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How To Optimise Website Speed For SEO

When it comes to a high-performing website, there’s a real need for speed. You're pouring conversions and revenue down the drain if you have long page load times. We’ve collated the best tried-and-tested tips to speed up your site, boost your search ranking and improve your user experience. Dive in below !

When it comes to a high-performing website, there’s a real need for speed. 

The reason is simple: the slower your site, the more potential customers you’re turning away. 

In fact, if it takes more than 3 seconds for a page to load, over half of visitors will leave it.

Think about that for a moment.  

The time it takes your pages to load has a DIRECT impact on user experience.

For every second of frustration your page load times cause visitors, you’re pouring conversions and revenue down the drain. 

A loading time longer than 4 seconds and you’re saying goodbye to 90% of your audience. 

That’s why page speed is one of the key ranking factors for search engines. 

Search engines are all about providing the best user experience possible. So, as any good SEO agency will attest, you can actually damage your page rankings with a slow site. 

Case in point, Google announced last year that speed will have a more prominent effect on mobile search rankings. 

So if you want your site to appear in the search engine results pages, make them lightning fast.

And there’s more.  

If you’re investing in online advertising, think of all the ad budget you’re wasting by sending people to your website for only a handful to stick around. All because your web pages take too long to load. 

We could go on and on with more statistics to prove the importance of site speed. But let’s skip to the stuff you really want to know. 

How to do speed optimisation.

We’ve collated the best tried-and-tested tips to speed up your site, boost your search ranking and improve your user experience. 

 

1. Audit your website speed 

Begin by auditing your site speed. Website speed testing gives you a benchmark to start from. 

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a quick and easy tool to find out your current page speed.

Simply enter the URL of your site. Google awards every page with a speed score between zero and 100.

For instance, we tested the Sydney Morning Herald home page and it scored 20. 

SMH webstie audit

They’ve got some work to do!

But that’s why we love Google’s PageSpeed Insights. The test tool doesn’t just score your page; it also provides a report which identifies quick ways to speed up on desktop and mobile. It is performance monitoring at its best! 

The report even tells you how many seconds you could gain with each opportunity. 

Here’s what it suggested for the Sydney Morning Herald:

SMH Website Google Suggestion

 

2.Reduce and compress image sizes

If you focus on only one thing to sort out your site speed, make it your images. 

Images are the biggest culprit behind slow sites. They can actually account for up to 75% of your page’s weight. 

There’s one thing you need to do straight off the bat: 

Compress existing images 

One way to shrink an image size is by compressing it. 

There are lots of compression tools out there that make this easy, like Compressor.io:

Simply drag and drop, or upload, your image to reduce the size by as much as 90%!

compressor home

For Wordpress and Magento websites, Kraken is a plugin that automatically optimises all new image uploads.

Kraken

Another great compressor tool is Jpegmini.com

You can even add this tool to your web app to optimise images before they upload. 

That takes care of your second task, which is to reduce the size of any new images you upload to your site. 

Pro Tip: When uploading images, make sure the image dimensions are never greater than the container size. In other words, if the container has a maximum width of 400 pixels, don’t upload an image that’s 800 pixels wide. 

If you really want to offer a high res image for people to share and download, you can hyperlink the smaller image to a higher resolution version. 

That way, you’re giving people what they want without weighing down your page. 

Some platforms, like HubSpot, feature automatic image resizing and compression. 

 

3. Eliminate unnecessary images

The easiest way to slim down your page weight and speed up load times is to get rid of any unnecessary images. 

Go through your site, do an image audit and get rid of what you don’t need. 

 

4. Trim down your custom fonts

Everyone loves custom fonts. They add lots of personality to your website and help you stand out. 

But at what cost?

Custom fonts can carry add weight to your pages, which slows down website performance. 

How?

Because if the user doesn’t have the custom font installed on their operating system, they have to download the font files. 

Take Twitter: 

It uses Gotham in three different weights: light, book and medium. They weigh in at 154KB. 

Twitter Font

That’s 154KB on top of everything else on the site.

Take a good look at the number of custom fonts on your site and see which ones you can afford to lose. 

 

5. Minify HTML, CSS and JavaScript files

We know what you’re thinking:

What exactly is minifying? 

Over to the Google Developers:

"Minification refers to the process of removing unnecessary or redundant data without affecting how the resource is processed by the browser -- e.g. code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and so on.”

Your HTML, CSS and JavaScript files are extremely important, as they determine your site’s appearance.

But they also add to the requests your site makes every time a user visits.

That’s where minification comes in. 

Minifying and combining your files helps you reduce this number of requests by both reducing the size of each file and the total number of files.

The result? 

You shave valuable time off your site’s page load speed.

