you will have to take care of the maintenance and configuration on your own. If you want total control over your hosting option, then dedicated server is your answer.

Enable browser caching 

Every time you visit a webpage, all the elements on the page gets stored as cache in your hard drive. So, the next time you visit the place, your browser can render the whole page without having to send a series of HTTP requests.

When a visitor lands on your page for the first time, they download an HTML file compromising of scripts, stylesheets and images on the page. Once the download which may take up to 2.5 seconds is completed, visitors can start using your page.

For a visitor who has already had their page elements cached, it will only require them to download a few more elements on their next visit. So, it’s all the more important to improve the loading time, especially for first-time visitors to your website. You’re looking at 40-60% of users who visit your website without browser caching. Activating browser caching will help you offer a better user experience on their subsequent visits.

If you have a WordPress website, simply install W3 total cache to activate catching.

Compress the image size 

Website images are large files capable of affecting the site speed. When left unoptimised they really slow down your website. Properly optimised images are central to improving the load speed of your website.

Instead of thinking about getting rid of the images, you should consider reducing their size.

Website images are among the major factors that influence the buying behaviour of visitors. If you are running an eCommerce website, images almost serve as CTA.

Would you like to see how the images affect your site performance? Simply run a speed test on Pingdom to find out.

One of the easiest ways to reduce image file sizes is cropping your images to the correct size. For example, if you want an image to appear as 570px wide, resize the image to that width.

Don’t just upload an image that is 2000px wide and set the width parameter the size you want. This requires your page to load the full image, then adjust it to the appropriate size, slowing your page.

Are you wondering where to start?

Well, you can start by reducing the size of images by cropping them to the fitting size. For instance, if you would like the image to be 1200 pixels long, simply resize it to that length. The problem starts when you simply publish 2000 pixels wide image without resizing it to the right size. Reducing the image size will certainly have a positive impact on your website speed.

WP Smush is a powerful tool used on WordPress websites to optimise images.

For webmasters running non-WordPress websites, you can’t go wrong with Kraken.

Cut down on the number of plugins 

As you have picked up from this blog, Plugins play a major role in improving your site performance. They are deployed for everything from reducing the image size to minifying messy codes and optimising the site performance. Plus, these plugins are super easy to install.

Be that as it may, loading your website with too many plugins can adversely affect its performance. On top of it, keeping up with the updates of plugins can be a real drag at times. It’s important for you to check the plugins on a regular basis and see if they are still offering value for your site. Do away with plugins that seem outdated or ineffective that could end up slowing down your site.

Try uninstalling and removing the plugins. You will start seeing improvement in the site speed in the long run.

Actually, ironical as it may sound, there exists a plugin that can help determine the usefulness of all the active plugins on your website so that you can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Install Plugin Performance Profiler to accurately spot the plugins responsible for causing performance issues on your website. Also, the plugin spares you the trouble of uninstalling the plugins separately and running multiple speed tests. Of course, once the plugin has produced the desired results, you can simply uninstall it.

Optimise your website for Mobile

As the majority of searchers gravitate towards mobile browsing, Google has been taking measures to urge webmasters to optimise their websites for the mobile experience. Today, providing a good mobile experience to users is considered a crucial ranking factor. Therefore, you are expected to make the mobile version of the website as fast and efficient as the desktop one.

With mobile-first indexing in effect, Google has left website owners with no option but to offer a consistent mobile-friendly experience for users.

So, how do you check the performance of the mobile version of your website?

Get things started by running a check on Test my site to see how your site performs on mobile devices. The free tool from Google will give you real-time insights into the performance metrics and help you follow the best practices.

Find out the number of users who may have left your site because of loading issues. Also, learn how your site’s performance measures up against the competitors in the industry. It may be difficult for you at first come to terms with the poor standards of your mobile site, but what’s important is that strictly follow the tips in our article. It’s a long process that requires patience and perseverance on your part.

Before you complain about taking all the efforts involved, please consider all the possible consequences of running a slow website. It looks rather bleak, doesn’t it? 

By now you probably see the link between slow-loading web pages and high bounce rate. Just imagine what you could do with all the visitors who left your website and took vows never to return. On top of that, imagine what it could do to your business in the long run.

Our SEO experts at Mr Digital deploy tried and tested techniques to improve the load speed of websites.

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