Imagine this: your e-commerce site is losing visitors on Black Friday or the recent record-setting Cyber Monday – traditionally the two biggest shopping days of the year.
What’s worse is that this situation is totally unnecessary. You could have kept those visitors if you had just reduced your website’s load time. By neglecting something so important, you are losing a significant amount of money and will continue to lose revenue until you tackle this problem.
Why Speed Matters
Speed matters first because it is one aspect of an efficient, high-functioning website. Nowadays, when most people access the Internet on the go from mobile devices, site speed has become especially important. But site speed also matters because people’s attention spans are getting increasingly shorter. Data shows that almost half of all internet users expect website pages to load in less than two seconds. If your site takes longer than three seconds to load, 40% of users will move on. And speed matters to Google.
Ever since the introduction of Google’s Mobile First Index, site speed is Google’s official ranking factor. This means slow load time means decreased rankings, hence poor site visibility.
Site speed has a huge effect on usabiloity and conversions. If people are leaving because your site is too slow, they are not converting.
For these reasons, web developer Robert Mening says that increasing site speed is “an essential skill for any website owner.” He provides an extensive list of strategies for speeding up WordPress (WP) websites in particular.
Evaluate Your Site
First, you should objectively test the speed of your site. To do so, you can use GTmetrix or Pingdom, both of which provide a detailed analysis of what (if anything) is causing your site to lag.
These tools measure if your site is too slow and you can also use them to continually monitor its performance. Remember that your goal should be for your pages to load in under two seconds. Faster than that is even better.
Have a Good Foundation
Make sure that you have a good hosting provider. Most likely your best bet is to opt for a virtual private server (VPS). Shared hosting will slow you down too much, and a dedicated server probably has more power than you need and is too expensive.
You should also consider managed WordPress hosting created especially for WP sites. With managed hosting, you won’t have to be responsible for the technical aspects of your site. Keep this same mentality when selecting your theme.
Choose one that only has what you need, keeping it as lightweight as possible. One strategy is to opt for a minimal theme and then add plug-ins to add additional functionality. You might also consider utilizing a content delivery network (CDN).
The closer a server is to a user, the faster the loading time will be. A CDN takes your static files and distributes them on various servers across the world so that your site is closer to people than it would have been otherwise. There are even solutions that will allow you to host parts of your site through a CDN. Some CDN resources you can check out are:
- Amazon Cloudfront
- Jetpack (a plugin)
- WOT Cache
Updates and Maintenance
It should go without saying that you should keep all of the elements of your site as up to date as possible. This includes everything from HTML and PHP to your theme and plug-ins. Your hosting provider is responsible for your site’s primary updates, but you should still keep any eye on them.
The more up to date your technology is, the more secure your site will be and the more efficiently it will run. Clean up your database as it gets bloated with data you aren’t actually using. You should eliminate anything you aren’t using (plug-ins, widgets, etc.).
Other Tactics for Decreasing Loading TimeSpeeding up your site is about enabling it to do as little as possible. With this principle in mind, consider doing the following:
- Don’t host videos on your site – auto-embed them
- Compress your images and your website files
- Reduce server requests (e.g., limit how many posts you show on each page, break comments and posts into pages, implement lazy loading for images)
- Allow caching
- Concatenate files (i.e., combine them into one larger file)
- Minify files
- Limit what you can (such as post revisions, buttons, and widgets)
- Deactivate pingbacks and trackbacks
- Include an expires header in your static resources (this determines the length of time a visitor’s browser caches content)
- Optimize CSS delivery
- Prioritize above the fold content
Use a Web Design Platform Made for Site Speed
If your current content management system or theme is giving you a bad time, speed-wise, switch as soon as possible. Don’t try to fix or adjust. Use a website builder that gets it.
Duda is a solid example of an agency-friendly website building platform built from the ground up to minimize load times. Duda CTO Amir Glatt even published a detailed article describing what they have done to get Duda’s infrastructure as aligned as possible with Google’s best practices for page speed, achieving better scores than Wix, Weebly and even the mighty WordPress:
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
It’s old news that people are using mobile more and more for all of their online activities. Not only does your site need to load quickly but it also needs to load quickly on smartphones. Because of the widespread use of mobile, Google has released Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is “a whole new way of creating web pages and effectively changes the mobile web.”
AMP is an open-source software designed to boost loading speeds on mobile devices. Even before AMP, Google took steps to favor mobile-friendly sites. So the better your site’s mobile friendliness, the better its ranking. You can learn more about AMP here.
Test, Audit, Fix
Testing, monitoring and auditing how your site performs should be done on a continuous basis. Your site might be generating errors any minute due to redesign, new features, new sections/products being added, seasonal traffic spikes, sudden social media success, etc.
Serpstat is an advanced SEO platform that can help with auditing your website and alerting you of errors on a regular basis. It will break loading speed issues into two groups for you to easily prioritize:
- High priority
- Middle priority
It will also provide explanations for each item they are checking for you to better understand any issue and easily delegate the task to a non-SEO team member.
