If one asks you to name the one most detrimental factor to a website’s rankings, user experience, and sales alike, your safe answer should be slow speed. This is because speed can affect your bottom line. A one-second delay in page load time causes 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% loss in conversion (Source). Authentic studies reveal that almost 40% of people leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Speed also impacts search engine rankings directly and indirectly. It has long been a direct ranking factor which has only increased in importance over time. If customers frequently abandon a website immediately after clicking on it, Google rightly assumes that the website is not relevant to the customer’s query thus pushes down its ranking. Slow-loading websites also put a bad first impression and thus make customers think that they are unprofessional and unreliable.
Speeding up a website should be the topmost priority. It is critical to the business’s short and long term success. The following are some of the easy but effective website speed optimization hacks.
- Compress Images
Images are an integral part of any website. They increase customer engagement and make websites look appealing. Search engines also favor optimized images. However, large size images can slow down your website’s speed considerably. A good way to prevent images from affecting your site speed is to compress them before uploading. There are many image compressors such as JPEG Optimizer, Optimizilla, CompressNow, etc. which can reproduce images with the lowest file size possible without affecting their quality. Also, make sure to convert images to the right format i.e. JPEG.
- Reduce HTTP Requests
When a person visits a page on your website, a request is sent to your website’s server from the person’s web browser for information. The server sends files containing images, text, multimedia that lies on your webpage. A separate request is sent for each of these elements. Each request takes time so the fewer the on page elements, the fewer the requests and the less time it takes for the page to load.
So how do you reduce these HTTP requests? You can do the following.
- Avoid large size images & remove unnecessary ones
- Combine & Inline your CSS
- Minimize URL Redirects
Too many URL redirects can slow down your website speed. Each redirection triggers an HTTP request which takes time to serve. Although redirects are sometimes necessary and can be useful too, too many of them are just not good. Make sure your URLs are final and search engine friendly.
- Remove Unnecessary Themes & Buggy Plugins
Themes and plugins take a lot of time to load. Make sure you limit the number of plugins on your site and use only the ones which you really need. Also, make sure you only keep the themes and plugins that are active. Some plugins/extensions are very heavy or have bugs with poor coding standards which can really damage your site’s performance. This is one of the common reasons for slow e-commerce sites particularly Magento powered sites. To speed up Magento 2, you only have to install quality extensions developed by Magento experts.
- Enable Browser Caching
This is one of the most proven website speed optimization hacks. It works by storing the page resource files in the visitor’s computer the first time they visit your website. Now, when they visit other pages or reload the page, the resource files are loaded from the local computer instead of having to make a new HTTP request. This causes the page to load almost instantly.
- Choose the Right Hosting Option
The hosting option does affect your website speed. If you have a small site with not much traffic, shared hosting may work. But as your website’s volume and traffic start to grow, cheap hosting options are not enough. You will need to switch to VPS hosting or a dedicated server where you have more space and don’t have to share resources. This may be a little expensive but as you won’t want to compromise on performance, this is worth it.
If you are not sure what hosting provider/plan will work for you, this list of best web hosts will help you decide.
- Enable Lazy Loading
It makes sense to let images load only when they need to be. This is what lazy loading does. It only loads images that are within the user’s view thus helps the page’s top content to load faster. Other images are loaded as the user scrolls down the page. Lazy loading is helpful for pages with tons of content and images. Loading all of the images at once requires a lot of time. For example, if you have 15 images on your page with an average image size of 150KB, it means it needs to load 2,250KB of images. With lazy loading enabled, it will only load the top image initially thereby making the page instantly accessible. Other images will load as they come into view. For a WordPress site, Lazy Load is the most sought after plugin.