Page Speed - What, Why and How to Improve

May 20, 2020
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Page Speed is one of the most crucial parameters you cannot ignore. No matter, your purpose is to create a better user experience for your visitors or you want to boost your SEO rankings. The team of developers must focus on it in either case.

The scope of this article is the efforts you can make to improve the page speed, and how you can track the success of your efforts. We will also discuss how to test page speed and how to increase the score to the maximum.</b>

##What is Page Speed? Here is the most simple definition. “How fast the content on any website page loads.” We can describe it in one of two ways.

###Page Load Time How long a single page on your website takes to fully display the content.

###Time to First Byte How long it takes a browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server.

While users care more about page speed, search engines take both factors into account.

##How to Improve Page Speed This improvement is not something simple. You need a sound knowledge of many know-how and many steps of them. But several tools are available in the market to simplify the process for non-technical users and boost the speed with no hardship.

###GZip One example is Gzip.

A professional file compression software. GZip can reduce the size of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. It is efficient enough to tackle the files larger than 150 bytes. Size reduction of up to 90% is possible. When files are smaller, data usage is less which leads to higher page speed.

###What is the link between Code Minimization and File Reduction? Code-minimization and file reduction are similar phenomena. Both have the same effects and goals. Try to use Google recommended tools like CSSNano and UglifyJS to minify JavaScript, CSS, and HTML coding. The effects are like file compression.

Fewer data needed to run the page, results in faster load times. These excellent tools even remove unwanted data such as formatting, unused codes and code comments.

###Browser Caching Implement browser caching if you want repeat visitors. This should be your goal. Browsers save website data such as images and Javascript files. Hence, when on the second visit, the client’s browser does not have to reload the entire image. This also results in faster load time. It pulls the required data from the cache. To check the current expiration date of your cache, and set it to a longer period, use the ‘YSlow’ tool. A year is a reasonable time.

###Redirects Reducing redirects is another technique to increase page speed. Your visitors have to wait for an additional one to three seconds for every single redirect. Inspect your redirect pattern thoroughly, eliminate the unnecessary ones, and reduce the wait time to have more and more organic traffic on your website.

###Optimization of Content You can optimize content to achieve the optimal loading times. You can use content distribution networks, for instance, to share the responsibility of delivering your content with other servers.

Users this way, have quicker and more reliable access to your content, no matter where on the earth they live. Also, optimize your images. Ensure that they are in the format that does not require any compression for the web.

##How Important is Page Speed? Faster pages are efficient, that is why page speed matters for users. The average attention span today is not over eight seconds. But the Kissmetrics study suggests that the attention span is even shorter for the web.

More than one-quarter of users will quit if a page takes more than three seconds to load.

 Page speed has a direct impact on conversions. Walmart noticed a 2% rise in conversions for every one-second decline in page speed. 

Search engines also love fast loading websites. Google declared it as an important ranking factor, back in 2010.

##How to Check Page Speed in Google Analytics Google is there to offer a helping hand when you need to check how easily users can interact with your content. Also, it lets you identify areas where there is room left for improvement, and assist you in keeping track of these improvements. Here is what you have to do.

● First, sign in to your Google Analytics account. ● Navigate to your view. ● Hit ‘Reports’. ● Navigate to Behavior > Site Speed.

Then you will have the option of three reports. User Timing report, Page Timings report, and Speed Suggestions report. Open the Page Timings report.

That will show the detailed breakdown of each page’s performance from a speed’s perspective. Also, it tells about data such as pageviews and bounce rates, network and server metrics, timing buckets for different metrics and network and server metrics.

##How to Increase Page Speed Score Google fetches your URL twice to calculate the score of your website. Once with a mobile device, and once with a computer. Then it measures two parameters. One is time to above-the-fold load, and the second is time to full page load.

The former is a bit more important than later as it is the first content your users come across. Full-page load does not have to be much slower as compared to above-the-fold load.

When Google finishes testing your URL on both types of devices and assessing both parameters, it goes one step ahead. It scores the page speed of the website which ranges from 0 to 100.

The best score is 85 or above. Any score below means room for improvement is yet to fill. You must work more to fill the loophole.

 Although, if 100 is possible, why not strive for it? The probability of growth is always there. Either you are the failure with 50 score, or the champion with 95 score. There is always something you can do to get the best rating. There is always something that can be improved.

So check your reports to figure out what it is? What are you doing wrong, or not doing at all? Google has your back. It spots all the parts where gaps exist. For that, Google either uses a yellow exclamation point or a glaring red one.

