Browsing posts tagged "load time"

Why Load Time is Important and How to Speed up Your Site

March 1st, 2012 @ 9:10 am

The time it takes for your web page to load completely is a paramount factor in both the user experience and in the eyes of the search engines. Its effect is manifold and every webmaster should concern themselves with the speed of their website to ensure that otherwise interested visitors don’t bounce away to a competitor because they got tired of the wait.

Fortunately there are many ways of optimizing elements on your webpages to make load times a lot snappier, any website owner worth their salt will make use of these techniques to reap the benefits of faster load times. Most of them are fairly simple to implement, and if you are using a CMS like WordPress there are often plugins that do all the hard work for you, just be sure to check out where they come from.

Remember- no matter how well you optimize your on-page elements, your host needs to have the resources to handle the amount of traffic you send to it or there will be bandwidth issues that slow things down. If you are anticipating a spike in traffic that your current plan can’t handle, try out a VPS hosting plan.

The effect of load time on SEO

Search engine traffic continues to be one of the most reliable sources of exposure, and optimizing your web site to rank for keywords is an important part of running a successful website. That said, the amount of time it takes for your page to load is actually a pretty big SEO factor for a few reasons.

One reason is that Google can tell how long it takes for your page to load measured in seconds, its crawlers can detect how much information your page is displaying and whether that information is properly optimized for the user. If you aren’t following standard best practices for web development then you can expect your sloppy code to show up on Google’s radar.

On top of that, if your page loads too slowly then you will see a big increase in bounce rate (users who immediately leave your site). While the obvious implication is that you are losing traffic, this problem extends even further than that. Google also keeps track of your bounce rate (you can see it in Analytics and GWT), and you can be penalized if it’s too high.

So we see that having a poorly optimized page can really sabotage us and make it impossible for your site to reach its potential, so let’s do something about it.

How to speed things up

There are a huge amount of factors that go into how fast your page loads, including your hosting, CDN (content delivery network), and on-page elements. Assuming you have chosen a reliable host and you have enough resources in place to handle your site and its traffic, let’s go through some methods to optimize all the stuff on your pages.

Images

Images are one of the bulkiest elements in terms of file size on any webpage and they are responsible for severe slowdowns if not properly handled. All images in a compatible format should be compressed (.jpg, .gif, .png is preferred due to minimal loss) using the method of your choice to minimize file size, in Photoshop you can use the ‘Save for Web’ feature to do this easily.

Also, avoid resizing your images after uploading them using HTML tags (yes- that includes the fields in WordPress image settings). No matter how small you make them using this method, the browser still has to load the full size image so it’s rather pointless. However, you should still specify the correct dimensions of your image instead of leaving the fields blank so browsers can allocate the correct amount of space to them.

Design and Coding

Poor load times are often the result of lazy coding and poorly optimized elements that can easily be fixed with a quick tweak. One of the most common issues for beginners is that their pages make too many http:// requests to outside sites for information. For example, if you grab an image from another site using its URL instead of saving it to your own server, your web page has to pull information from that URL every time the page is loaded which is much slower than hosting the file yourself. Any time you have the option of loading information from someone else’s server or saving it to your own, always go with the latter whenever possible.

Take advantage of using a cache system to serve pages- this basically saves simple static copies of your otherwise heavy and dynamically generated pages for users who haven’t interacted with your site in a significant way. WordPress users would be wise to try WP Super Cache, it’s simple to setup and the difference is absolutely noticeable.

Also, if you are using security measures on your site (https:// and SSL encryption) then you should make sure to only enable them on pages where it is necessary because encryption and certificates can greatly increase load times. Keep the security measures on payment forms and other areas where sensitive information is transferred, not on your regular content pages.

We could go on forever talking about all sorts of different factors contributing to load speed, some other good things to do are reducing cookies, using gzip compression, removing unnecessary white space, using ajax properly, staying away from flash, and moving your script tags to the bottom.

If you’ve taken all of this into account and your pages are still on the slow side, the problem could be shoddy hosting. Check out our Reseller Hosting and VPS Hosting for great load times and super reliable uptime.

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