Almost 5 years ago Google announced that it will take into consideration page load times in their search engine ranking. This is not the sole factor affecting ranking and clearly not something that would’ve mattered (much) at the time. However, the last 5 years has seen an exponential growth in mobile usage smartphones and tablets. Sundar Pichai just announced that Android now has 1.4 billion active users in the world. A number that seemed impossible to fathom 5 years ago.
Just this year, Mobile searches exceeded Desktop searches for the US Search Market. There are several factors that contribute to a better mobile experience e.g. location, connection speeds, carriers, screen sizes, page size, content layout, etc. Not all of these are under your control. E.g. You don’t get to choose your users’ connectivity speed or which device they’ll use to accesses your content. What you can control is your website content – size, markup and layout. And, that is something you can optimize for performance, even over low-bandwidth connections, different devices and different form factors.
“When we slow our own users down, we see less engagement. Users love fast sites. A faster web is a good thing all around.”
– Amit Singhal, Google
Tools to Test Page Load Time
Resources to Optimizing Website Performance & Page Speeds
Google has a great tool called PageSpeed Insights to help analyze web pages. It loads your web page using desktop and mobile user-agents, analyzes the content and gives you a score between 0 and 100. A higher score is better but anything above 85 indicates that your web page is performing well.
Improve Server Response
This is the time it takes to load the necessary HTML to begin rendering the page from your server. According to Google, you should keep this time to less 200ms. Slow application logic, poorly optimized or non-optimized database queries, slow DNS routing, 3rd-party libraries, lack of memory and/or CPU resources are all factors that contribute to slow response times.
Caching essentially tells a web browser (aka the Client) when to use a previously fetched response instead of fetching the page from the Server. Seek an expert to set an optimal caching policy for the type of content that your website serves. Google recommends a minimum cache time of one week and up to one year for some static assets or assets that change infrequently.
Images that can be compressed and optimized for delivery without impacting their visual quality and/or perception should be considered as a way to speed up page load times. A tool like RIOT (Radical Image Optimization Tool) can help.
Built on WordPress?
WordPress plugins like WP Fastest Cache and WP Super Cache both improve your page load speed by reducing your page size using the above-mentioned techniques They are simple to install and configure even for the most non-techie users.