Page load time or page speed simply refers to the amount of time it takes for a page to be completely loaded or the amount of time a user has to wait for a page to open completely. Page load time depends on a number of factors, but mainly hosting and web design which can be optimized. It has a direct impact on both web visitors and search engines in the sense that users will not be patient enough to wait for a slow loading page, and search engines like Google will penalize slow loading websites. Fast loading pages are also proven to convert better. It can be rather costly in terms of revenue if your visitors endure a bad user experience (UX), as they’ll easily be prompted to close your website and look for what they are looking for elsewhere.
Page speed to Google
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The announcement by Google in 2010 that it would consider page speed as a factor in ranking was meant to promote onsite user experience. It makes absolute sense because users are highly likely to remain on a website that loads fast, and has already incorporated other SEO requirements like optimized content. Get this right; it’s not just about page speed, but a combination of both speed and other factors that improve page ranking among search engines. Competition for online supremacy is stiff, and that is a fact. There is every chance that there are several websites selling the same product or service, and it is important to put your house in order so you can make sales.
Google and other search engines have heeded your call and placed you right at the top of the rankings. That means you are already getting sufficient traffic. Obtaining traffic that flows to your web page is one thing is one thing, but maintaining them is another thing. The success of any online business depends on its ability to receive traffic, sustain, them, and satisfy them according to their needs. Web users are an impatient lot, and the moment they realize your page takes long to load, they’ll unapologetically jump ship and that is how you begin counting your bounce rate.
Page speed to web visitors
Besides page speed being important to Google, it is equally important to your visitors. It improves user experience, and there are a lot of positives to drive from a quick-loading page. Most importantly, a smooth user experience leads to higher conversions, and that is good for business. A fast loading website creates the perfect user experience in a number of ways, for instance;
1. With high page speed, your visitors will understand what you are offering, and will fill in the necessary order forms with less fuss.
2. If you generate income through advertising on your web content, your visitors will easily navigate from page to page, increasing page viewership as a result.
Web visitors want to get a lot of information in the shortest possible time, probably using the least resources. Making it harder for them by having slow pages is a complete turn-off, and if they happen to bookmark your site as a slow one, your association with them is as good as finished.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) announced in 2015
In October 2015, Google announced an accessible framework for creating high-speed mobile web pages. The idea was to leverage on high mobile usage by visitors and to improve their experience without compromising the speed and without making any sacrifice for ad revenues that come with these sites. To make it work, web owners will have to maintain 2 pages at least, which include the original version of an article page that users see by default, and the AMP version of the same.
There has been a lot of limitations for mobile user experience, and AMP is one big step in the right direction. Basically, the user will have the same experience as the one using the main version in terms of content, but publishers will not be able to relay everything to them on AMP, for example, there still are limitations on ads. However, the launch of AMP in February 2016 was a massive step, and plans are underway to make the user experience even better, both on mobile and on the web.
What causes low page load time?
Factor #1. Cheap Web Host – In most cases (if not all), you’ll get exactly the kind of service you paid for. Going for the cheapest web host is not the way to go when doing business, and it is important that you consider a host that fits perfectly with the magnitude of your business. It is good to look at the bigger picture when investing online. You will lose more than you would have used hiring a top host who guarantees high page speed, and higher conversion rates.
Factor #2. Too large images – Page content that is too heavy to download can impact negatively on the page speed, and that is usually as a result of failure to compress images.
Tip – If you run Google Page Speed Insights on your webpage near the bottom of your results for a limited time is the possibility to download optimised versions of your content in a format Google thinks is optimal.
Factor #3. Unoptimized browser, plugins, and apps – Different browsers will load your website differently, therefore, it is good to try launching it on a number of browsers to see how it works. In addition, Apps like Flash are not the best in relation to page speed and will definitely lower the overall page load time.
Factor #4. External embedded media – Videos from external sources can be of great value in terms of page linking, but can also lower your page speed a big deal. The most effective way to work with them is to host them on your own server.
Factor #5. Numerous Ads – Having too many Ads on a given page can be a real turn-off for visitors, and in addition to that, they lower your page speed as well. There are better ways of placing your ads strategically so they remain relevant to your visitors.
Factor #6. Widgets – Comments sections, social buttons, and calendars can also lower the speed performance of your website. Use them wisely, and in a manner they cannot negatively influence your customers at the time of responding to your call to action (CTA).
Factor #7. Dense Code – When your HTML/CSS code is too dense or not working efficiently, it can negatively lower your page speed. Get your code cleaned so you can get your site performing optimally.
