Optimizing page load speed is the No. 1 task for any project. The faster a site is, the more effectively it ranks in search engines and provides better user interaction - this is reflected in targeted traffic, increased conversions, and increased revenue. This is a commonplace truth, but one that is often overlooked or neglected altogether during SEO optimization of a website. In this article, we will talk about what is included in the basic pool of work to improve the speed of loading pages.
How to check the speed of the site? Five tools
PageSpeed Insights is Google's tool for monitoring site load speed. The service generates reports separately for mobile and desktop pages. In addition to the data PageSpeed Insights gives personalized recommendations on how and what to fix on the site to improve speed. Observations show that the reports of this tool are not absolutely accurate, but they can still be used as recommended parameters from Google. A significant plus is the Russian-language interface.
GTMetrix is a powerful free service for monitoring page loading speeds on an extensive list of indicators. For more accurate performance analysis a lot of fine-tuning is provided: here you can select the location of the user, the type of browser used and other parameters. In addition to numbers, GTMetrix also gives useful recommendations to point out vulnerabilities and solutions to problems. Learning the program and analyzing numerous metrics takes time, but it is worth it if you want to achieve a tangible improvement in loading speed. The interface is in English.
WebPageTest is another powerful speed-testing tool. It is optimal for in-depth analysis, but takes time to understand the detailed and seemingly confusing reports. Without knowledge of English, it's bound to be a hassle. Like GTMetrix, you can add fine-tuning here: selecting location, browser type, etc. The global SEO community agrees that it is WebPageTest that gives the most adequate figures for load speed across the domain.
Pingdom is a simpler tool than WebPageTest or GTMetrix, but no less accurate. This free service gives detailed statistics on site performance and has a less confusing interface. Everything here is more clear and simple. But because of the smaller amount of information provided, it is not as effective for in-depth analysis as the mentioned analogues.
k6 is a professional load testing service. Unlike all the tools described above which only test the browser part, k6 affects the backend. It allows you to analyze how well the server is adapted to increased loads and how this is reflected in the speed of page loading. For the first 30 days, you can run 50 checks per day for free. For those who plan to use the tool permanently, the developer offers several tariff options.
How long should the site take to load?
The optimal waiting time to load a page is 2 seconds from dextop and 3-4 seconds from mobile. These are figures that most users find most acceptable. In fact, things look somewhat different. Average site load time in different segments of eCommerce does not meet neither user expectations, nor search engine recommendations. These statistics were presented by Google, analyzing the average download speed of sites in the United States.
Working on speeding up your site is the easiest and most effective way to gain a meaningful advantage over your competitors
10 ways to speed up your site
By checking the site with several tools you'll get an accurate picture of the speed of loading pages. Fixing most problems will not require deep knowledge and skills. But the part of optimization, primarily implemented at the code level, is better delegated to specialists. Below we consider a typical list of problems that worsen page loading time, and give tips on how to fix them.
Reducing HTML-code size
The size of the HTML code directly affects the speed of loading: the heavier the files, the more resources a browser spends on rendering the page. Optimally, if the size of html does not exceed 100-200 kilobytes. Optimization in this case involves removing all unnecessary things: repeated spaces, line breaks, comments to the code, unnecessary characters, etc.
It can be done in two ways: manually and with special tools. For obvious reasons the second method is more popular among webmasters: it doesn't require any layout skills and allows to speed up the work considerably. Before optimizing documents it is advisable to make their backups. Despite the fact that the modern services and plugins for HTML-code compression is not much of a complaint, precautions still do not hurt.
The services Sitechecker, already mentioned GTMetrix or Screaming Frog help to find pages with large size HTML code.
For direct optimization you can use Daruse. This is an online tool that compresses the code in a few seconds, without affecting its functionality. For sites powered by WordPress, HTML-code can be optimized with the popular plugins Better WordPress Minify and W3 Total Cache.
On most sites, images are some of the heaviest files, which take the bulk of the bandwidth to load. On average, 45% of a page's weight is devoted to images. They become the bottleneck that increases response time. Therefore, optimizing graphical content is a priority for those who want to speed up their site. The most effective are three ways of solving this issue.
Compressing photos without loss of quality
Proven helpers in this matter are the following cloud services.
Compressor - an online service allows you to compress images up to 10 MB for free. Various compression formats are available - with and without loss of quality. Compression can be up to 90%.
Kraken is another image compression tool. Its functionality makes it more convenient for "streaming" image optimization. Here you can perform mass processing by uploading several photos at once, or you can compress images right on the page by entering its URL and getting the output archive with compressed files.
There are many plugins for popular CMS that allow you to mass optimize all the images on your site - WP Smush Image Compression and Optimization, Prizm Image, CW Image Optimizer, etc.
Using web-adapted formats
We are talking about formats like WebP and JPEG-XR. Their key advantage - high quality with minimal weight. But there are significant drawbacks: so far they are not supported by all browsers and not indexed by all search engines.Implementing the mechanism of delayed loading images
This method allows you to delay loading images until the user scrolls to it. Using this method allows you to significantly speed up the site and increase its productivity. To quickly implement this option on CMS-sites, you can apply plugins such as A3 Lazy Load for WordPress.
