Do you find yourself leaving a website when the content doesn’t load immediately? Do you know if your own website loads quickly, or if your audience is left waiting while everything slowly pops up? Unimpressive website performance kills the mood and leaves visitors frustrated and looking for alternatives. In addition, because Google takes site speed into account when determining rankings, a slow website can affect your chances of showing up in search results.
Obviously, site speed is an important factor in your website’s success. But how do you improve it? Below (without too much technical jargon) we’re going to explain the sometimes-confusing world of website speed optimization.
What is Website Speed Optimization?
Before we do anything else, we need to define “page speed”. Page speed is, essentially, the amount of time it takes for a site’s content to fully download from the hosting servers. When people talk about page speed, what they’re often referring to is page load time – the period between someone clicking on the link and all the content displaying on their screen. Page load time, then, can be further broken down into “document complete” time or “fully rendered” time (where document complete time means that all of the elements of a page aren’t loaded yet, but you can still view it, and fully rendered time means that all fillable forms, photos, etc. are downloaded and usable).
If that’s not already confusing enough, Google hasn’t been entirely clear on what type of speed they’re tracking, so it is can difficult to determine if your site is functioning optimally. What we do know, however, is that no matter what specifics they’re looking at, page speed is important to user experience. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page, as well as poor conversion rates. In layman’s terms, this means that visitors are leaving your site almost immediately, they’re not looking beyond the first page, and they are definitely not signing up for anything.
In today’s constantly-connected world, these issues are especially important for mobile. According to Google the average time it takes for a mobile landing page to load is now 22 seconds, but 53% of visits on mobile are abandoned if the mobile site takes longer than 3 seconds to load. This is a huge problem!
Tools to Test Your Page Speed
There are a few ways in which you can test your overall site speed. Two of our favorites are Google PageSpeed and GTMetrix. Both are great tools for diagnosing speed issues and helping to fix them, so choosing one is really just a matter of personal preference. Below are some features of each:
- Use Insights to get a page “score”.
- Insights uses a points-based system to score how well your site adheres to a set of web performance best practices.
- PageSpeed Insights does not measure the actual time it takes a page to load – your score is based on an estimate.
- Provides suggestions to make your website faster through their own online tools.
- GTMetrix uses a combination of Google PageSpeed and Yahoo! YSlow to analyze your site speed.
- You will be provided with site scores from both PageSpeed and YSlow, however, the two should be very similar.
- The PageSpeed versions in GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights share the same base code but have different recommendations and algorithms. Therefore, even though GTMetrix uses a version of PageSpeed, you will likely receive a different score than the one you would get from Google directly.
- Post-analysis recommendations will be provided.
How to Improve Site Speed for Your WordPress Website
Improving your site speed can be a daunting task. For those not well-versed in the technical jargon of web-developers, instructional websites and tutorials can be hard to follow. It takes a lot of effort, and there is certainly no one-click solution.
Some fast fixes you can make on your own are:
- Reduce redirects. A redirect is when the user is automatically directed to a new URL, usually because the old one is broken or no longer in use. When you use too many of them (especially 302 redirects), they can reduce your load speed and affect your SEO.
- Optimize images for SEO (ShortPixel is a great resource for testing and optimizing your website images – it takes the worry out of optimizing your images in WordPress too! Just install the plugin, and let it work its magic.)
- Remove any unused code, and, in addition, optimize code by removing any unnecessary characters.
- Install a plugin such as WP Fastest Cache. The pro version can help you gain that much sought after “green light” from Google PageSpeed Insights by minimizing and optimizing code for you.
We know that poor site performance results in poor user experience. According to Kinsta, “Lightning-fast page load speed amplifies visitor engagement, retention, and boosts sales. Instantaneous website response leads to higher conversion rates, and every 1 second delay in page load decreases customer satisfaction by 16 percent, page views by 11 percent and conversion rates by 7 percent.”
By using the tips in the article, you can improve your WordPress site performance. Creating a great user experience is a simple way to increase both brand reputation and conversions!