How to Effectively Increase Web Page Load Speed
Page loading time is one of the greatest contributors to page abandonment. Consequently, it results in high bounce rate and a potential drop in your search engine ranking especially in competitive niches where other sites are on top form. Most visitors expect an opened page to load in less than 3 seconds and are unlikely to patient enough to wait for a page that takes much longer. Here are ways to increase page speed to get the most out of a website.
1. Upgrading your server
Speak to your host and other hosting companies to see what options are available to you. You may well need to upgrade the resources available if your website deals with responding to multiple requests, executing many line codes, and making numerous database queries before getting a page displayed.
2. Get your database indexed
You are certainly using a database if you are running an online store, hosting a blog or a news site. Operating a huge database can contribute to slow search page results on your page, but there is something you can do; adding an index can make the site faster. With an additional index, your database will be able to readily and quickly find information meaning the user will receive searched data promptly and faster.
3. Slow down on Video embeds
There is no disputing the fact that videos are very effective methods of engaging users, but the truth is that video embed codes using iFrames can cause your site to slow down. iFrames are designed to make a page load within another page, and this increases load time.
4. Optimize your browsers
Optimize your codes to read naturally on updated versions of the known browsers as different browsers translate codes differently.
5. Strategize your social share buttons
For example, you may not employ social share buttons for opt-in landing pages as they will be irrelevant. The main idea will be to get visitors responding to your Call To Action (CTA), and social sharing can be a major distraction.
6. Use Caching
Visitors will find it tedious loading everything from scratch. Caching allows browsers to store all the data from a page and that can effectively reduce the amount of page load time and boost site performance significantly. Currently, there are several free or cheap WordPress caching plugins that are customized and can easily be used.
7. Simplify your themes
Having a complex theme can have negative consequences on your website performance. Some themes may appear cool to users, but they become irrelevant and a waste of time if visitors will not wait around to see it finish loading.
8. Go easy on your Ads
Ads are a proven way of monetizing a website, but having a lot of them can have a negative impact. They not only distract and put off visitors by confusing them, they will slow down the amount of time it takes to load a page and weigh down your SEO efforts. To maintain the main focus of your website, refrain from employing too many Ads that can distract your visitors from taking the required action.
9. Optimize your images
Using images with large files increases the overall page size, consequently impeding page speed. Make sure you use the right sizes for your images according to your page layout so they may not cause it to slow down. Be careful not to compromise image quality when compressing images, but ensure there is a balance between both size and quality.
Tip – It is worth checking pages you have just published especially if you are using some kind of content management system that automatically compresses images as some themes maybe use the original image and reduce image size with CSS giving the impression your image was reduced to the optimal size when in fact it could be the full-size image that is loading behind the scenes.
10. Get your code cleaned up
Your site can be slow due to the dense code inflating the entire size of your page. Should you notice that your site is performing dismally, think about getting your code cleaned to speed up performance. For WordPress-based sites, you can troubleshoot using the following tips;
(1) Get rid of unwanted or unused themes and plugins(2) Hide unused shortcodes that you may have from plugins(3) Get rid of unused media that you may have uploaded. It could be either video, audios, or even documents that are occupying too much space in your database unnecessarily, and are causing your site to slow down.(4) Get rid of unused tags that contain no associated posts.
Tip – Removing unused themes and plugins will help you with housekeeping as it reduces the number of addons you will need to keep up to date therefore reducing also the amount of code that could be open to exploit.
11. Minimize redirects
Redirects are known to bring in extra HTTP requests, thus causing longer page load time. To be on the safe side, reduce them as much as you can but take care that you do not remove redirects put in place for specific reasons such as moving a user from a non existent page they maybe have found in the search result to the new version of the content.
12. Choose server location accordingly
It takes longer for a page to open or load if there is a long distance between the market and server location. Choose the location of your server considering your target market and make it easier for your visitors. This way you’ll minimize bounce rate and in turn, increase conversion rates.
Tip – If you are in a global market considering hosting on a content delivery network (CDN) could be a good option for you and is worth asking your hosting company about.
13. Above-the-fold content should load faster
It is easy to improve user experience, hence reducing bounce rate by ensuring that your above-the-fold content loads quicker regardless of whether the other parts of the page takes longer to load. This can be done through optimising the placement in the code of scripts and styles required by content below the fold or that are not immediately required to provide the visitor the key (value) information in the above fold area. This strategy works by engaging the visitor through content right away, and chances are they may not even realize it actually took longer for the other parts to load.
Need for speed – The conclusion
The need for page speed cannot be emphasized more, delays in delivering your value content to the reader can be costly, especially with the unpredictability witnessed among web users. Therefore; it is imperative for any web owner to invest wisely in the performance of their pages if they are to maximize sales and make profits.
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