In March 2017 Google announced that page speed is included as a ranking factor in its mobile-first index.
For a long time Google warned that mobile sites are going to take greater priority over desktop sites, and in March, it stated explicitly that it was rolling out mobile-first indexing.
In the post on the Webmaster Central Blog, the search engine stated that: “Our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version.”
It continued saying that: “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”
The issue here is that when someone uses their mobile phone to access a page, it’s important that the site loads as quickly as possible before the user clicks off, which could result in them never visiting that site again.
In fact, research shows that a bounce rate increases by 32 per cent when load time goes from one to two seconds, and 90% when the page takes more than five seconds to load.
So, how can a site increase its page speed? And is there any low hanging fruit for you to plunder?
Use a free CDN
Once that you’ve checked for slow pages on PageSpeedInsights, you can utilise a content delivery network (CDN), to deliver content quickly to users based on a measure of their network proximity.
For instance, if a person is trying to access a website based in San Francisco, but they are based in Amsterdam, the server with the fewest network hops or the one with the quickest response time is chosen to deliver content.
CloudFlare for instance, offers one of the best CDN for WordPress users.
Minimise your redirects
If you need to indicate the new location of a URL, it’s important that you redirect browsers from one URL to another. Unfortunately, these can trigger extra requests and add latency.
It’s important therefore, to only keep redirects that are technically necessary.
Google recommends never referencing URLs in pages that are known to redirect to other URLs and that never require more than one redirect to get a given resource.
It also states that you should minimise the number of extra domains that issue redirects but don’t actually serve content.
Find out more about this here.
Avoid bad requests
As you might already know, broken links result in frustrating 404/410 errors, and cause wasteful requests. Paying special attention to images, fix broken URLs within your site.
There are a variety of tools you can use to do this. One of the most popular is Screaming Frog, but you are restricted to a maximum crawl of 500 URLs in the free version.
If you are using WordPress, its own link checker plugin is also worth looking in on.
Optimise your images
As we all know, images that are large take longer to load, and this of course, affects page load times.
Ensure to reduce the size of all images you upload on blog posts and other pages without compromising on quality.
There are a range of free image optimisation tools online including:
Allow browser caching
When a browser displays your webpage, it has to load a number of aspects such as the page’s CSS file and logo etc.
Browser caching remembers the resources that the browser has already loaded, so if a visitor goes back to the page, it does not have to load certain aspects or files.
This can be why it can take longer for a page to load when a person visits it for the first time.
You can enable Leverage Browser Caching by changing the request headers of your resources to reduce caching by adding code to a file named .htaccess on your web host/server.
You can read all about Leverage Browser Caching in this very handy PageSpeed Tools article.