Page load time: We’ve talked about it before as its importance has grown. Now, however, that importance is greater than ever. In 2014, Internet users expect pages to load lightning-fast. They can access any publicly available website in the world from their computers, smartphones, or tablets, and if a page takes any extra time to load, they’ll want to move on immediately.
That’s a huge problem when someone is trying to view your website to check out the products and services you provide. If pages don’t load quickly, if images and videos don’t load and play right away, they’re not going to wait for you. They’re going straight to your competition’s site.
This isn’t simply a matter of impatience. Having a site that loads quickly communicates to the visitor that you’re a professional organization. You have your stuff together. The responsiveness of your site mirrors the responsiveness of your customer service. When it loads quickly, it tells visitors their time is important to you.
Of course, with anything related to website design, you need to perform for two different audiences: the human visitors and the software “spiders” that crawl your site to determine its importance in search engine results. The latter is the search engine optimization (SEO) component.
Google, in particular, factors page load times heavily into how well your site organically ranks in comparison to your local competitors. (It’s true of search engines such as Yahoo and Bing as well.)
Thus increasing your site’s responsiveness kills two birds with one stone: It makes your prospective customers happy, and it makes Google happy. That’s a really great way to make yourself happy.
With all that in mind, let’s talk about some of the key ways to increase page load time and win the battle against your local competition in customer engagement and search engine rankings.
What you’re shooting for
According to data from Google and leading SEO experts:
- A 500-millisecond delay in page load causes a 20 percent drop in traffic
- A one-second delay in page load causes a 7 percent drop in conversions, and 11 percent drop in page viewed, and a 16 percent drop in customer satisfaction
- 47 percent of Internet users expect a Web page to load in less than two seconds
- 14 percent of visitors will immediately look for another site if a page loads too slowly
- Those numbers will just continue to grow as tech-savvy Internet users — and we’re all becomingly increasingly tech-savvy in this digital age — expect immediate delivery for everything they search for online.
It means the website that are most responsive will quickly rocket to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) and prompt visitors to stay — and convert into customers.
Some page load basics
This is where we get into some technical issues. If you’re website-savvy enough to serve as your own webmaster, or if you have someone in-house handling it for you, these techniques already should be familiar to you or your employee.
If you contract out for your website work, as many local business owners do, you should review these techniques with your webmaster/designer to ensure he or she is following these processes to ensure fast page load times.
If your webmaster suggests optimal page load time isn’t that important, it’s time to look for a new webmaster.
Image Optimization: This is a basic key for increasing site speed. Review your image files and optimize them accordingly. This means using an image editing program that provides a “Save for Web” setting that exports your image in as compressed a file size as possible.
Specify the full dimensions of the image within your HTML code (i.e., 300 pixels by 2225 pixels). If you fail to add these dimensions and have multiple images on a page, the browser has to work harder to render them. There are also useful utilities such as the smush.it tool, which will scan your site and output the images compressed in a zip file.
Cut down on the code: This can be a particular issue if you (or the person you’re using) is a novice at Web design. Many people still use a WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) HTML editor. It makes it easy to do HTML markup, but it tends to add a lot of superfluous code and extra blank spacing to the average HTML file page.
To avoid this, use a Web designer who understands how to achieve the look and functionality you want without creating any excess HTML. You can also try the GZip HTML Compression tool to trim down existing code. The less code a page has to render, the faster it loads.
Below shows Milgard’s website page load time only scored 71/100 !
Use CSS Sprites: We talked about CSS a moment ago, and this is a related issue, but it’s pretty technical. Essentially, by combining some of the images displayed on a page, you can reduce the number of round trips it takes to get those images. This cam provide significant speed improvement, especially on mobile devices.
CSS Sprites take a number of small images or icons and combine them into a larger image called a sprite sheet or tile set. It gets more technical from there, so suffice it to say you need a designer who understands the process. Ring Ring Marketing is happy to help you learn how to reduce page load time substantially with CSS Sprites.
Understand your page speed using simple, free tools
You’ll only know how your site is currently performing and how much improvement it needs by regularly checking it. These tools let you do just that:
Page Speed Insights is a Google service that measures page load time on a sale of 0-100 and offers suggestions for improvements. It’s the main standard to determine your site’s responsiveness.
Pingdom is also useful because it shows you a waterfall chart of load time. It also offers monitoring services that can alert you when load time falls off, or when your server goes down completely.
WebPageTest is another helpful tool. It offers more detailed speed studies, specifically an in-depth look based on device, domain.
General rules to remember
Everything you add to a Web page increases its load time. Everything. That doesn’t mean you want your pages to be free of content — that would make them useless. But it does mean you need to be sure everything that’s on the page is important and directly contributing.
Think of it like auto racing: You strip everything out of the car that’s not absolutely necessary, keeping its weight as low as possible. The less the car weighs, the faster it can go (and more efficiently as well).
There are several more elements to improving page speed, but they dig even deeper into the site’s actual code and how to optimize it. Make sure your site designer understands all the ways to improve performance. Ring Ring Marketing’s experts can help you with this process.