Website Speed Optimization
This is the process by which changes made to the website allow it to occupy higher positions in the search engine results pages (SERPS). This will happen only if the search engine deems that your website has relevant content for the search terms that have been entered. The more the relevance your content has, the higher the rank of your website.
The website speed is always what makes the first impression of your enterprise to the searcher. There is practically no chance for a second look in case the user experience (UX) is bad or your website loads slowly. It is an absolute turn-off.
On the other hand, websites that load faster ensure that visitors come back more frequently, lower bounce rates, more user engagement and consequently higher ranks in SERPS. Higher page load speeds ensure higher conversions and better sales for the organization. Optimizing a website’s speed is perhaps one of the investments that provide the highest ROI.
Read on further for recommendations on how to increase website speed and performance.
Website Speed Test
Google’s algorithm allocates a significant amount of importance to website speed. Fast-loading websites rank higher in the SERPs. Consequently, they end up having more conversions. The user experience considerations also fare better in these sites.
There are many tools in the market that help you to run website speed tests. However, if you do not run them the in the right way, it may happen that they appear to make your website slower than it actually is.
Website Speed Test – The Best way to Run One
There are some points to be kept in mind before you run a website speed test. These should be already configured and running on the WordPress website. Caching and content delivery network (CDN) should be enabled and set up first. This is especially important if you are launching your network. These should be set up properly (configured) before running your website speed test.
In case of hosting your site from elsewhere you should enable caching. In case you are using a VPS or shared host, you have to install a suitable WordPress caching plugin. Setting up a CDN on your site helps to improve speed.
When a CDN is enabled, the web page loading time delays are minimized by reducing the physical distance between the servers and the users. This is possible through a set of proxy servers that store your website in multiple geographical locations in different parts of the world (Points of Presence or PoPs). These deliver the content to the user’s location.
Run the Website Speed Test
There are many tools available in the market that will help you to measure your site’s performance. Some important points to be adhered to are listed below:
Location of the Speed Test
Any testing tool allows testing to be done from different locations of the globe. This is important because the speed is related to the data center where the site is hosted from. Network latency or the time taken for data to get to its destination across a network and back again is an important factor.
It is crucial that you conduct the speed test from locations that are close to the data center as well from those that are far. At this point you can find out the impact of CDN on your site conducting the tests by enabling and disabling your CDN. However, it is important to be consistent about the location that you choose.
Number of Runs
It is important to understand that caching (from the plugin or host and CDN) makes your WordPress site load very fast. If users tend to run the test just once, the content may not get cached on the host or the CDN yet. This makes the site appear to load slower than it actually is. This may also be the case if you just cleared your cache (CDN or WordPress site).
Tools can provide you with the information whether the content is not being served from the cache. It has been observed that the speed test should be ideally run two or three times with a gap between each test.
Different Tools to Assess Website Speed
Prior to conducting a website speed test or starting optimization efforts, it is vital to determine current loading time and being able to pinpoint as to what is slowing it down. The recommended page load speed is under 3 seconds. It is also interesting to note that across all the different sectors, only very few websites are close to this recommended speed.
At this point it is important to understand that by mitigating one problem, another problem may arise. The best method to achieve website speed optimization is to check the speed after each change is made.
Website Performance Evaluation Tools
Google Pagespeed Insights
This is a free tool provided by Google that runs performance tests on your website and provides recommendations to improve the performance. This works on both desktop and mobile websites.
This allows users to test website speed with many useful features. In addition to performance history of the website, it also gives data-based suggestions to improve speed. There are also provisions for the generation of reports that are easy to understand. This app has different versions for Android and iOS mobiles. There are also free and paid versions of the testing tool.
Performance Budget Calculator
This is free tool designed to find out the specific type of content that would help your site to run optimally.
How to improve Website Performance
There are many ways to improve website performance. These methods are different and some of them require more work and effort than others. However, the three main areas on which work is required to be done to improve website performance are the hardware which comprises of the web server, the server side scripts’ optimization (Python, Java and PHP), and front-end performance.
Given below are some points that you can keep in mind to have a website with improved performance parameters.
#1: It is vital to code a mobile-friendly version of the site. It is best to code for the mobile users first and then go on to enhance the experience for laptops and desktops.
#2: Reduce the size of images as these contribute to the weight of any web page. It is a good idea to shift to new image formats that would help to reduce the sizes by 20 to 50 percent of the original. The quality will be, however, maintained.
#4: using the caching mechanism for temporary storage of the web pages help to reduce bandwidth and simultaneously increase performance. When a visitor accesses your site, the cached version is served unless there has been a change since the last cache. This makes loading faster. However, ensure that the cache function is enabled on the site.
#5: Reducing the number of HTTP request or response protocol by the web browser to bring files from the web server will serve to improve website performance.
#7: Check out whether you have dedicated or shared hosting for your website. If your website shares the server space with other organizations, then the website speed is negatively impacted. It is best to shift to dedicated servers if this is the case.
#8: Entrusting the website monitoring functions to cloud-based service providers can improve scalability and efficiency and reduce the costs.
Improving your website performance will ultimately leave you with a larger number of happier loyal clients.
