Site speed impatience is real — and it’s a real nightmare for small business owners.
Just imagine: You’ve spent time, money, and energy creating a great-looking website, only to discover that your potential customers click elsewhere because your site took too long to load. When the page load speed lags, most people won’t wait around.
Google research found that the probability of a bounce — a term that describes when people click on a single page only to immediately leave your website — is one-third more likely when load time increases from one to three seconds.
Those measly two seconds make all the difference when it comes to attracting and retaining new customers. It might seem unfair that people can’t wait around for your awesome website to load, but it’s the reality of our fast-paced world. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there’s something you can do about it.
You don’t have to be a tech genius to understand site speed and implement ways to get your website to load faster. In this guide, we’ll break down:
- What exactly page load speed is
- Methods for testing your site speed
- 9 tips for getting your website to load faster
Feel free to skip ahead to the tips right away if you already know your site is too slow. And here’s a spoiler: refining your business’s website is all about SEO, or search engine optimization. The more you can integrate SEO principles, the more likely it is that visitors to your site will enjoy their online experience — and turn from visitors to loyal customers.
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Page load speed basics
You’ve likely experienced a frustrating situation when you’ve clicked on a site only to find that pictures, videos, certain fonts, GIFs, links, and other elements show as white boxes at first. Maybe you patiently wait as the visuals start to appear, or maybe you roll your eyes and click back to the search page for a better site.
This is why your site’s loading speed is so important. You don’t want to give anybody a reason to go somewhere else, especially after accomplishing the hard part of getting them to find your website in the first place.
Page speed, also known as page load time, is simply how long it takes for one webpage to fully display all its visual contents. Site speed, then, is the page speed for a sample of page views — basically the average of page speed on your website.
This metric is at the heart of what’s known as UX, or user experience. Even though there’s little logic in it, potential customers may presume that if they don’t have an exceptional experience on your website then they may also not have a great experience with your products or services.
If your sales model includes ecommerce, which is a growing trend within even the most traditional industries, page load speed can literally make or break your business.
How to test your site’s load time
If you visit your site frequently, your computer has a lot of the information already ready to go. This means you won’t know how slowly it loads for everyone else. And if you don’t check it on your mobile device, you’ll be even more in the dark.
Mobile marketing is an umbrella term for an outreach focus geared toward connecting with people through their smartphone or mobile device. While this certainly refers to using email lists and social media platforms, it also refers to websites.
Statista reports that in the first quarter of 2021, mobile devices generated the highest percentage — nearly 55% — of worldwide web traffic ever. This means it’s a must that you check your site speed using both a mobile device and a traditional laptop or desktop computer.
Luckily, this testing process is really easy. Just log on to Google’s Page Speed Insights and type in the URL for each page on your website. The page will receive a color-coded ranking, provide lab data explaining what’s causing any slowdowns, and then provide a list of opportunities you have to improve.
9 tips to improve site speed
As the spoiler at the beginning of this guide explained, most of the work that is done to optimize your site for better rankings on search engines can also improve your page load times. But there are many other backend tricks you can do to make everything load faster. Here are nine tips for the fastest site speeds.
1. Check your server
Often, the bottlenecks aren’t anything you’ve done or haven’t done. Instead, the problems are with your web hosting company itself. Host servers can be slow, making your page load speed slow. Look for a web hosting service that has an uptime of 99.5% or better.
What’s more, if your server is located on the other side of the world from the majority of your customers, it will naturally take a little longer for your site to load. Look for local servers whenever possible.
2. Optimize your images
Photos that are way too large are the biggest culprit of lag times, so make sure they are compressed for the web. While you don’t want to have pixelated images, websites require a much smaller file size than print.
Make sure any graphics requiring transparency are PNG files but stick with JPG for photos. If you have images like buttons and icons that are used throughout your site, consider creating a CSS template. This combines the images so they all load at the same time.
If you have a video on your website, consider embedding a third-party video hosting platform like Vimeo. This reduces the bandwidth required from your web host’s server.
3. Go easy on plugins
Especially for ecommerce sites, plugins play a big role in increasing the functionality of a website. The problem is, too many can slow things way down. Make sure you only integrate the plugins you truly need.
For example, it makes sense to add a Constant Contact integration to your site to create targeted emails, automate cart abandonment emails, and monitor site analytics.
4. Create a cache
Of the backend solutions for improving site speed, none are better than creating a server-side caching system. A cache is a static display of a page, which can be extremely useful for pages that don’t change regularly.
A popular option for WordPress sites is called W3 Total Cache, which uses content delivery network integration to reduce page load times.
If you haven’t set up your website yet — or are overdue for a major overhaul — try a website builder tool that’s as fast to create as it is to load.
6. Get rid of the ads
If you’re making a little extra cash by allowing advertisements on your site, it’s going to be slower. Ads are directly connected to HTTP requests, and the milliseconds they take to load add up. Ditch the pop-ups and auto-downloads to dramatically improve your site speed.
7. Just say no to Flash
We get it: you want to get the attention of your potential customers, and all the animation and interactive content created by Flash may seem like a solution. However, Flash is notorious for security issues, malware, and bugs.
And if that isn’t bad enough, many smartphones and computers won’t load Flash elements at all. Don’t demand your potential customers install the latest Flash player. Why? Because it’s more likely they’ll just go someplace else.
8. Try compressing
That means, instead of the user asking for many separate requests for loading, it happens all at once and as an overall smaller amount of data. To see if compression is set up on your site, test it online for free.
9. Double-check the connection
If everything’s looking good on your backend but you’re receiving feedback that your website is still taking forever to load, it could simply be a network connection issue. Sometimes content loads slowly because the visitor is too far away from their wireless router. While there’s nothing on your end that can be done, at least you can offer a potential solution to your customers.
Don’t be complacent
Even after you’ve optimized your site so it runs smoothly, you’ll want to check it regularly to make sure the site speed remains fast. Write a note into your comprehensive marketing plan, which should include regular site improvements.
For more about what else should be on your marketing radar, check out Constant Contact’s The Download. This free guide provides the basics for digital marketing to take your business to the next level.