Performance Marketing Blog

Expert ideas, unfiltered opinions & best practices in digital marketing

Improve Page Load Times & Boost Your Website Performance

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.

US Search Market - Desktop vs MobileJust 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

Pingdom has a great tool to test web page load times. Just feed it your website URL and it will load your web page from different corners of the world and rank you in comparison to other websites it has tested. This is a good benchmark to use since it is independent of your connection speeds. Anytime you can reduce the size of the images through compression, bundle JavaScript calls or group CSS files it will lead to improved website performance.

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.

Render-Blocking JavaScript
Most modern websites are built on JavaScript frameworks. When a webpage encounters a JavaScript reference it has to stop everything and process it, before it can render the HTML. This is very inefficient and costly, especially for Above The Fold (ATF) content. Consider options like in-line, asynchronous or deferred JavaScript, all of which speed up page rendering.

Browser Caching
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.

Optimize Images
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.

Minify JavaScript and CSS
Minification refers to the process of removing unnecessary or redundant information in the files without affecting how it’s processed by the browser – e.g. code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using short variable and function names, and so on. For minifying CSS, you can try YUI Compressor and cssmin.js. For minifying JavaScript, try the Closure Compiler, JSMin or the YUI Compressor.



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.

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