Everyone Benefits from Fast Loading Speed
No matter what area of life we’re talking about, people appreciate having experiences that are orderly, seamless, and fast.
Optimizing your site for speed will set you ahead of the majority of websites on the internet. The result will be that you lose fewer visitors and increase your revenue.
Google aims to speed up mobile Internet access. How AMP websites speed up the loading of web pages to reflect increased mobile use of the Internet. The factors to be aware of when creating AMP pages.
Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is, as its name suggests, designed to improve web searches conducted on mobile devices by making pages load faster. With more and more people using their mobiles to access the Internet, Google wants to make sure the ‘mobile web experience’ is a good one.
Before the unveiling of AMP in October 2015, Google released a significant algorithm update focussing on a given website’s ‘mobile friendliness’ in terms of loading and rendering; this plays a large part in determining how high it ranks in search results. AMP takes this a step further for the search giant, and competes with other mobile web options such as Apple News and Facebook’s Instant Articles.
What is AMP?
AMP isn’t simply an app or business partnership in the way that Instant Articles or Apple News are; it’s a whole new way of creating web pages and effectively changes the mobile web. In effect, it is said to be changing the way the web is constructed by marginalising some technologies and advancing others.
The general aim is to remove the ‘slow’ parts of the overall HTML. The result (at least so far) is plainer looking web pages, and some critics say it’s like looking at web pages from over twelve years ago.
This has an implication for advertising as most ads are created from third party web tools.
AMP is open source so publishers don’t have to use it, but due to Google’s dominance in Internet search it’s likely that AMP pages will rank well (at least for mobile friendliness). Consequently, web designers creating sites where organic search is important could well find themselves compelled to create AMP versions of web pages.
Creating your AMP pages
Site templates to accommodate AMP restrictions will likely need rewriting, and multimedia will have to conform to certain criteria of height and widths amongst others using AMP specific tools. For example, when embedding a YouTube video, a specific AMP YouTube component has to be used.
You’ll also need to modify the original non-AMP version of your pages to allow Google and other technologies supporting AMP to detect the Amp version of the page.
Google have said that it won’t automatically rank AMP pages higher than non-AMP ones, but has made no secret of its policy of rewarding faster loading pages with potentially higher rankings.
Another way AMP loads pages faster is by Google caching them – they ‘serve’ the page to the searcher from their servers rather than the website host’s. This is optional; a website’s AMP pages don’t have to be cached by Google.
The effect on advertising
So far, only five advertising networks – four of which are owned by Google, AOL and Amazon – are supported, although any network can join. Presumably, so long as certain guidelines are met.
While faster page loading for an increasing part of web search – mobile – is a good thing, it’s argued that a technology company such as Google is taking yet more power from web publishers. The idea that it may be a case of having to follow a certain way is considered by some to be a throwback to the time when Microsoft dominated the browser market with Explorer.
AMP Is Now Live For News Stories
Accelerated mobile pages have now been launched in Google mobile search results for news items. Prepare for stage 2 by creating AMP pages for your own site.
Google has surprised the industry by launching AMP in its search results a day earlier than expected. Accelerated Mobile Pages are now visible in some of the news listings when conducting a mobile search. This means that if you go to Google Mobile and type in a popular news story that you’re searching for, then you will see a handful of headline suggestions and some will have AMP written next to them. This is the indicator for a page that is written in AMP.
Impatient Mobile Users
Google reports that 40% of mobile users will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. As the average mobile page takes 8 seconds, this is clearly a problem for the impatient mobile user of today and for site owners who are trying to attract their attention.
What Are Accelerated Mobile Pages?
The open source AMP project was designed by Google to counteract this problem. So far the search engine has gained backing from platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest, analytics tools providers and advertising networks. The purpose of AMP is to provide users with incredibly fast-loading mobile pages to enhance usability. The pages are designed using AMP which is a stripped down form of HTML.
AMP and Social Networks
Google has been working with social networks such as Twitter and Pinterest as it acknowledges the shift in the way users rely on these types of platforms to point them to interesting links. By conducting trials on social platforms Google has been able to see the benefit of how AMP will work in the user’s real world. The platforms have reported incredible success with Pinterest seeing AMP pages loading four times faster than a standard mobile page.
The rollout so far has been focussed on news related stories, as they are primarily pages which are for reading rather than using interactively. However, stage 2 of the AMP rollout is likely to be upon us soon, so it is best that businesses prepare themselves by creating some AMP pages for their site.
Ideally, a company should create an AMP version of every page on their existing site, although this may not always be workable. The best way to do this largely depends on the type of site that is running. Those with a CMS system such as WordPress would be advised to download a plugin to do the hard work for them. Others can consult the official AMP site which provides plenty of information on how to write the strict but lightweight AMP code and then validate it using Google Chrome. Essentially you can write a page and the tool will highlight any errors on the page which will prevent it from working correctly.
Business owners would be wise to start making the transition to AMP immediately. When Google does launch stage 2 of its rollout programme for AMP, those sites who are prepared will see the benefits from the outset.