As a consumer yourself, you’ve visited plenty of websites over the years. You complete a search, click on a suitable link, and wait…and wait…and wait for the page to load. How long do you wait before backing out of your search results and selecting another website to visit?
There was an oft-cited 2009 study conducted by Akamai. They found 47% of web surfers expect a page to load in two seconds or less. 40% will abandon a page if it takes more than three seconds to load.
This is an alarming discovery if your pages typically take 5, 10, or more seconds to load. Even worse, this study is quite old. At this point, the temperament of online visitors could be even more finicky and demanding.
Lagging load times lose you potential customers that likely won’t return for another try. Yet, even your loyal customers could lose confidence. They may defect to competitor sites if they frequently encounter this type of lag.
This can cost you conversions, sales, and even your reputation. There are so many advances in computing, mobile, and online technologies. Thus, consumer expectations have risen. You have to keep up or risk losing business.
In other words, you need to assess your loading times. Then, find ways to decrease them so that they fall into acceptable limits for site visitors.
Here are just a few ways to speed website loading times, as well as why it is so important.
Why Speed Matters
Naturally, you want to impress visitors. Making them wait for access to content or product pages is not the way to create a positive interaction. However, there’s another reason why loading speed is so important.
It turns out this is one of many factors used to calculate page rank. That is the case, even if it isn’t as important as, say, quality content or relevant backlinks. In truth, it is about to become more important.
Google has recently announced the “mobile first” index. It’s related to user mobile experience. According to them, both desktop and mobile load times will matter. Additionally, people expect mobile pages to load immediately.
Honestly, your website should already feature responsive design, optimizing the experience for mobile users. If you have yet to upgrade, now is the time.
That is because Google has hinted that mobile indexing will supersede web indexing in the near future for determining rankings. They’re all-in on mobile, and you should be, too.
Start with Analysis
In order to effectively speed load times, you have to know how fast pages are currently loading. Additionally, you should understand whether it’s feasible to reduce that time.
There are several simple tools available for free online to test your pages. This includes Google’s PageSpeed. It can offer insight and analysis into why your pages might be slow to load.
Check Your Plug-Ins and Add-Ons
Plug-ins and add-ons can enhance your website in a number of ways. However, it’s all for naught if they significantly slow your load times. That, in turn, can cost you potential traffic and sales in the process. Over time, you might not realize how many plug-ins you’ve added or the damage they’re doing.
You should assess your site and see which items are contributing to load times. Let’s say it turns out a significant amount of long load times are attributed to plug-ins and add-ons. Thus, it’s time to pare down unneeded extras or find alternatives that don’t slow you down.
You should also try to limit the number of social media buttons featured on your pages. First of all, most businesses can’t reasonably manage dozens of social media profiles effectively. They may also be impacting load times.
If so, they’re really doing more harm than good. Keep the biggies you use the most (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Ditch the rest. Update a couple of rotating buttons periodically to take advantage of whichever platforms are trending.
This is a free, open source plug-in for WordPress and others. It provides a quick and easy way to trim down the bulk and minimize load times. It works by caching data at the server level every time a web page is updated. This means that visitors get the latest iterations of pages every time. Plus, your site’s content will load much faster.
LiteSpeed is easy to use thanks to default settings optimized for use with WordPress. It also offers options for customization, such as if your pages for mobile differ from desktop. Plus, it is scalable and features multi-site support.
WP Fastest Cache (for WordPress) is another option to consider. You might want to use it in concert with LiteSpeed. The premium version works for desktop and mobile. This plug-in provides the option to optimize images, as well.
Use Content Delivery Network (CDN)
You are probably interested in a global market. Thus, you need to understand something important. Your website will naturally load faster for domestic users than it will for international ones.
This is mainly because the files that make up your website are stored on domestic servers. The connection a user is routed through to access information from other countries can significantly hold up the process.
Using a CDN, or Content Delivery Network, alleviates this issue. It does this by distributing your files across a slew of international servers. That makes closer connections for international users, along with quicker loading speeds.
Assess Your Web Host
There is no shortage of minor tweaks you can make to your website, in addition to the tips listed above. These will minimize load times. However, at some point, you may hit a brick wall. Perhaps you’ve tried everything you can think of and your load times are still atrocious. Thus, it’s time to take a long, hard look at your web host.
Start by running DNS speed tests to find out how server response times are. You should also use monitoring software to keep tabs on site downtime. Some downtime is inevitable for regular maintenance. However, your host should always schedule it and inform you. If you determine that your web host is to blame for lag, it’s time to migrate to another host.
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