Deactivation of unnecessary plugins.
One of the important advantages of CMS sites - the availability of installation of all sorts of plug-ins that extend the functionality of the web resource. With them, many webmasters quickly lose their sense of proportion. The prospect of a few clicks to make your site more functional and efficient seems very attractive. But this phenomenon has a downside - for each plugin requires server resources. Additional software modules increase the number of requests to the database, which in turn greatly increases the time it takes to load the page. If you see that an overabundance of plugins slows down the site - disable unnecessary of them. The second option to solve this problem - switching to a hosting plan, with more resources allocated.
Configure client caching
GZIP compression is another caching mechanism, but at the server level. The technology minimizes the total amount of data the server sends to the end user. GZIP can reduce the size of web pages and CSS up to 50-70%, thus achieving a significant reduction in page load time.
Ways to enable GZIP compression
1. Editing .htaccess. Enable GZIP for the site can be by adding a snippet of code in the configuration file of the web server. Having the appropriate guide, it is not difficult to do this on your own, but still better to contact the hosting provider to agree on the most appropriate syntax.
2. Using plugins. For sites on a CMS to activate the GZIP compression is possible with the help of special plugins. Users of WordPress recommend paying attention to the module GZip Ninja Speed Compression.
In Joomla, the GZIP compression tool is provided by default in the site control panel. To activate it, go to System → General Settings → Server.
3. Enabling via cPanel. If you use this hosting control panel, you can enable GZIP compression for all sites under: Software → Optimize Website.
Using GZIP is one of the easiest and most effective ways to speed up your site. But it is important to understand that this caching option increases the load on the CPU. Therefore, if you are using a hosting with a small amount of hardware resources, before enabling Gzip-compression, think again about the rationality of its use or consult on this matter with your hoster.
Setting up AMP pages on Google
For years Google has been using the Mobile First Indexing model, which gives priority to the mobile version of a website when ranking it. This means that mobile SEO is of paramount importance for good positions in Google. It is easy to guess that page loading speed under this model becomes one of the key ranking factors.
In current SEO realities, setting up AMP pages is an absolute priority. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a technology used by Google to speed up content delivery to mobile users. In order to implement it, separate versions of pages (AMP pages) are created on the site and linked to the main pages. You can read about how to do this in the official guide from Google.
Transferring video content to external platforms
Video certainly adds value to any site. It's an effective marketing tool that motivates visitors to take targeted actions - 64 percent of consumers are more likely to buy online if they can watch a presentation video about a product. In addition to marketing, video content is a good tool for improving behavioral factors on a page: it increases the time a user spends on a site and reduces bounce rates.
In the case of video, a relevant question for many people is: where is the best place to store it? We recommend you refuse to upload such files to your own server, even if you use a pimped hosting. There are several reasons to do this at once. Apart from the fact that heavy content slows down the speed of page loading, you will have to constantly think about free space on your hosting and scale its resources, spending extra money on it.
Also, storing files on your own server can impair user interaction with the site. When watching videos at the same time, servers with limited bandwidth will cause delays and slow down the video, which is not the best way to affect the quality of the user experience.
The best solution in this case is to host or transfer the files to a third-party video hosting. Upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo and then simply embed it on the page. This way, you will save server space, speed up your website's performance and won't have to worry about its constant availability for your users since not every web-hosting provider can match the stability of YouTube servers today.
Content Delivery Networks (CDN) can solve many problems related to the website performance and its uploading speed. CDN infrastructure is a network of servers with special software located in different parts of the world. The system caches the content of the site and stores it on all the physical machines in the network. When a request is made, the client is sent to the server closest to it, which significantly reduces the delay between the request and the response. Thus, the first problem that CDN effectively solves is optimizing load times for users geographically remote from the server.
On visited sites with a large number of hits, the processing of requests takes a long time, which slows down the response rate of the site. This is the second problem that CDN solves. The content delivery network distributes the load between different servers, so that even with a critically high volume of traffic, the site is loaded as quickly as possible. In addition, the use of CDN reduces the likelihood of loss of access to the content of the site due to server failure - in case of force majeure, users will be redirected to backup server network.
Thus, CDN - an indispensable thing for visited sites, focused on the global (geographically) audience. With a lot of traffic coming from different continents, this is probably the only way to effectively reduce site latency and ensure fast distribution of heavy content for all users.
The importance of page load speed is undeniable. No matter how high-quality and optimized a site is from a basic SEO standpoint, its slow loading can derail the success of the entire project. The standard pool of works on accelerating the site includes optimizing images, cleaning html code from excessive garbage, configuring client and server caching, using AMP, and other practices discussed in detail above. When focusing on internal optimization, it is important not to forget about using quality hosting that is appropriate for the current site load. Finally, and most importantly, the loading speed should be checked on a regular basis.
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