Page Speed Optimization: A Brief Guide

Last Updated: 26th March 2016

Simple Advice For Faster Load Times

It doesn’t matter how patient you are, no one likes to wait in line. So why make your sites users wait? That’s essentially what you’re doing when you allow your site to have long load times and it could be having a disastrous effect on your customer experience.

So Why Worry About Page Speed?

Slow loading times can cause high bounce rates, high levels of cart abandonment, and a general sense of frustration amongst your users – all of which are things any site owner will want to avoid. For an eCommerce site in particular, this can be the difference between a successful site and an unsuccessful one.

SEO And Page Speed

Interestingly, Page Speed seems to have been considered a ranking factor by Google as early as 2010. However, despite this, page speed optimization hasn’t really ended up in the arsenal of many web designers and SEO’s and is often given a much lower priority. Although page speed is only one of hundreds of other ranking factors, and a relatively minor ranking factor at that, that doesn’t mean it’s worth skipping over. When it comes to SEO, every little bit adds up and page speed is no exception.

However, regardless of this, SEO shouldn’t be your only concern when it comes to optimizing your sites load times because…

User Experience And Page Speed

Not only do search engines like fast loading sites, your users like it too. And for all websites, regardless of your goals as a website owner, a better user experience is always a good thing.

For eCommerce sites, page speed is a massively important factor when it comes to increasing sales and decreasing cart abandonment.

One great example to show the tremendous impact page loads times can have is Walmart. When they decided to do something about their long load times, they found that for every 1 second of improvement they experienced a 2% increase in conversions. That’s a good improvement by any standard.

And Walmart isn’t the only example. Amazon.com increased their revenue by an average of 1% for every 100ms of improvement on their page load times. These examples show you the benifit of a fast site, but it can also show you the negative effects of a slow sight. Consider that Amazon can suffer a revenue loss of one and a half billion dollars from a page speed slowdown of a single second.

From eCommerce sales, to lead generation, to ad click-through rates – faster load times means better user experience and better use experience means more conversions.


How You Can Do It

So how do you actually improve your sites loading times?

Well, page speed optimization can be a fairly time consuming process and requires a certain degree of technical skill. For developers, web designers, web masters, or more technically inclined SEOs, this should be no trouble at all.

Tools & Tests

Below you’ll find links to a couple of the tools you can use to analyze and improve your site to measure your exact loading time, and to find any issues that might be slowing down your website.

First, you’ll want to find out exactly how fast or slow your website is and you can use a variety of free speed testing tools to do this. There are many different sites out there offering this service, but there’s a few things to keep in mind when picking the best one for you and your site.

If you’re not using a content delivery network (CDN), then it’s in your interest to use a speed test site that offers servers based in the same country as your target audience.
For example, if your website is hosted in Brisbane, and a user in London is viewing your website, then each individual request will have to make a long trip from London to Brisbane and then back to London again. This causes latency and leads to longer load times. For local businesses and location-specific niche sites this is especially important to keep in mind.

Google Page Speed Insights

Google themselves offer a really useful tool for analyzing your site which offers some actionable advice on increasing your sites speed. I suggest you start with this – especially if your interest in page speed optimization is SEO related – as this tool can provide you with loads of information to get your site loading quicker and keeping search engines like Google happy.

GTMetrix

Another tool to use is one of my personal favourites – GTMetrix. This site tests your sites load time and then offers improvements based off of both Google and Yahoo’s Page Speed preferences. This is definitely worth checking out.

CDN

A Content Delivery Network caches the static resources of your site and distributes them to servers across the world. Essentially, what this means is that the elements that make up your site are physically closer to your users. This lowers latency between your users and your sites server and increase website performance.

If you’re looking for a simple CDN that’s not too expensive and offers a lot of extra features, such as security and analytics, then you might want to take a look at Cloudflare. This is the CDN that I’ve used in the past with success, and the one I usually recommend for most small businesses. It also comes with a free version, which stands up on its own as a decent addition to your arsenal.

A CDN makes sense for many sites, but it’s certainly not a requirement for all sites. It’s up to you to decide whether a CDN works for your particular website.


So that about covers the basics of page speed optimization. If you think I missed anything, or if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me or leave a comment bellow.