Why page speed is so important
It stands to reason that page speed is an important element in good website design. Pages that load faster become interactive faster, and that means your visitors face less of a delay in becoming paying customers.
Slower loading pages suffer higher abandonment and bounce rates, as some visitors will simply give up if the page doesn’t load within a few seconds.
But page speed can also have an impact on your search engine rankings – so even patient visitors might never see your page because it appears too far down in their search results.
With all of this in mind, it’s pretty clear that page speed is an essential consideration for SEO and web marketing campaigns – so what can you do about it?
Page speed on mobile sites
Faster pages are important across both desktop and mobile sites. In recent years, Google has announced that page loading speed is a specific ranking factor for mobile sites and that they are now ranking the mobile version of websites as the default option.
So, there is plenty of potentials when it comes to ranking highly in Google’s Mobile-First era, which could even help you to overtake some long-time rivals for the top spot.
How to measure page speed
The total length of time it takes to load a page depends on a lot of factors, including, but not limited to:
- The time it takes the server to start sending data (Time To First Byte).
- The time taken to ‘paint’ the visual content on the page.
- The time taken for interactive elements like web forms to start responding.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights developer tool can analyse individual URLs of already published pages, giving you a score out of 100, a breakdown of the different loading factors, and recommendations of how to make the page load faster.
There are also other third-party tools to analyse page load speed, and you might want to compare results from multiple tools so you can see if they make the same recommendations.
Load pages faster by design
Slimmer pages load faster, so make sure your website template is streamlined, especially on your mobile site.
There are lots of technical ways to achieve this. For instance, essential elements like navigation can be placed near the top of the page, so they load first. Next comes your main content, so it is ‘painted’ as quickly as possible.
Last of all is hidden and less important page elements like the footer – which is likely to occur naturally towards the end of your page code – and things like external java scripts and analytics tracking codes, which might delay the final loading of your page.
Load pages faster with content
You can adopt a lean approach to the content on your page, too. Plain text loads fast, so use this for navigation links and the bulk of your content.
Image formats can have a huge impact on the file size. A compressed .png or .jpg image will load much faster than an uncompressed .bmp and more modern formats like JPEG 2000 can reduce file sizes even further.
You can implement techniques like ‘lazy’ image loading. This means when the page first loads, it does not load images that are too far down to see without scrolling. It only downloads that data as they come into view – faster for loading and friendlier for mobile data tariffs too.
Reduce external dependencies
It’s generally better to rely on as few external files as possible, which can include java scripts and external CSS stylesheets.
While there is nothing wrong with using these as part of lean website design overall, it’s good to stick to one CSS sheet if possible, or just a few at most.
Try to remove any external file references that are mentioned in your page header but are not actually used on that page, so you don’t incur those additional server waiting times for no reason.
Need an expert?
If any of the above sounds too technical or you just don’t know where to start, call in an expert to give your site a proper page speed audit and recommend the best ways to improve it.
Professionals know what they’re looking at and how to make it better – and faster – so you are left with a website that looks just as good but performs better for visitors and in the eyes of Google’s ranking robots too.