Try your best to fix the issue, if it is yellow. If it is red, fixing the issue would jump your score. Hereafter, recall the section, ‘How To Improve Page Speed’.

##How to Optimize Images These are the images that often account for most of the data on any page of the world wide web. Hence, it makes perfect sense to optimize them. That would decrease the number of bytes to download and increase the page loading speed.

But this is nothing like reducing the image size in Photoshop. You need to analyze some factors.

● Type of data you plan to encode ● Quality settings ● Image format capabilities ● Resolution

You also have to think about which devices are users going to use for viewing your web page. The best is the assumption that both mobile and desktop devices will be in the use of a target audience.

Start compressing when you complete this research. It is better to go directly to the source since the process is lengthy. To get step-by-step instructions, visit Google’s Pagespeed Insights page.

It perfectly optimizes GIF, JPEG, and PNG. These are the file types that consume 96% of the internet’s image traffic. It is possible to directly download the optimized images from PageSpeed Insights. Another way is to use a third-party tool, for example, ImageMagick. Although Google’s warning maintains that using a third-party tool, will make the images larger after transformation.

##How to Test Page Load Speed Dozens of free tools are out there, where you can enter a page’s URL and run a speed test. There is a high probability of you running them wrong, though most of them are effective.

Running an inaccurate speed test is one of the biggest blunders you can make. It thwarts the accurate implementations needed for progress. Something much worse can also happen. You may end up wasting your time in improving the areas that are strong and ignoring the vulnerable ones. Hard work in the wrong direction yields no result.

So, how to do a proper speed test. Here is the two-step process, you must follow.

###Check CDN and Caching Ensure the proper working of these two things. You must have your Content Delivery Network. Caching should be properly configured and running on your website.

If you do not have sufficient technical knowledge, contact your hosting provider or web developer. Ask them to check if these things are perfect, and set them up if they are not.

###Run Your Speed Test Properly Properly run the test multiple times using different locations. Experts recommend conducting the test twice. One time with a location near to the data center, and one time with a location far away. Only that will demonstrate the impact of your Content Delivery Network on page performance.

 Are you unable to get to a distant location? Well, then temporarily disable your CDN and re-test your website from the same location.

To see the most accurate picture possible, run the test several times. Inaccurate reading may take place if your browser or host has not yet cached your content. Consequently, your website will appear slower than it is.

##Importance of Page Speed for SEO Let us see how important is Page Speed from an SEO Perspective.

###Site Speed Update 2018 Google released the SiteSpeed update in 2018. Back then they maintained that it will affect only slow websites. The reality, however, is the opposite. Site Speed played a significant role in SEO for every kind of website, not just the slow ones.

Keep all factors in mind, like crawling, bounce rates, conversion rates, and overall user engagement and you will have the same conclusion.

###Why does Google dislike Slow Websites? Let’s speak technically. Google allocates its crawling budget to testing and ranking of websites. Googlebots can not move through your website quickly, in case it is slow.

Next time, Google will be reluctant to send them back in. Rather it will redirect its budget to crawling the websites which are faster to get things done more quickly.

###How Low Speed Messes Up Everything Speed is the factor that individually influences all other SEO factors, such as Bounce rates, conversion rates, and user experience. The bounce rate goes higher when your website fails to load in three seconds, and the quarter of visitors simply leave. The bounce rate is a crucial SEO factor. When a quarter of users leave, the conversions also decline drastically.

Rankings heavily depend on conversions. Google is watching when visitors of your website complete the sales cycle and become customers. Then it considers moving you up in search engine result pages to facilitate its audience.

This holds true, no matter what is the end of the sales cycle. It could end at purchase, a contact, or an email newsletter subscription.

What do visitors do when they do not complete the sales cycle? They move to a competitor’s website to have the products, services, or information they want. Every time your competitor gets your customer, they move up in search engine result pages and leave you behind.

In the end, Google’s ultimate goal is to guarantee an impressive browsing experience for all users. The goal can not materialize if pages take time to load and leave users frustrated. How does Google tackle this frustration? By penalizing the culprit websites and reducing their rankings.

The more interesting question would be how Google gets to know about this frustration? Bounce rates and conversion rates reveal this story.

##Putting it all Together We hope that now the importance of Page Speed is crystal clear to you. Of course, it affects SEO and you should be doing something about it. It should be your concern as it helps you stand out in search engine result pages and provide the audience with the best user experience.

Adopt all good page speed practices and try speed tests, then. Work hard in weak areas. Good Luck!

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