3 Ways to Improve Website Load Time
There are plenty of tasks that take about four seconds to do: tying a shoe, taking food out of the microwave, checking a phone for text messages, etc. And, while four seconds for these tasks doesn’t seem very long at all, four seconds can seem eternal when you’re waiting for a website to load.
So much so, that 53% of mobile users abandon websites that take longer than three seconds to load.
Its been proven time and time again, most recently in a study by Shopify. According to the study, improving website load times (particularly in the eCommerce industry) can lead to double the conversions. The study also found that:
- A one-second load time improvement will generate $7K in additional revenue for websites that make about $100K daily.
- A one-second load time delay can lead to 11% fewer page views.
- A one-second load time delay can also lead to 7% fewer conversions.
Terrifying, right? Your sales can suffer strictly on the basis of your website’s load time, so it’s essential to get it within that three-second threshold. This is especially important because it can negatively impact your website’s ranking. Even Google recommends keeping load time below two seconds. Ambitious? Maybe. Possible? Absolutely.
Here are some ways you can make that work.
Decrease the number of redirects
Redirects may be necessary, especially if you’re trying to point users away from a page that no longer exists to an updated or similar version. However, some website owners can get a little redirect-happy.
Excessive redirects and long redirect chains significantly slow down page load time. There are three general rules of thumb when it comes to redirects:
- Try to use primarily 301 redirects.
- Avoid having more than three directs in a chain.
- Don’t link to a page that already has a redirect on it.
Simple as that. You can run a crawl using a tool like Screaming Frog to inventory the redirects on your website and conduct a cleanup. However, you would first need to know what to look for. Redirects are always listed with a 300 code, and should typically be applied in three scenarios:
- When redirecting users from a page/product that no longer exists to a new or similar version.
- When you’ve removed a landing page and want to redirect that traffic to your homepage instead.
- When you’re re-branding/re-naming your website or moving it to a new domain.
Reduce image sizes
Images make up a large portion of a website’s entire weight, particularly on eCommerce sites where products need to be showcased. Having images in itself isn’t harming your website load time, but having incorrectly sized images certainly does.
Most website owners have a tendency to upload images as they are, without bothering to pay attention to size recommendations. Images make up nearly two-thirds of web content and account for 50-75% of an eCommerce website’s total size. These ratios are too large to ignore.
If you’re wondering how to determine whether images are what’s causing your problem, Google’s PageSpeed Insights does a good job of breaking it down. If images are proven to be the problem, there are three factors to assess: resolution, display size, and file format.
Make sure to compress images and follow the image size recommendations your website host provides. Furthermore, aim to use JPGs instead of PNGs, as they are smaller in size.
CSS loads before the rest of the page, so making sure it’s optimized is essential. There are three ways to do this:
- Remove duplicate snippets of CSS code. You can paste your code into tools like UnusedCSS to locate these duplicate portions.
- Remove white space in your CSS code as it takes up unnecessary bytes.
- Minify/compress your CSS using a free tool like CSS Minifier.
Lower priority considerations
Although the aforementioned factors are the primary fixes for better page load times, there are a few other lower-level changes you can make. The first involves limiting the stylistic elements on your websites, such as pop-ups, slideshows, or parallaxes.
Also, websites with a global reach will want to consider using a content delivery network (CDN). CDNs cache website content on servers around the world so as to optimize local load times.
Lastly, mobile responsiveness is key. With the majority of online purchases taking place on mobile, making sure your website is mobile-friendly will give a major boost to your conversion rate. Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test can help you assess your website’s viability in this regard.
Google penalizes websites with slow load times, so addressing this issue is equally important to SEO as it is to the user experience. And, as we all know, a fine balance between SEO value and usability is what makes websites successful.