We recommend you hand this one over to your web developer. But if you’re keen to have a go at minifying, there are some tools you can use:

  • Closure Compiler, from Google Developers, enables you to minify your Javascript, as well as other helpful website speed optimisations. You can choose how you want the code to be optimised, such as optimising only for whitespace. It also checks your code for errors. 

  • Cssminifier.com and csscompressor.net are easy to use CSS minifiers. You just paste in your code and click the Minify or Compress button. You can also download the minified output as a css file.

CSS minifier

Another thing you can do is enable GZIP compression. 

GZIP finds similar code and strings, and temporarily replaces them with shorter characters. The browser then decompresses gzipped files to bring them back to their original form. GZIP is especially effective on WordPress. 

A word of caution: GZIP won’t work on images because they have already been compressed. 

Not sure if your site’s GZIP is enabled?

Go to a free tool and check. 

Here’s what you want to see:

GZIP

 

6. Use asynchronous loading for Javascript and CSS 

Now you’ve minified and combined your files, go a step further and optimise the way they load on your pages.

CSS and JavaScript can be loaded in two ways: 

Synchronously or Asynchronously

Synchronously means your scripts load one at a time in the order they appear, starting with the <head> tag.

Asynchronously means that some of the scripts will load simultaneously, which means faster page load times. 

For WordPress sites, you can use a plugin, such as WP Rocket, and check the box next to Render-blocking CSS/JS:

Render Blocking CSS

Source: Crazyegg

For other platforms, ask a trusted web developer for help. 

 

7. Invest in a CDN

Do you have a Content Delivery Network?

A content delivery network refers to “a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content,” according to Cloudfare.  

So, if all your website’s assets, such as HTML pages, files, images and videos, are stored on servers in Sydney, that’s great for Sydneysiders or Australians in general who want to access your site. 

But visitors in London have to deal with slower load times because your server is all the way across the world. 

A CDN makes this faster by copying and storing your site elements in strategic locations around the world. 

It then caches the site's contents and redirects the user's request from the initial site's server to their closest CDN. From there, it delivers the cached content. 

The good news is major platforms, such as BigCommerce, Shopify and HubSpot, are already equipped with CDNs. 

 

8. Reduce redirects 

Every redirect adds precious seconds to your page speed.
For instance:

website.com → www.website.com → https//www.website.com 

The most common redirects are 301 (permanent) and 302 (temporary). Both are server-side redirects that use HTTP to explain that a page or file has moved, which also increases the server response time. 

So, the web server is using HTTP to redirect the browser to the new file or page location. 

Google recommends:

  • Eliminating redirects unless they are absolutely necessary.

  • Avoiding redirects in resources that are required for your Critical Rendering Path.

  • Re-designing your site to use Responsive Design, rather than using redirects to divert mobile users to the mobile version of your page.

 

9. Cull your apps

Are you running heaps of apps or plugins on your site? If so, these could be holding back your site performance. 

When it comes to apps and plugins, less is more. 

Some apps you will definitely need. But there could be a few that you installed and forgot about. You might even find your site uses 10 different plugins for social media integration!

Do an app audit and de-install anything you’re no longer using. 

But be careful not to lose apps and plugins that are actually enhancing your site performance and user experience. 

 

10. Use browser caching

Whenever someone visits your website, it downloads assets, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript files, images and stylesheets, into their browser’s local cache. 

That way it doesn’t have to retrieve all the assets with every page load, which speeds up the load times.  

One way to improve browser caching is with Expires Headers.

The idea behind Expires Headers is to reduce the number of HTTP requests for the server. They tell the browser whether it should request a specific file from the server or grab it from the browser's cache. 

Use a tool like Yslow to see if you have an expiration date set for your cache. Then set your Expires Headers for however long you want the information to be cached. 

Aim for a year, unless your site design changes regularly.  

Google Developers provide more tips on browser caching over here

 

OVER TO YOU

Ignoring your page speed is one of the biggest SEO mistakes you can make.

Fast page speed is a key ranking factor for Google. 

But there’s another MAJOR reason you should pay attention to speed: 

People really hate slow sites. 

The slower your site, the less likely visitors will stick around long enough to progress to the next stage of your marketing funnel

That means a higher bounce rate, low user engagement, less time on site and less repeat traffic, and ultimately, lower conversion rates. 

If that’s not bad enough, your site will drop down the rankings. 

The solution is simple: use these proven tips to speed up your site as part of your SEO strategy. 

We’ve talked a lot about user experience in this article, and that’s because it’s absolutely imperative to the online success and growth of your business. 

It’s so important that we’ve created a free guide to help you nail your UX and create a big impact.

Download your FREE Digital Marketing Game Plan ebook now!

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