How to Optimize Website Speed
Website speed optimization influences some key factors that contribute to the success of a website such as the visibility of the site, the conversion rates and usability of the website.
Visibility is influenced by the load time of the site. The ease with which the users can find your website depends on the loading speed. This is a main consideration for Google when it ranks sites. If your website load speed is good, your website will find a higher spot in the SERPs.
Similarly, website conversion, or getting the seekers to do what you want them to do (buy a product, sign up for a newsletter, etc.) improves when the page loading time is less. A delay of 1 second in the page load time sees a reduction of almost 7% in conversions.
Website usability factors such as load time, page speed, responsiveness of the website, etc., have a direct bearing on the loyalty of the client. A better website usually boasts of a larger audience.
Given below are a few ways in which you can optimize your website speed.
#1: Use a CDN to decrease load time when the users are located in a spot physically far away from the servers. This helps the website to work faster.
#2: Moving your website from shared hosting servers to virtual private servers or dedicated servers can reduce load time. VPS is the best solution for e-Commerce sites or those sites that have intermittent traffic spikes. Dedicated servers are an expensive option. Yet another method is to rent cloud-based servers. These also improve on-demand scalability.
#3: Optimizing the image sizes on the website help to improve website speeds. Tools such as JPEGmini, Kraken, etc., help to reduce the size of the image files without compromising on the quality.
#4: Adding plugins to a website help to add special features. A high number of plugins added to a website eats on the resources and the speed suffers. Security issues may also crop up. Use only the plugins that are absolutely required and delete all the necessary ones. Plugins that generate more database queries tend to slow down the website. It is also useful to keep the plugins updated to their latest versions.
#6: Caching refers to storing the latest version of your website content on the servers. This version is the one that is presented on request from the visitors. This means that the page is not rendered time and again for each user. Database requests are not sent to the servers each time. Ensure that your caching is enabled. How it is enabled depends on the platform the website has been developed on.
#7: Use Gzip compression to reduce the file size. This, in turn, minimizes HTTP requests and the server response time is also reduced. Gzip can be enabled by writing code or via specific utility programs.
#8: It is possible to optimize the database to improve the website performance. Using a CMS with many complex plugins slows down a website. Each CMS has different optimization methods.
#9: Though web fonts have become more popular, it is a good idea to reduce the use of web fonts. These fonts add an extra number of HTTP requests which slow down the website speed.
#10: It is important to both detect and correct Error 404 which means that a specific page has not been found. If the dead links do not eat up the server resources, they can be left as they are. Otherwise they have to be redirected to external links appropriately.
In addition to all of these, you can use of prefetching techniques which involve reading and execution of instructions before initiation by a customer when you know beforehand what a visitor would want to do in the first place, and reduce website redirects that generate additional HTTP requests.
How to Speed up Image Loading
If you are running an e-Commerce website or any other image-heavy site then the chances are that you will face challenges as far as website load times are concerned. However, there are some simple techniques that you can use to optimize the size of your images so that you can load them faster.
- Resizing images on the server before sending them to the browser is a must-do activity. This probably would give you the best results.
- It is also important to choose the right quality and format (common formats are JPG, GIF and PNG) for each image on the website. WebP is a new format that combines the best attributes of these formats but reduces image sizes to up to 30 percent. Most browsers of today support this format.
- Ensure that you have a mobile-friendly version of your website. You can start using responsive image options to deliver the best pictures across many devices.
- Loading an optimum number (fewer) images does the trick. You can use other elements using CSS. You can use techniques that will load images only when they are required (lazy loading).
- Connect a good-quality CDN for better delivery of the images.
Ping Speed Test Site
The ping is a utility that can be used on a command line on any OS that has network connectivity. This command when issued acts as a test to see whether a particular networked device is reachable. A ping is successful when there is a response from the computer to the one that generated the command.
The ping command can be used with many variables and switches for specific purposes. Ping command can be used to monitor the clients’ server response times. For that you need to know the website’s IP address.
Type ‘cmd’ in the search prompt to see the command prompt. At the command prompt, one has to type ping followed by the website IP address and then the ‘Enter’ key should be pressed. You will immediately see the time taken by the server to respond, say ’35 ms’. Type ‘Exit’ to close the command window.
Pingdom, a Swedish company, offers many services for monitoring your website. They also function with the help of over 70 polling stations across the globe to hand out tests and verify customer websites. These function 24/7 on all 365 days of the year. The tests include monitoring the uptime, performance, and user experience of websites.
To start the speed test, all you have to do is enter the name of the URL, enter the location where you want to test it from and press the ‘Start’ button.
The speed test by Pingdom helps to analyze load speed of a website and the first job that it does is to identify what makes the site slow. The identified bottlenecks are presented to the website owner for further action and optimization of the website speed.
The test is simple and can be used by a novice as well as an expert. Any user can opt for a 14-day trial period before deciding to buy the service pack. The Full Page Test is used to determine the page load speed.
Currently, the user expectation is that a web page will load in less than after 3 seconds. This is also what Google expects of your website to list it higher in the SERPs. If you don’t meet this criterion, the result is loss of website traffic, revenue, and your position in the SERP.